ongoing role-play parody by various fans on StefBrandybuck's
Rivendell or Bust!
Dawn came all too soon, sticking it's rosy pink fingers through the grimy glass and right into their eyes.
As the theme for "Romeo and Juliet" begins to play...
Merry wearily got up and shuffled over to the window to draw the curtains and keep any more sunlight from
poking them in the eyes, when he stopped and stared.
"I-I don't believe it," he whispered.
Coming down the road as fast as his fleshless digits would take him was Cousin Hand, now minus his toupee, with a grimy piece of paper clutched
between his glued pinky and ring finger that read BREE OR BUST. He had caught a ride on a traveling turnip cart and made great time into town.
Tears filled Merry's eyes. "Hand!" he cried. "You came back!"
The other hobbits and Strider gathered round the window and watched as Merry and Cousin Hand ran toward each other in slow
motion and joyous orchestra music played.
Merry picked him up and they danced a happy dance out in the street to the tune of James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend".
"Come on, Hand," Merry said softly. "You look all in; I'm sure my cousin Frodo will let you take some of his Viactiv chews
to rebuild your calcium levels."
Hand in hand, the twosome strolled into the Pony.
a bit earlier...at the apothocary's....
Bill Ferny stood up snarling but stopped in mid-oath at the sight of "Pete" the mysterious teapot salesman.
Let's see, what had Squinty told him to look out for? Black cloak, eerie whistling breath that sounded as if he about to boil over, with
just a hint of that roadkill scent like Ferny's sock drawer, distinct chilliness up and down the spine at the very sight of him ... yep, the
description fit. Had to be him.
Bill's face broke out in a huge grin and he clapped his hand around the wraith's shoulders (or where his shoulders should have been,
if he hadn't been a wraith).
"Welcome to Bree, dude!" he cried. "Squinty told us you were coming. Let's see if the blokes have saved us any of the pizza, or if we'll
have to barbecue that sorry ole pony of mine."
With "Pete's" cloak firmly in his grasp, Bill dragged him towards his rundown house where it seemed a small savage nation was waging a rather
violent revolution inside, judging from the noise.
Hob and Nob came bustling through the door, carrying trays of Jam, Biscuits, Cheese, Eggs, Toast, and Coffee.
In the center of each tray was a shiny new Teapot complete with a Cozy which had "Pete's Teapot Emporium" hand knit into the side.
"Thank heavens we found you!" said Nob, laying the spread on the table and setting plates for the hobbits. "Lucky for us the swell of
musicians playing 'Romeo and Juliet's Theme' was following Merry from Outside the Inn."
"We went to your rooms first--what a mess has been made there. Straw and fur all over the place. Butterbur
is in a right snit about that! Seems like the place was quiet for the last two weeks we arrived, then suddenly you four show up and
everything goes crazy. Teapot Salesmen bursting through the Gate in the middle of the night. Crazed "Rabbits of Seville" making a huge
mess and recoiffing Hob and I all 'Business in the front, Party in the Back' and we don't even have a name for hair like this where I come
"We've even heard," said Hob in a low whispered voice, "that Poor Rags is in despair. Seems that Merry has the Right
Hand of Darkness, and now the Left Hand has escaped with some woman named Ursula. The whole Barrow-Downs is Up in arms."
"That's just rumor, of course," said Nob, "spread by some turnip salesman, no doubt. But the worst thing is the Barn! Whatever came to
your room and made such a mess has scared off all of the horses. Not a single horse in the place except for the one belonging to that ranger
fella, sleeping and drooling in the corner. Butterbur was so upset he didn't eat breakfast . . . and that is saying something for ol'
The eyes of the hobbits had grown quite large at this point, and Nob trailed off and turned to the door where they
Meanwhile, somewhere in the wilderness...
Arwen pulled Muffy to a halt at the side of the Road, so that she was practically launched from the saddle.
Brushing her hair out of her face and looking around anxiously to make sure no one was looking (she must have looked most unprincessly), she
took out her map and turned it over a few times, muttering to Muffy:
"Where are we on this thing?"
Muffy sniffed the grass and did not reply; his vocabulary was limited to 'hi' and he did not feel that word was appropriate for this occasion.
