Bucklebury's LotR Parody

An ongoing role-play parody by various fans on StefBrandybuck's Bucklebury.net

A Stick in the Dark

Merry shuffled along at the end of the line; Cousin Hand had decided to amuse himself by picking fleas from Bill's coat after the game of "tap-someone's-shoulder-and-scoot-away-before-they-turned-around" got old.  
Merry started singing:
"On the road again-
Here we are out on the road-I mean, ditch again-
Eating tomatoes, swatting flies-
I'm so thrilled that I could cry-
And oh great joy, another inept guide-
I can't wait to fall down in the ditch again."


Sam took a bite out of a new apple and patted Bill on the back.  
 
"You've been to Rivendell, right? I mean, do you think we're goin the right way? I'm not so sure about this ranger fellow."
 
"Well, from what I can tell we're doing alright. I have been there, but that was a while ago....hmm....but this is starting to look unfamilier.....we should be taking a right right about....oh...guess we missed it...."

 
Sam looked at Strider worryingly, then took another bite of his apple. This was going to be a long trip....

Long after the hobbits' departure parade had passed by the town square where Bill Ferny was in the stocks, he fumed and plotted his revenge against the strangers. Some how, some way, he would get his chance to pay them back. He may be only capable of making mischief in a small way, but hey, hobbits were small, and small mischief would be all it would take.  
 
Ferny's vindictive daydreams were interrupted only by the occasional carrot from a passing school boy striking him upside the head.

After walking for some time snacking on what they carried in their pockets, they all began to look forward to stopping for a proper lunch.  When a small clearing opened up in front of them Frodo's first thought was that it would be an ideal place to spread a picnic tablecloth.  His second was to wonder what the weathered roadsigns said.
 
The signs had been made from what appeared to be the remains of an old fence and most of the lettering had long siince been worn away by hand of rain, wind and weather.  The one pointing back the way they had come said "B(blur)E"  That was easy enough.  The others were more of a puzzle.
 
"Mi....ddle? Maybe. Mi...something...ter....shes." he read, squinting up at it.  Middle Fatter Sashes? Midyear Hotter Washes?  Midday Pottery Crashes?  It was obliterated by hungry wood-beetle tracks that wound all over it like spaghetti.  Thinking of spaghetti made him hungry.   Pippin's stomach growled next to him quite loudly, almost drowning out his own.
 
He pointed at the indecipherable sign.  "What's that say? And can we stop to eat?"
 
Strider scooped his hair out of his eyes to take a look at it.  Not wanting to admit he didn't know he decided to try impressing them with his book-learning instead.  "It's Elvish." he said importantly.
 
Frodo looked at him strangely.  "If it's some form of Elvish, I can't read it."
 
"There are few who can." answered their guide smugly.  "It says 'shortcut to Rivendell.' That's plain enough.  This way!"  he headed off with false confidence into the wild before they could question him further.

Merry stopped short (how else can a hobbit stop) and hollered, "No, no more shortcuts! The last time we took a short cut, I had to eat orange fish eggs, wear a dress and bathe in potatoes!"
He squinted up at the sign and muttered, "Hmm...maybe it means "Misty's Butter Knishes...or Mighty Water Galoshes...or Milly's Terrible Slushes..."
He peered at the very small print beneath the letters.
"There's not a single mosquito here," he read. "They are all married and have very large families."
Filled with a sudden sense of forboding, Merry gulped, shoved a protesting Cousin Hand into his pocket, and ran to catch up to the others.

Many leagues away, the black paint dries on the flanks ot two horses running southward with the swiftness of a greyhound bus......

"Are you sure this is the right way?" asked Elrohir for the fifth time.
 
"Yes!  Yes, already!  This is the way to Rivendell.  I am not following your directions any more, Elwrongway!"
 
"It's just that... well, this all looks kinda familiar."  Elrohir pointed toward the tall black tower surrounded by a great round wall.  There were thousands of orcy-looking folk milling around like ants on a PBJ sandwich.
 
"Well, maybe we have strayed a few miles or so... let's just go up to the door and ask for directions.  I say, can you see some one on top of that tower?  It looks like he is waving."
 
The halfelven twins wave merrily back at the tiny figure in grey that was windmilling his arms as he stood at the top of the black tower.  They could not quite make out the words he was shouting....
 
"Amazing how friendly these country folk are," said Elladan.  "Now you hold the horses!  I shall go and knock this time."
 
"You got to knock here last time!  You always get to knock!"  Elrohir crossed his arms and pouted.  "I'm telling ada!"


Back in the Chetwood....

In the never-changing woodlands the time seemed to pass all too slowly.  Aside from the occasional wild mushroom patch or late-bearing berry bush, they had few diversions and endless rounds of "I Spy" with the answer always being a leaf, tree or branch had worn thin.  After three days of tripping over roots, whacking each other with springy twigs that whipped back into the face of the person behind them and being poked by inconveniently placed brambles they were greatly cheered to see the end of the woods come into sight.    
 
Frodo had wondered why they seemed to be wandering, doubling back and looping around the countryside so much, but Strider had assured them that it was only to throw off any pursuit.  They were a bit dubious, but at least they hadn't ended up back in Bree...
 
The Chetwood behind them, they began to trek across land that sloped downward and grew boggier and boggier.  In the distance ahead there was an ongoing high-pitched whine.  
 
"Sounds one mongo huge mosquito," thought Frodo, "but who ever heard of one that big?  I wonder what it really is... and what all those other odd noises are."

Meanwhile, "Pete" was distraught . . .
 
What do I do NOW! he thought?  How do i fix this mess?  I can't feel the call of the ring through this foggy stench, and it has completely covered the city, so tracking the hobbits by smell is completely out of the question.  Fortunately, without ponies (except for the skinny one, which they can't ride), they don't move too fast, but as I have been abandoned by Creampuff, I can't just swoop in on them, cloak flying behind me, as they have in the trailers.  What shall I do?
 
Just then, he realized his second greatest fear (only slightly beneath missing the "Girlscout Cookie Season" which he missed last year and explained why he looked so gaunt at the moment) - - he would have to signal the Witchking and let him know he had failed.  
 
The wraith put a kettle on to boil, and with deft gestures, sent up a teapot smoke-signal to his leader . .


As they continued on the ground grew softer and mushier until they had to travel in meandering zigzags to avoid boggy mud-puddles. The disconcertingly big buzzing grew louder, and now they began to be surrounded by another sound, rather like:
 
urg burg
urg burg
urg burg
urg burg
urg burg
urg burg
urg burg
urg burg
urg burg
urg burg
urg burg
urg burg...

 
Oh no, thought Frodo, Urger-Burgers!

Merry heard the sound too and glanced around quizzically.  
"I haven't heard that sound since Grandpa Rory ate too many of Cousin Pervinca's treacle tarts at the last Yule party," he said.

Strider yanked his boots out of the mud and swatted a couple Urger-Burgers away from his face.  The smell of mustard and ketchup wafted past unpleasantly.  He had been trying to not look too concerned, but was worried about the giant buzzing and sure enough, the next time he looked up he paled slightly to see the size of the mosquito that was coming at them.  It's wingspan was thrice the length of Bill and it's vaccuum-like snozzle was dangerously pointy!    
 
Fearing it would suck them all dry as milkshakes on a hot day, he drew his sword.   "Hide!" he cried to the hobbits.  His only hope was in whacking off it's pointy nose....!

Frodo cowered with the rest of them behind Bill, who was taking a dim view of being used as a shield in this manner. The wind wafting from the wings of the giant skeeter blew uncounted urger-burgers past them, some splatting into little mustard-and-ketchup spots on poor Bill.  Tiny toasted buns and limp patties littered the ground.
 
The skeeter hovered for a moment then suddenly stabbed towards the Ranger, apparently intending to suck him drier than a bottle of Ol' Winyards on the day after a party.  Even the Ring seemed to burrow deeper into Frodo's pocket.  It was a moment of great drama!

Aragorn raised his sword high and lunged.
The sound of maddened buzzing filled the air - it was deafening! But the ranger bravely leapt up and with one great *WHACK* lopped off the horrendous schnozz.
 
The skeeter reared back in pain and then stopped moving.
 
Aragorn advanced gingerly, but the bug just sat there and blinked at him with beady black eyes in terror.
 
That was odd...why would it be scared when it can just fly away...?
 
A hummmmmmmmm was heard a ways off and increased in volume.  
 
"Not more mosquitoes!" Strider cried.
 
But instead, gleaming in  all his twiggy glory, came Gwahir, Buglord, Mosquitohawk of the Misty Mountains, over the horizon.
 
The majestic Mosquitohawk charged forward with a great wind and whizzed past the small company, nearly knocking the ranger down, and grabbed it's lunch, gulping it down with dignity even as he flew.
 
Then the amazing sight buzzed into the distance.
 
There was a moment of silence and then a collective sigh of relief.
 
More silence.
 
Finally, Aragorn heard Pippin behind him pick something up and say quietly to Merry,
"Do you think it would make a good walking stick?"
And the whoosh of something through the air.
Merry let out a startled, "Whoah!"
There was a yank on his hair, and he turned around to see a sheepish Merry holding some of his hair for a toepee.
 