Being a She-Elf and a woman (as well as an abominable girlscout), Arwen was of course completely unable to read maps, but she was never
too shy to ask for directions.
Now, where on this map was someone she could ask...were staring . . .
As the hobbits stared openmouthed at the doorway, a distinguished gentleman with a decided Oxford accent
appeared with folded arms.
"I'm Professor Tollers," he declared, "and I say, I don't remember writing ANY of this!"
Aragorn snorked and sat bolt upright at the voice.
Looking around blearily he said something like,
"Hwaf rgln on? Uh?"
He shook his head to clear out the cobwebs and then realized the man eying him from the doorway.
The ranger fumbled foggily for a moment before declaring nervously, "Eh, this is just the rough draft. We're, um, uhh..."
Frodo smiled winningly up at the tall gentleman in tweed. He reminded him most strikingly of Bilbo for some
reason. He decided to try to soothe him with the cure-all that had always worked on his erstwhile Uncle.
"Good morning! I understand that Butterbur's kitchen whips up a mean ham-and-eggs-with-cheese. How about we have a nice meal and a pipe
while my servant gets things ready to go?" He noticed a pencil sticking out of the Professor's pocket. It had a large eraser on it,
which made Frodo nervous for some reason.
"Ah, yes." said the Professor smiling slightly. "Bingo! You always were a fine companion during a morning meal. I'm certainly willing to forgive a
few rough drafts in exchange for a bit of your company. I'm sure Odo and Trotter here will be glad to take care of things."
Bingo? Odo? Trotter? Still, the man seemed willing to take him up on it. Combing his hair with his fingers and donning his jacket,
Frodo went along with the Professor to breakfast .
Hob and Nob spent the rest of the morning serving the Author and Frodo. They decided that waiting on a Writer was a great thing,
because as soon as the Professor ordered something (And who knew what 'Kippers' were?), the food would be found, perfectly cooked
on the kitchen counter.
The Professor and Frodo (who finally convinced the gentleman to change it on paper, though he occasionally lapsed back into it when speaking)
discussed the revisions. The professor was quite upset, until Frodo pointed out that it was a "Parody" done by fans of the book, and that
this sort of imitation was the sincerest form of flattery.
The professor finally relented, and reread the story. And while being derivitive, it did have a certain "Mythic" status which outweighed the
inclusion of "Gnat Brigades, Teapot Nonsense" and "Wight Hand" Salutes. (Though the inclusion of "Left hand of Darkness" as a send up
of other Fiction Writers delighted the Professor's heart!).
In the end, it was a lovely morning, almost making them forget about the danger at hand, until the Professor reached for a scone, and burned
his hand on the Teapot.
"Well, Bing--er--I mean, Frodo, you'd best get back to your story. I am sure that "Bill and Pete" have an "Excellent Adventure" waiting for you."
He chuckled to himself.
The hobbits didn't get the joke, but laughed to be polite. They walked him out to the Gates of Bree, said a cheery "good day" and let him
wander back through this world he had created. He mentioned going to stop by and see Bombadill. The hobbits returned to Aragorn's room,
ready to move onto the next stage . . . if only they had horses . . .
"He seemed a pleasant enough chap," Merry remarked as he returned to the table; Cousin Hand was seated on a booster seat
and just finishing his calcium-enriched can of Ensure for Better Bone Health. "So what do we do now, Bing- I mean, Frodo? My
ponies took off and Sam hasn't quit glaring at me ever since Cousin Hand came back-and Sam, you really need to get over this 'no one can
have a gruesome pet while I'm around' fetish-so what do you say we go shop around for new ponies? And while we're at it, I should stop at
Bree Casualty and Life and see about getting a policy so Pippin can ride the Company pony even though he's underage."
Cousin Hand clicked his fingers together in approval.
Frodo looked at Sam, who had been unusually silent through all of the insanity they had been dealing with. He hadn't even protested
at being called "Odo." Sam turned his back on Merry and gazed out the window at Pippin and Strider who were busy sorting through
and jumping on all the luggage to see how much they could condense it down to a manageable amount.
"Maybe Sam just needs a pet of his own," Frodo whispered to Merry. "Maybe he's jealous that you have a pet and
he doesn't.... I know! If we can find a pony, let's give him to Sam and let Sam name him. Maybe that would help."