He just turned back around and kept going.
Silly hobbit.
 
...everyone knows that mosquito snozzles are sharp.

Merry sniffed the pilfered hair, made a face, and then carefully reached into his pack-taking care to only open it just enough to reach his hand in and get what he wanted-and extracted a bottle that had been crudely wrapped in white paper: printed in orange crayon were the words MACHO HOBBIT FOOT GEL.
Merry glanced around furtively, and then slipped away from the others, dodging urger-burgers and a piece of the skeeter's schnoz while he scrubbed industriously at the hair in a nearby puddle.
One might think it odd that Merry would wash Strider's hair with foot gel- dirtiness notwithstanding-but Merry had good reason for the others not to know what was really in that bottle.
When he finished, he called to Cousin Hand and said, "Look, Handy, you have a new toupee to replace the one you lost in Bree!"
He waved the toupee happily with one hand while he quickly slipped the crayon-printed bottle back into his pack. Then he called, "Hey , Frodo, do you think this Buglord guy might know Flit from A Bug's Life? I want his autograph!"

"Flit? You mean Fatty's brother Flatulgar? Why would it know him?"  Frodo looked at Merry strangely.  He knew the bugs were supposed to be bigger near the Brandywine in Buckland, but it had never occurred to him that the Bucklanders would be on a first-name basis with them.
 
The grandiose Mosquitohawk having dwindled to a  mere speck in the distance, they set out once more.  The urger-burgers squished underfoot, sizzled and dripped grease in their faces and buzzed around poor Bill until the pony was half-mad with it.  The ones with onions and pickles were the worst smelling when you squished them, but the cheese ones stuck to their hair terribly too.  The prospect of spending the night in these burger-infested marshes lowered his spirits.
 
"What we need is some taters." said Sam plodding along beside him.  "To go with the ketchup ones.  Peel 'em, fry 'em, sprinkle 'em with salt..."
 
"Strider!" called Frodo.  "Are there any wild taters growing around these parts?"

'Tho Isengard be hard as stone, we go, we go, we go to mow, to trim the hedge and wielf the hoe....(oops, sorry - wrong parody!)...

Elladan shuffled the cards, dealing from the bottom of the deck for his brother while dropping the cards he had taken the previous hand from out of his sleeve.  Elrohir did not notice; he was busy shooting orcs idly as he waited for Elladan to finish the deal.  
 
They were sitting on the top of the long flight of stairs that led to the door of Orthanc, waiting for someone to answer the door.  The pizza guy refused to deliver there, claiming it was out of his delivery area, so they had been eating girlscout cookies that Elrohir had found in the saddlebags of the horse he had been riding.  He wondered who it had belonged to.  Whoever it was, they seemed to have a penchant for dark chocolate.  They also must have had horrible breath, because the other side of the bags was filled to overflowing with Blackbreathmints and Terrortimetoothpolish.
 
"How many cards do you want?" asked Elladan, peeking at his brother's hand.
 
"Why do you work so hard to cheat, Elladan, when you never ever win?"  Elrohir laid a royal flush on the flagged stones, collecting all the loot from their bet: a bag of apples, ten carrots, half a bag of pipeweed, and a withered brown pinkie finger.  
 
Elladan cursed and threw down his cards.  "I wish someone would answer the door."  He shaded his eyes and glanced upward, where the grey-clad figure on the top of the tower was now attempting to communicate via smokesignals, but the wind was making his words look like: "Ged ma dom ny ew idio tz"
 
"What is an 'idio'?"
 
"I have no idea.  It is my deal."
 
"But I have nothing left to bet.  You have cleaned me out!"
 
Elrohir shuffled the cards with a smile like a shark.  "Let's talk inheritances...."

Back in the McMidgewater McMarshes...
 

Strider pondered Frodo's question for a while then finally asked "Taters? What's taters?"
 
He swatted a few mustard-colored urger-burgers away from his face.  "Hey look, if you step on the ketchup ones just right,  you can squirt them clear over there!"  He grinned at the hobbits who were just looking at him with queasy faces.  His grin faded. "Um, just an old Ranger trick. Never mind. It's getting dark. Let's make camp on that dryish knoll over there. I'll go see what I can find us for dinner.  At least we have plenty of condiments."

Frodo hunkered down on one of the few dry patches of marsh grass and pulled his cloak about him.  It smelled of pickles and cheese.  He grimaced and tried to find something else to think about.  Sam was digging around in the damp ground looking for taters in a determined silence,  the noise of the urger-burgers making speech almost impossible anyway.  He couldn't see what the others were up to, nor where that Ranger had sloshed off to.
 
Off in the distance there were some strange lights flashing in the sky.  A carnival?  A used-car dealer?  He wondered what it meant.


Far, far away from the McMarshes, 
Gwaihir the Great Windlord Mosquitohawk burped contentedly as he buzzed rapidly past the tower of Orthanc.  The light was fading, but with all the bonfires and weenie-roasts that appeared to be going there he had plenty of light to see by.  A cute little fuzzy moth flitted past his ear.  
 
"squidgeysquahsqulllskookumGwaihir." it said in its tiny moth voice.
 
"What??"
 
"That's what that wizard over there told me to tell you if you showed up."
 
Gwaihir ate the moth for being a dunderhead and headed for the tower, spitting out cute little antennae on the way.


Saruman reached back behind the black "throne" and pulled a lever. The flushing water sound whooshed through the room.  
 
"My most clever invention yet!" he said as he lowered his robes. "The Throne within the Throne." He walked over to a basin of water and began to wash his hands.
 
Grima, who was hovering near the door listening for the sound of the water, finally entered.
 
"Master, two elves are at your door."
 
"I know, I saw them from a ways off. What do they want?" said Saruman.
 
"I am unsure. They knocked, tried to order a pizza from that 'payphone' you had installed, and then resorted to playing cards."
 
"Canasta? Grima, you know how I love a good game of Canasta!"
 
"Yes, but I am unsure master, shall I go ask them?"
 
"No, I will handle this myself. You had better make preparations to get back to Rohan, Theoden will need some more coaxing soon if he's going to let me play in the intra-mural polo match. Go and get packed."
 
"Yes, master," said Grima as he slithered out the back door.
 
Saruman rubbed his hands under the Orc's head hand dryer along the wall and thought about his options. "I cannot risk intruders at this time," he thought, glancing toward the ceiling.
 
Then a thought dawned on him.
 
"Pizza, that's the ticket."
 
He waved his staff and the white robes were replaced with a Red and Blue jumpsuit with runes on the left breastpocket that said "Dominoe's".  His white hair was now a faded grey, his beard a mere unshaven stubble and he had grown in girth with a slight ponch in his midsection.  
 
"That should do it, now to deliver the 'pizza' " .


Elladan and Elrohir stood up quickly and dusted off their clothes, hiding their cards and trying to look businesslike, which failed completely because they are dressed like "Robin Hood joins the Foreign Legion".  
 
Elladan balled up a fist and pounded on the door.  Elrohir spotted some Orcs running toward them and casually filled them with arrows.  
 
"Did you see that, El?  Right through the gizzard!  This White Wizard-fella needs to get an exterminator or something out here... his garden is totally overrun with the biggest cockroaches I have ever seen in my life!"  


Meanwhile a few leagues downwind of Bree, the Witch King of Angmar inhales in disgust.....
 
"What is that wretched stench?" he said.  "Oh, Pete is on the Pot."  
 
He deftly cast an incantation, and the steam from the teapot coalesced into a wavery picture of Pete.  
 
"What is it now?" he asked.  "And why does your message stink?"
 
Pete relayed the story to him of loosing the hobbits, Creampuff, and the ecologically disasterous battle of socks between Aragorn and Ferney.
 
"Well, that explains the stench.  But what I wonder is where are they heading, how can we stop them, and how-come I am called the 'Witchking' when there are no 'Witches' to be rule?"  
 
"I will consult with the great Eye and get back to you with a plan to trap them.  You say they are heading towards the Marshes?  We will let them get through that before we go after them.  You know what a devil of a time we had when we returned to costuming with Ketchup stains on our robes."

Gwaihir beat his wings a little faster, producing a deep BUZZZZZ that made several of the orcs in the pits lean forward to adjust their radios.   Some of them beat on the sides of their heads, trying to make it stop.
 
Zeroing in on the tower, he could now see the tiny grey figure was in fact his friend Gandalf!  The figure waved it's bowl and bread-crusts at him.  What was he doing in such a strange place?  Gwaihir buzzed around the tower, awaiting further instructions.

Gandalf was very happy the moth happened by when it did. He'd seen the elven lads approach, but he'd never put much faith in those two - too busy chasing women and pulling pranks to be responsible.  They couldn't even understand the simple intructions he'd yelled down. Playing cards on the doorstep of a traitor, what silliness. He waved his bowl and leftover crust of bread at the fools below to try and catch their attention again, but it was no use.    He straightened up an sighed. He was just starting to wonder how long it would take that cute little moth to reach Gwahir or someone else who could fly faster when he saw his gallant friend approaching and looked about thinking how he would be able to mount the Mosquitohawk. 
 