Meanwhile back at the ranch (Ferny's Fleabag, Feed, Fodder and Fold), "Pete" was up to no good...
The Wraith was pleased with himself. He walked away from a group of local Horsemen with an evil grin (his
only kind!) on his face.
"Spread the seeds of dissention--that was the Great Eye's command, so that's what I'll do! What kind of person would sell their good
steeds to four "Glue-Factory" recruiters? And that morbid little hand they keep about just makes them that much more imposing to the
locals! Those fools won't be able to find a decent horse for 20 leagues. We shall catch them in the wild, and they won't be able to out-run us.
As he approached Bill Ferney, a wicked thought crossed his mind. He answered Bill's quizzical glance . . .
"I know how to make it even tougher on them. Listen all we need is a case of 'Lothloriel Hair Color' and . . . "
began to get nervous, as the wraith wispered and jerked one of his thumbs at the poor, starving horse . . . "What stupid Idea has he
cooked up NOW !?!" he wondered
Music is heard down by the stables....it's the same kind of music that causes spontaneous, choreographed dance movements
and a loud chorus of singing......of course, Sam's the only one that can hear it.........
"A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Bill.
Go right to the source and ask the horse
He won't give you an answer that you'll endorse
unless of course you happen to be
Through the mind he'll speak to you, and waste your time of day
cause Mister Bill will never speak unless it takes a long time to say.
A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And this one'll talk 'til his Sam coarse
You never heard of a talking horse?
Well listen to this.
I am Mister Bill."
The big musical number ended and Bill looked up into Sam's window with a grin (if it's possible for ponies to grin). Sam just buried his head
in his hands and shook his head.
Frodo looked up and was astonished to see a pony looking in the window of the Inn, right by Sam! What luck!
"Sam - whatever you do, don't scare it away! We need a pony rather badly..." He took a more critical look at what he could see of the
creature. "...Even one like that." he finished lamely.
Merry jogged him with his elbow. Oh yes!
"Sam - if we can purchase this pony, would you like him? I mean, to be yours? You could even give him a name. He obviously likes you
already!" The pony was, after all, bumping its nose onto the window by Sam most enthusiastically.
Cousin Hand clicked his digits in varying patterns, which was his way of speaking, and Merry snickered.
When Frodo looked at him questioningly, Merry said, "Cousin Hand here just told me a great joke. A horse walked into the Prancing Pony and
ordered a drink and Barliman said, "Why the long face, bub?" As Cousin Hand and Merry giggled over their joke, they failed to notice
that a certain Took was eyeing them with extreme jealousy.
Strider finally mashed the suitcases closed after a considerable effort. He heard Frodo's comment about buying the pony and said,
"Not a very good choice. That poor thing is Bill Ferny's, and if he'd sell it at all it'll be at a nasty price."
After a moment of silence, he realized...
That is the most intelligent thing I've said to them so far, and it will probably be wrong. Ergh.
Pippin, reading Merry's script despite the attempt at concealing it under the table, nudged him and whispered
"its not a jealous look, its an angry look".
Standing on a chair so as to lean onto the table in a business-like fashion Pippin, "ahemmed" loudly to get Frodo's attention.
"Cousin we have a problem"
"Somehow word has gotten around that we're buying up horses and ponies for a glue factory, no one is willing to give, sell, loan, rent,
anything on four legs to us. So while we've got almost all our stuff in the five packs, we've no room for those extra towels
you wanted us to take, unless you carry them wrapped around under your waistcoat. At least I got Strider to put the food in Sam's pack and
not his, eww!"
So saying, he settled back onto his seat and looked around the table, hoping someone would suggest lunch, or at least elevenses.
"What is that pony doing with Sam?!"
Frodo and the others watched in mild astonishment as the bony pony in question gave up on mashing its nose against the glass of the
window and shoved open the unlatched door to the Inn. With a few quick moves, it extended its scrawny neck out to grab Sam by
the collar and pulled him outside with only time to utter a single startled squawk.
As Sam's feet disappeared through the door Frodo looked over at Merry and Pippin. "How cuuute! I think it likes him! How much did they say
Ferny wanted for the old bag-o-bones?"