 I know!
 
The grey wizard made large gestures at the Mos-hawk imitating diving off the tower top then spread his arms wide a moment and then quickly brought his arms in the hands clutching his opposite shoulder. He then pointed at his flying friend and swept his finger in an arch below him.

Gwaihir cocked his head in confusion.  Gandalf was doing the macarena?  Or maybe ....let's see.... Gandalf wanted to air out his armpits, but his shoulders kept on giving him spasms, so he was going to sweep them out with a broom?  Or maybe he wanted to learn to fly, but had no wings on his shoulders so he needed some of the orcs down below to make him some?  
 
Gwaihir banked around the tower a bit lower down.

Gandalf saw Gwahir fly around the tower below him. He smiled that his friend understood what was needed.  He looked over the edge again and watched the mosquito-hawk as it flew towards the place he had already picked out as the point of no return. Gwahir reached it and Gandalf jumped fromt he tower, arms and legs spread wide.

Below...

Saruman came around the corner to deliver the 'pizza'.
 
He had thought about just chucking all this disguise and flashing these elf boys back to "Papa Elrond" with his staff. But that would be bad form. Saruman knew the rules.
 
"Villain Rule 107. Villains are always supposed to only use small portions of their total power until the climax of the movie when the heroes finally have enough knowledge and skill to defeat them."  
 
"...otherwise, movies will be very short and out of work 60s horror movie veterans would still be out of work, " he added on his own.
 
So here he was delivering a "poison pizza" like some stupid witch from one of those Disney flicks. ("And no, I do not need a "Witch King" thank you very much," he said as a side note.)
 
But at least "Papa Elrond" would not know that he had anything to do with the disappearance of Elr... Elpa... "Oh what's with these stoopid elves and alliteration anyway! What's wrong with names like Saruman and Sauron and... oh never mind."  
 
At least he would think the two morons had just got a hold of some bad ale or something, everyone knew they were carousers anyway. And as long as that idiot Gandalf was trapped in the tower, things would be okey-dokey for the 'big plan'.
 
Saruman glanced at the tower, just as a thought.  
 
"Hey, what's that big fat bird doing up there? Radagast and his stoopid pets! That's just what I need... more eagle poop on the side of my pretty black tower."  
 
"Next time I see him I'm going to remind him that he is the 'least' of the five and if he doesn't straighten up its a one way ticket back across the sea. Of course he'd probably like that, him and that idiot boat captain would sit for hours discussing the migration patterns of seagulls or some such nonsense."  
 
"...but I digress... oh yeah, pizza."
 
"You boys ordered this?" said Saruman. "Double thick Lembas crust with extra cheese and um... noooo poison?"

Up Above...
 
Gwaihir, who had been about to loop back up, was utterly astonished when the wizard suddenly leaped from the tower above him, arms and legs flapping in the wind.  
"What??" Could Gandalf fly now? If he could he wasn't making a very good show of it.  Maybe he would get the hang of it after a while, but somehow it didn't look like it was working this time.  
 
All these thoughts and more went through the great Mosquitohawk's head as the wizard fell past him gurgling and screeching.  Gwaihir followed him down.
 
"You need to stop flailing and just hold your arms out steady like this!" he demonstrated. "Now beat them up and down until they are a blur!...No, not your legs, your arms....No, not your head..."  Sighing at the lack of comprehension from this now frantically kicking and yodeling student, he dove down and allowed him to land on his back.  He could take him back to the top for another try that way.

Down Below...

"Holy Flying Leviathans!  Look at the size of that mosquito!"  Elladan grabbed Elrohir's arm and pointed upwards.  "Quick!  Kill it before it drains us like Dracula's date!"
 
Elrohir glanced up at the mosquitohawk, then down at his longbow.  He shook his head... no, no!  He needed more power!  (grunt grunt)
 
He reached into his saddlebags and drew out his Qulynt Æstwood 44 Magnum Balistae Crossbow (with double over and under-hand re-load and potato-grenade launcher) and took careful aim....
 
But before he could fire, Elladan jogged his elbow again, sending the deadly missile flying awry... straight through the cardboard box that was smoking evilly and had a skull and crossbones on the side, scratched out and over-written in crayon "Dominoes Pizza", which was being offered to them by some geek.
 
"Ohhh! Pizza!  Ooops.. sorry, El!  Good shot, tho.  Hey, we ordered more than 30 minutes ago... is that pizza free?"

Up Above...

The strange noises below attracted the attention of the mosquitohawk, and he was most upset to see some Elves, of all people, trying to take a pot-shot at him!  True, they had missed badly but if they didn't want him they could have just said so...
 
He decided the flying lessons would just have to wait for some other time.  Bearing his gasping grey passenger upwards, he buzzed off mightily into the darkening sky. What to do with a wizard?  Elrond would know.
 
"This is your captain speaking. Please fasten your seatbelt and extinguish all smoking materials.  Just ahead of you you will see a magnificent view of the Misty Mountains.  Enjoy your flight.  Estimated Arrival in Rivendell a little after sunrise. Thank you for flying Gwaihir Air."

Meanwhile, in Bree...

Arwen finally reached Bree by nightfall, following the smell that still lingered in the air (most of the inhabitants were still wearing oxygen masks and cleaning away dead animals and parade-confetti).  
 
She tried to ask people if they'd seen Aragorn, but was unsuccessful: a squinty-eyed dude and some guy without boots ran away screaming when they saw Muffy, and when she finally found a local without a sound-muffling oxygen mask (his beard was probably sufficient), all he did was burp at her until Muffy ate his carrot.
 
She decided to make for that Prancing Pony her brothers had mentioned; they would probably know more there.

Back in Isengard...

Saruman looked up at what the boys were shooting at.
 
"Oh no! That dunder head Gandalf just jumped on that bird's back," he said, though accidently out loud this time.
 
The two young elves looked at him puzzledly. Apparently muttering something about the pizza they just shot holes in being free.
 
"Free? Yes, free," he said his eyes scowling trying to think what he should do about this twist of events.
 
After more than a few minutes thought he seemed to come to a conclusion and made up his mind.
 
"Not only is it free, but you get a few bonus prizes for being our eight gamillionth customer." He reached his hand in his pocket, mumbled a few words and then pulled out several items and handed them to the two elves.
 
The elves looked at him puzzledly as they held up each item in turn. Saruman explained each item when prompted.
 
They first held up a small slip of parchment.
 
"That's a coupon for a lifetime supply of free pizzas, but you have to claim it at our Middle-Earth headquarters in Moria."
 
Then they held up a little vial of white powder.  
 
"That's a party enhancer. The next time you're at a gathering of friends and loved ones, just slip that into the punch and watch everyone keel over with laughter."
 
Finally they held up two rectangular pieces of parchment.
 
"And what are these?"
 
"Two one-way tickets home boys, first class."
 
And *poof* the elves were gone.
 
"Well, there goes a chance for a good game of Canasta. But, now off to the warehouse to find my intercontinental anti-mosquito-hawk missile." 

With a sickening lurch, the Twins are wrenched from Saurman's doorstep and hurled magically hundreds of leagues away to Rivendell.  With a *poof* of coloured smoke, they appear out of thin air and drop squalling into the pool, which luckily had not yet been drained for cleaning.
 
Elladan surfaced with a gasp, whipping his hair out of his face.  Elrohir is leaning against the side, laughing.
 
"That was GREAT!  Better than bungee jumping out of that dwarven cable car with Legolas!  Whoo Hoo!  Let's do it again!"
 
Elladan climbs out of the pool shakily.  "You're nuts, Elpo.  I am never... NEVER listening to one of your hair-brained ideas again."
 
"Awww!  You wound me, brother-of-mine!" retorted Elrohir sarcastically.  "We will be in the same ditch if Eldad catches us out here.  Let's go and get cleaned up.  Maybe we can sneak in through the Hall of Fire when no one is looking...."  
 
Both froze as they were climbing the stairs out of the pool patio.  A tall figure was glowering down at them from the top of the stairs, brow furrowed over his dark sunglasses.  There was a crumpled piece of parchment in his fist.  
 
The air around the sodden elf-twain grew suddenly cold.....


Back in the McMidgewater McMarshes,
Merry was teaching Cousin Hand to play Go Fish.  
"Nothing else to do right now," he shrugged.


The WitchKing fell backward as the connection with the Lidless Eye of Mordor was  
broken . . . his spiked helmet fell backwards into his last bottle of Visine, causing him to swear under his breath . . .
 

Great jumpin' hornytoads, but is the Master miffed!
 
His head still swam.  He knew it was stupid, but everytime he called the dark tower and saw the Sauron sitting there, he foolishly entered a staring contest with him.  It was foolish, but useful - - those tears made him look like he was crying in terror, which almost always put the Dark Lord in a good mood.  Until Today!
 
If he wants a ring so badly, he can have mine back!  But that's what he wants, so that's what we will give him.  And the plan is set.  
 