"Which way did they go? Which way did they go??" Barliman realises he's missed them again.. "Great horny toads..I've missed them again!!"
Merry fished around in his pocket and came up with two buttons, some lint, a matchbook from the Golden Perch,
two cocktail napkins with the addresses of two lasses he'd already forgotten, and a drycleaning pickup receipt.
"Wow, Frodo, I'd love to chip in for Mr. Bones out there, but I'm all tapped out. Maybe Pippin can contribute. They don't take the Brandybuck
Express Card in Bree, so I can't help you."
Not only do I get to be free of "Pete" and all of that Dark Lord Nonsense, but I have seen more food with these four hobbits
in two hours than I have in a year with those Nazgul. And these folks are much nicer than "Pete" too. I don't care if they do
call me "Bill" I'm sticking with them. And this Sam fella smells of Carrots . . .
"Bill" pulled the surprised hobbit outside and kept searching for the Carrots he could smell . . .
Pippin, smiled brightly at Merry and responded
"Sorry old chap, but if your credit don't reach here mine certainly don't, farther end of The Shire."
"Still the nag seems to like Sam, you pay him surely Frodo, so he must have some cash."
Being a small town hoodlum didn't pay very well, and although Bill Ferny wasn't exactly the sharpest quill to ever touch parchment
he had sense enough to jump at the chance to make an easy penny. He had the market cornered, thanks to Pete's glue factory rumors.
Ferny shoved his bony pony out of the way so the hobbits could get a good look at Creampuff's, er, horseliness. Creampuff -- even a
splotchy Creampuff still stinking of peroxide from his hasty bleach job and slouching unconvincingly to make himself appear a more
hobbit-friendly size -- would certainly bring in more cash than Ferny's poor bony pony. And maybe he could even snag a share of the hobbits'
luggage when Creampuff came running back to his master.
"What the...?" Sam yelled when suddenly being pulled out the window by a pony. He had been staring at the pony, and Sam had no clue
who this sad excuse for a horse was....He knew he had just heard Bill singing, but then this wierd thing shows up...maybe it is Bill...maybe
he's just, erm, changed, since Sam last saw him...
"What do you want, Bill?" Sam said, expecting a response. But the pony
just looked at him, and Sam knew that this smelly animal wasn't Bill.
"Bill! Where are you?" Very soon, the sounds of someone humming "A Horse of Course: The Reprise" came to his ears.
"Now don't sound all frantic, ole chap, nothing's wrong! I'm just waiting for all you hobbits to come to Ferny's to offer
to buy me. You see, I've been reading the script, and it says here that Bing- wait, no, that's been scratched out...Frodo...
yes, that's it....Frodo and his cousins notice that you want a pony, so they go to Bill Ferny and offer to buy me..."
Sam started to ask about what happens next, but Bill cut him off..
"You don't need to know...You're gonna find out in about 15 minutes anyway, so what's the rush?"
Sam felt a shock and he knew Bill was gone. Sam looked at Creampuff.
"What are you lookin at? You're not Bill....go on now....go on! Git!" and with that, Creampuff scampered away.
Sam brushed himself off and realized the pony had dragged him quite aways from the Inn. Sam decided he would just find his way
over to Bill Ferny's and wait for Frodo and the rest there.....
Creampuff was alright, being let loose. While being told to "git" by Sam was not exactly nice, he had endured worse from the Wraith.
He headed out of town as fast as he could, his peroxide flanks flashing in the light. And as he ran, free at last, he smiled in his relief to
be free, realizing that indeed, blonds did have more fun!
Frodo watched Sam chase off what to him had appeared to be a perfectly good pony, then suddenly make a beeline
for Bill Ferny's ramshackle place.
"What in the world is he up to? That was a good packhorse, and now it's gone! Bill Ferny won't be able to carry nearly as much as that pony
would've, and he'll probably complain more besides. On the other hand, he'd be able to hear if anyone was following us very easily. Hm."
"Hey, Merry - Butterbur was responsible for those ponies of yours, and now they're gone - right? Do y' think you can get him to cough up some
dough to reimburse you for them? Sam seems to want to hire Ferny to carry our stuff for us, and I'll need money to bribe him. Besides, it's
getting late and we haven't even left town!"
He looked down the main drag where various townspeople were busy hanging bunting and flower baskets.