I will notify Pete in Bree that he should head to the McMidgewater Marshes - - seems an unseasonal swarm of Aphids has drawn his attention there and put him back on the trail of the hobbits.  We will have Bubba, Beuford, and Basil head towards the fords at Rivendell - - that was where the bugs were headed, perhaps as a vanguard - - and keep an eye out for them.
 
That leaves me, Khamul and the rest to make for weathertop, to see what we can find.  They would never be so stupid as to pick that for a place to look around in, as it is so exposed it would be asking for trouble.  Even Aragorn isn't THAT stupid!  Although the Mushrooms found at the bottom of the hill might attract the hobbits.  That gives me an idea . . .  
 
He left the chamber muttering something about finding "Waiter costumes"
 
The Witch King drank some Elderberry wine and proceeded to give the other Nazgul a ring . . . but who would respond first?


Elrond was so furious with his sons that for quite some time all he could do was glare at them.  Luckily for the Elbrats, the shades were cutting down some of the potency of those looks or they would have melted in their tracks. Elrond raised a shaking forefinger, opened his mouth, then dropped it and closed it, then raised it and opened it again, then dropped it and closed it again, then ...  
 
Finally, not finding adequate words in elvish, dwarvish or the tongues of men to express his fury, he spun gracefully on his heel so that his designer robe rippled around him in a most picturesque manner, and retired to his room. He switched on his Captain Midnightelf magic decoder ring with a decisive gesture and spoke into it with gritted teeth.  
 
"Hello, Varda Star Cruises? I'd like to book passage for two to Valinor. We'd like to depart immediately, please, with connecting flight from Rivendell to the Grey Havens.  First passenger is Peredhil, Elrond; second passenger is Undomiel, Arwen. That's right, one way." While the operator booked the tickets, Elrond fumbled in his pocket.
 
Moments later the twins heard an outraged, despairing wail from Eldad's general direction. Before they could shake themselves off and slip out of his sight, he was back and even madder than before, not that they would have believed it possible.  
 
"Okay, which one of you maxed out my mallorn gold card?" Elrond shrieked.

Two faces had never shown degrees of innocence more plainly.  If it were possible, haloes of blinding radiance would have lit up behind their heads.   Both of the Elf-twins denied having used their fathers MallornGoldCard, signed noterized documents proclaiming this, and further displayed their innocence by returning all the clothing and accessories they had borrowed for their 'trip to Isenguard'.
 
Elladan leaned over to Elrohir and whispered behind their outraged father's lordly back, "Do you think he is buying this?"
 
Elrohir shook his head, "Not a chance. Which way are you going to run?  Cause I am heading South, and I don't want to run over you!"
 
They waited, shivering, for the doom to fall....


The three Nazgul were finally heading out of the South Farthing when their Teapot began to whistle . . .
 
Beuford and Bubba came to a screeching halt, causing the trailing Basil to pull up sharply and spill some of the hot water on his robe.
 
"Great!" snarled Basil.  "We just last the last dry-cleaners between here and Isengard, and now look at this!  Water Spots!!  By nightfall, it will be a dusty patch that will throw off my whole ensemble.  Why can't you two break to the side like decent folk."
 
"I reckon" drawled Beuford, " 'cause we AIN'T decent folk."  
 
This response sent Bubba into a fit of laughter, causing him to swallow the Longbottom Leaf he had put between his teeth and gum.  Why these small creatures hadn't had the sense to Chaw this t'bacco was beyond him.  As he laughed at his friend's wit, he began to cough and spit, creating even more consternation in the obsessive/compulsive Basil.  
 
"Keep it down, you two.  This is on the Angmar's private line.  And spit to the side, you Axhgeblatternde Grimpshank!*"
 
With precise, almost dainty gestures, he called forth the Witch King's image.  As it coalesced, he once again regretted his faux pas an age before - - "Spiky helmets are out, Big Guy.  Go with a kicky beret!"  He still wondered if the new guy, who was always sporting needle and thread had laid a curse on him in order to be reassigned away from these two idiots.  Oh, sure they had said it was a promotion, but having to deal with these two yokels was more of a sentence.  He dodged the spit coming from both the horses and the riders and began to take his orders.  It didn't sound so bad.  
 
"Well, lads," he began after the smoke had cleared.  "Angmar wants us to head to Rivendell and await the Ring there.  Seems a swarm of Aphids that preceeded them to the Marshes has headed there, and he wants to make sure that they don't get through."
 
"Right, then." replied Beuford, picking his ears with the keys to Minas Morgul, which he promptly handed wax first to Bubba.  
 