"Foreign Hobbits Leaving Town Parade Today!" announced a large hand-lettered sign. A couple of them were already setting up
lawn chairs, slathering on sunscreen and playing checkers while they waited. Their "Bon Voyage" placards leaned against the buildings
nearby. Somewhere in the distance he could hear an amateur band warming up with a rather bad marching tune.
Merry stood up straight and placed Cousin Hand over his heart while more stirring orchestra music played in the background.
"Do not despair, dear Frodo, I shall use all my legendary Brandybuck charm and ingenuity to persuade Barliman to cough up the beans for a
Merry strolled into the back and called out sweetly, "Oh, Butterbur, might I have a word?"
Some grunting and general 'oofing' was heard, and then Merry returned with Barliman's Gold BreeCard.
"He's also agreed to, ahem, pony up for the feed. Let's buy Sam his pet and then blow this lemonade stand." He walked out of the Pony while Sam
followed him singing "Will You Marry Me, Bill?"
Miles from Bree, riding fast toward (more or less) the East, two elves slow their horses as dawn reveals some details...
"Um...Elrohir?" Elladan reined in his horse and placed his hand on the beast's proudly curving neck. His hand came away black as ink,
from the paint that had been used to darken their coats that was still wet. "Are you sure these are our horses?"
"Well... yeah, but someone must have tried to do them over as brunettes. Never mind that now, we are in trouble."
Elrohir stopped his horse and dismounted and began stripping away the gothic-motif barding and fake nails-through-the- hooves prothetics so
that his horse could run faster. He had no idea how they had gotten the horse's eyes to glow red like that, so he skipped that part.
"What trouble?" sighed Elladan. It was always something.
"The script, Elstupid-o! We still don't have the script! What do you think is gonna happen when we get back to Rivendell, and we
don't have Ada's script?"
Elladan thought about it for a moment, then said, "Well, I suppose that Eldad will not have any proof that we took it."
Elrohir stared at his brother for a moment, a smile growing on his face. "You know... it just might work..."
Bill Ferny watched Creampuff ride off into the general direction of the sunset in despair. There went not only his best chance at some quick
cash since he ambushed the widows' sorority meeting in the parish hall, but now he would have to face an angry horseless wraith when he got home.
The chances of persuading the hobbit foreigners to take his own sorry ole pony instead of Creampuff were slim to none, and there was no doubt
that Pete would laugh himself stupid at the very thought of leaving Bree mounted on Ferny's shaggy, decrepit little animule.
"Gloom, despair, and agony on me," he moaned. "How will I ever persuade them to take that bag of bones off my hand for an outrageously inflated
price? That sorry excuse for a pack animal isn't fit for pony burger. I doubt he'd even make enough glue to seal an envelope. Who in the world
would want to buy him?"
"Pete" watched as the hobbit came up the road.
"Great!" he thought. "They have come to buy Creampuff and I will be able to track them easily now." He ducked into the stall and listened
to the conversation that came from Ferny's office.
The smile slid off of his face within a minute--
It seems that the Hobbit was not interested in Creampuff, but rather, some small pony who was more skin and bones than work-horse.
"Well then, FINE!" he pouted. "That old horse can't move too fast, so I'll just hop on . . . "
As he stared at the empty stall, he realized that a fool had found a way into his fool-proof plan . . . and it was himself.
As the hobbit left, happy to have the pony and feed, he heard a gurgling sound, similar to a teapot that is boiling gently . . . almost
sobbing . . . spitting hot water on the coals, which crackle and hiss .. .
Frodo and Pippin followed along after them, helping Strider lug their stuff. By the time they had caught up
with Merry and Sam at Ferny's the haggling was already well on its way.
Nearby, a trio of pint-juggling clowns were entertaining the waiting spectators and the Ladies Bath House Auxillery were tacking their
banner into place on the side of a small wagon. The wagon was filled with restless children dressed in poorly made costumes to resemble
soapbars and bottles of shampoo who amused themselves by whacking each other with back-brushes while they waited. The Dart-Throwers Lodge
Local #549 began handing out free miniature dartboards. Some guy named "Harry Goatleaf" was being hawked as The Thin Man.
Frodo was afraid if they didn't leave soon the town was going to be a full-blown circus!
At first Bill Ferny was so dumbfounded by the hobbits' offer to buy his pony that he could only stare stupidly
The hobbits didn't realize that particular stupid look was different from his usual stupid look, so they upped their offer.
Now Ferny was really suspicious and began to wonder if there was something about this pony he hadn't suspected before.
Were his teeth filled with mithril fillings? Was he a rare breed of valuable truffle-sniffing pony? Why on Middle-earth would anybody want him?
Then Ferny caught sight of Cousin Hand where he was sitting on Merry's shoulder. Was that ... could it be ... ?
Ferny's mouth hung open in wonder and he began to drool with greed as he thought of the pockets he could pick with Cousin Hand's help.
Now he'd see just how desperately these hobbits wanted his pony ...
The profoundly stupid look on Bill Ferny's face grew, if at all possible, more stupid as drool slipped out of the side of his mouth.
Sam watched Bill Ferny in disgust, and yet amazement, as he had never seen something so strange before.
(Unless it was seeing Merry after he had eaten Goldberry's food....)
Sam noticed that Bill Ferny was staring quite eagerly at Cousin Hand...
Sam considered, er, warning Merry about it, but then he took another look at Cousin hand, and suddenly he didn't feel much like saving the
little thing anymore....He still had the scratches from the last time he was near it......
Cousin Hand sat on Merry's shoulder, clad in the little red coat that Merry had made for him out of one of Sam's handkerchiefs,
and clicked his digits contentedly while Merry idly reached up and petted Hand's fleshless phalanges. Hand had never felt so warm, so safe, so loved.
(audience goes "awwwwwww")
Suddenly Cousin Hand tensed as Bad Guy music began to play eerily in the background. He could feel greedy, beady eyes focused upon him, and
he anxiously clicked a warning in Merry's pointed ear...
Pippin, "oofed" his way into Ferney's yard and dropped his portion of the bags. He nudged Frodo in the ribs and whispered,
"You're not seriously thinking of negotiating for that toast rack on four legs are you? It'll never carry this lot," he gestured to the luggage
"let alone any provender."
"Four legs?" said Frodo. "I thought we were hiring Ferny here to carry our stuff. But now that you mention it, that pony over there
with four legs would probably work better, even if it is a bit underfed." He looked at Sam, whose gaze was fixed on the pony.
He turned to Ferny. "What'll you take for that pony-thing over there?" he asked, gesturing at Bill. "Seems our own ponies have gone missing,
and my gardener here has taken a liking to the beast."
Fortunately, Bill Ferny still had the wish list he'd drawn up when he thought Creampuff would bring in a fortune.
Ferny took a fat grubby parchment scroll from his pocket. It bounced across the floor at the hobbits' feet as it unrolled.
"Let's see now, we can start with a year's supply of Entwash Slurpees, some cucumber melon shower gel, a black cloak for looking sinister and
scaring little old ladies, the new Jak and Daxter Playstation game, a pound of chocolate-raspberry gourmet coffee beans ..."
Ferny was getting hoarse and the hobbits were yawning before he finally reached the end of his very long list. "OR ..." startling the hobbits
awake, then Ferny sighed and paused dramatically, hoping against hope that the hobbits would agree ... "the hand."
He looked up hopefully and gave Cousin Hand (what he hoped was) a friendly little smile, but which really only made him look even more foul, if
that were possible.
Cousin Hand clicked in fear and dove down the back of Merry's jacket; Merry turned huge pleading eyes toward his cousins and begged,
"Aw, come on, guys, you wouldn't! We can spare all that stuff, but I just can't part with Cousin Hand! He's the big brother I never had,
and the little brother I probably will never have, and would be the little sister I never had if he were a girl, and surely you wouldn't ask me
to part with him just so you can buy that...that "toast rack with legs" like somebody said! I love him, he's my bestest friend and he gave
up his nice comfortable barrow for me." Merry's lip trembled. "Please, let me keep the hand."
His big brown eyes welled up with tears while Cousin Hand hesitantly peeked out over his collar.
Ferny couldn't believe the hobbit genuinely felt such affection for such a ... well, thing.
"Aw, come on, li'l hand, you know you'd be happier with me," he wheedled, "thieving, pilfering, making mischief of all descriptions,
you know that's more up your alley than whatever these annoyingly decent-looking little chaps will get up to."
Ferny leaned in and whispered over Merry's shoulder into the back of his jacket where Hand was hiding.
"Just how much excitement do you think there's going to be with this hobbit walking party? You'd much better stay here with me where it's fun."
Strider had heard enough. He carefully and deliberately stepped over the piled luggage and grabbed a handful of Ferny's collar.
Yanking Ferny's ugly mug close to his own he growled into the ear-horn in a dangerously soft tone.
"You're not going to take away that hand, now are you? Oh no. No,no.You're much too generous for that. And that list was just your grocery
list, right? Right." He gave his victim a little shake for emphasis. "I've just decided that I like you. You're my friend. And you like to
give presents to your friends, right?" He looked very, very meaningfully at Ferny and slid his sword in it's scabbard just enough
to back it up with a nice metallic ringing noise.
"So thank you for the pony. It's a nice gift for your friends. I'll even give you a gift too - you get to keep all your limbs."
He dropped Ferny with a shove sending him staggering backwards. Turning to the hobbits, he declared loudly and cheerfully "Deal! The
pony is ours! Grab his halter and let's split this burg!"
"Oh no you don't!" Ferny shouted and snatched at the pony. He was horrified at this turn of events. Imagine, just imagine, the nerve of
that scruffy guy trying some of Ferny's own tactics. Just who did he think he was, smelling like the scene of an oyster fest three days later
and stealing ponies with impunity. Strutting around Bree like he thought he was king or something! Well, Bill Ferny wasn't going to let any
two-bit hustler cheat him out of the proper fee for his valuable truffle-sniffing pony with mithril fillings, sword or no sword. Not without a fight,
at least. Ferny grabbed the first thing that came to hand to defend himself, which happened to be an old hubcap.
"I'll have you reported to the Horse Traders and Snake Oil Dealers Association and you'll really be up a stump then, won't you?" Ferny
threatened. "You'll never trade for a horse within a thousand leagues of Bree again, King Skank!" If he could only stall them long enough for
Squinty and Pete to come to the rescue ...
Several of the parade spectators began to gather nearby. "Fight! Fight! Fight!" they hollered excitedly. Some began making bets, others
waved thier freebie miniature dartboards with enthusiasm and yelled out the name of whichever one they thought ought to win. Many seemed
confused as to who exactly it was who was doing the fighting, but they didn't really care, they were just looking for a bit of sport.
Frodo looked around at the crowd, the two Men and the pony. He dug into the deep pockets of his coat and brought out something for himself
and the other hobbits. "This could take a while....Apple, anyone?"
Strider glared at Ferny for a moment. This was getting old, so he finally decided that he'd have to use his hidden weapon.
The hobbits were sitting a little bit off to the side eating apples.The ranger whispered something to Frodo, who was closest, and a moment
later all of the hobbits had scrambled upwind of the "fight".
Abruptly the shouts of the crowd were silenced as Strider reached down and...pulled off his boot.
Merry dropped his apple and pulled his collar up over his nose, and Cousin Hand uttered clickety-coughing sounds.
"Awright, who did it!" he demanded.
"Oh, you want to fight dirty, do you?"Ferny shrieked. "Well, two can play that game!" With various hops and gesticulating motions with the
hubcap, Ferny managed to take off his own boots, both of them, which raised a toxic cloud that rivaled Strider's.
The nearest spectators began to swoon, which interfered greatly with the betting. The swooning crowd, not to mention the odor, drew the
attention of the constable on the corner, who was directing traffic along the parade route.
"What's all this then," demanded the constable, who bore a disturbing resemblance to Rowan Atkinson. He was greeted with various rumblings
about horse stealing and dirty pool, and immediately whipped out the cuffs and placed them on Ferny. "Up to your usual tricks again, huh, Bill?"
he asked, holding his nose. "Whazza matter, little old ladies not fast enough for you, now you've moved on to stealing horses? Let's move along.
A couple weeks in the stocks ought to improve your civic mindedness a bit." He tssked at Bill in disapproval. "You ought not mistreat tourists
like that, it's bad for the economy. And," he added with a glance over his shoulder at Strider and hobbits, "we certainly don't want to delay their
Ferny was dragged away by the constable, steadily shouting his protests about how on earth could he steal his own horse, but the constable
only snorted derisively and led him toward the stocks.
Strider grinned and put his boot back on, then turned to the hobbits. "Eh, sorry about that. But hey, it worked! Some bullies just can't
take what they dish out. Speaking of dishes, can I have an apple?"
Some of the people in the crowd were beginning to wake up and move around, though some still just lay there, retching or twitching.
Slowly, the hustle and bustle which always comes before a parade began to revive.
Frodo looked at the half-eaten apple in his hand. He had stopped eating it when the boots had done their nefarious work and found that the
thought of eating anything wasn't very pleasant with green toxic clouds of boot-smell still dispersing into the air. A brief whiff of it had blown
their way and it was enough to turn anyone's stomach. He handed Strider the rest of his apple and looked around for the pony.
Snuffing at the skid marks left by Ferny's boot-heels, the bedraggled skin-and-bones sample of equine service was nosing around for any dry
grass or bits of apple it could find. Sam went over to it and patted it, giving it his apple to eat.
"Waste of a good apple, Sam - why didn't you give the beast a carrot instead?" He had noticed that this town was rife with carrot-vendors,
but hardly an apple tree to be seen anywhere. Even now he noted the parade had an entire marching band made up of people playing hollowed
out carrots like kazoos. When he had asked a local about it, all they had done was belch.
Grabbing their luggage and the pony's halter, they began heading up the street high-stepping over all the bodies of those who had been
knocked out cold by the boot-duel. It was nearly ten o'clock already and they had a long ways to go.
Somewhere in the wilderness, Arwen's head perked up when a very familiar scent came to her hyper-sensitive Elven nose.
A wicked smile was on her unnaturally full lips...
After she managed to revive a twitching and retching Muffy, she mounted her shaky steed and rode away in the direction of Bree.
Sam looked at Bill, then at Frodo, then back at Bill. The apple was still mainly whole, as Bill had not finished it yet.
Sam took the apple out of his mouth and chucked it at Bill Ferney who was still being taken away by the constable.
It hit him square in the top of his head. Bill let out a yell and looked up with confusion into the sky.
"That's a much better use for it," Frodo grinned. Bill the Pony was chuckling in Sam's head.
Having completed his collection of sundry foods and loose change from the recumbent or retching parade
watchers Pippin, pocketed his nose plugs and jogged up the road to catch up with Frodo, Sam and Bill the bony pony.
"Great haul, four and twenty silver pence, a pound of sausages, some bacon, a few rolls and tomatos!"
"Tomatoes?" Frodo brightened at the thought of extra foodstuffs, especially now that they had a packhorse to carry it;
it might be a pleasant trip after all. Surely there were other Inns along the way, though his memory of the maps he had studied
back in Bag End were a bit vague on that point. Wading through streamers and well-wishers, they soon reached the walls of Bree and
passed through the gate. Shaking confetti out of their hair they waved goodbye to the enthusiastic crowds behind them who now turned their
attention to other matters, such as using Bill Ferny for amusing target practice and taking bets on who could drink the biggest ale in thirty
As the noise died down behind them they set out with good cheer.
"How far away is Rivendell?" Frodo asked the Ranger. "And which way should we go to reach it without stepping on the Road?"
They paused near the edge of that surging mass of dirt to watch a farmer and pig shoot past them in a blur. The farmer exited
towards Bree all right, but his pig was not so lucky: a large pink, squealing object soon shot over the wall into the distant town.
There was a distinct thud. No, the Road would not do. Besides, Gandalf had told them to avoid it.
"Well?" prodded Frodo. "You're our guide. Guide us."
Strider laughed nervously.
"Yes, of course...umm - this way!"
He started tramping off into the woods towards what he hoped was the general direction of Rivendell.
"It shouldn't take more than a week!" he shouted back to them after a couple of minutes, hoping that the hobbits had been following as he
could not see them through the thick underbrush.
The rangerleaned over to peer under the bushes for hobbit feet, but jumped upright with a yelp as a pony nipped him from behind.
The hobbits emerged from the mess of leaves shortly (no pun intended) and they went on.