Bubba didn't even notice until Basil turned green and got out some anti-bacterial hand wash and coated his hands with it.  This sent the wraith into a fit of sneezing at the "Malorn Fresh" scent.
 
Basil gave up hope of ever getting rid of these two and heard the them chortle, unaware that they had wiped their dirty hands on his robe as he turned.  "It's almost tea time." said Basil.  "Perhaps we should begin after we have had a few cookies."  
 
He began to put the cookies gently on the tray, and get the water hot again.  When he returned, Beuford and Bubba had opened a bag of pork rinds and were chomping with their mouthes open.  
 
Basil, poured the water onto the ground, careful to make sure that the water flowed away from his horse and towards the others.  He mounted his horse, and began the long march to Rivendell, leaving the two oafs to follow after.  "You know, maybe that Ernest fellow could be conned out of a few cookies from the hollow tree near Rivendell." He thought.  
 
He laughed as he pictured B&B asking for some "Jerkey or Pickled Pigs feet from the Elven Baker."  Perhaps, he thought, there might be some fun on this trip yet!

*There is no direct translation of this from the black tongue, but roughly it means, "member of a family tree that doesn't branch"


Back in the Marshes again...


Aragorn spent the next day and night squishing in various directions through the marshes, grabbing at rabbits and shooting at deer until he finally gave up.  He returned to the cold, wet and condiment-spattered hobbits with a burlap bag of "salad greens" that he'd randomly gathered along the way back.
 
He dropped it with a moist flop.  "Who's for some salad?!" he announced with false cheerfulness.  When they just gaped at him, then suspiciously sniffed at the bag instead of eating it, he shrugged and sat down nearby.  
 
"Get some sleep. We're moving on pretty soon. To help you sleep I'll sing you a long long boring song about obscure history and people you've never heard of.  And to make it even more boring, I'll sing it in a language you don't even know!"
 
He sat down and began caterwauling an Elvish tune, swatting away urger-burgers to the beat.

"Ack!" said Frodo, covering his ears.  He turned to Sam and muttered about hunters who leave for an entire day and night and return with a sack of noxious greenery then yodel in Elvish, but he didn't say it so nicely.  Gathering all the etiquette he could scrape together under the circumstances he turned to their host.
 
"Please, Strider - I'm sure your song is very nice, but please just get us out of here! We don't want to be sung to sleep, we want to be traveling out of this pickle-and-onion infested swamp!"

Gandalf sat huddled atop the Mosquito-hawk for a bit before he realised where they were headed.
"Rivendell? Not there you loony birdy! I need a real steed! One who can understand directions!" he yelled to make himself heard.
 
He loooked down.  (eeek!)  And got a tighter grip on the mos-hawk who squelched in complaint. 'What I need is a new horse,' Gandalf thought. "That's it," he said and pulled on the feathers in his right hand trying to turn the creature he was riding. "South, turn us South! I want to go to Rohan!" 

Gwaihir grumbled to himself.  Some people you just couldn't please no matter what you did.  But then, Rohan had fatter mosquitoes than Rivendell did, and he was getting hungry.
 
"South it is. I always like going south. Somehow it feels like going downhill!"  He banked sharply then went into a steep dive, enjoying the way the wizard's weight was off of his back for a moment, but not the gibbering screech that he produced.  Leveling out, he beat steadily towards the rapidly approaching plains of Rohan with its fat mosquitoes and horses.

Frodo struggled to his feet, ignoring the tiny squishing noises  and mustardy splats that surrounded them.  If they had to stay even one more hour in this horrible place he should go mad!  
 
"We Are Leaving NOW!" he announced to Strider, who looked a bit dumbfounded at his vehemence.  The others seemed happy enough at this idea and rapidly gathered up their playing cards and dice to head out.  Aragorn shrugged again then got up and began leading them zigzagging away from the grassy knoll.  They picked their way along from relatively dry spot to relatively dry spot for several hours, only stopping to eat anytime they found anything edible.  Sam's childhood training in Taters 101 and 102 had been of great use as he ferreted out one wild potato plant after another.  Popping them out of the moist ground he sliced them to dip in the easily obtained ketchup.  While it kept them full, they soon felt assured that they would never, ever, ever, ever eat french fries again for the rest of their lives, not even if they were stranded on a desert island with nothing but a french-fry machine, a pile of potatoes and a bottle of Hines.
 
The endless day was drawing to a close as they finally staggered out of the last of the bog onto blessedly solid earth again.  The last of the urger-burgers were smushed and they all agreed they couldn't find a stream to wash in quickly enough!

In Bree...

Arwen and Muffy found the Prancing Pony easy enough: it was the building that produced the most noise. She walked into the inn, ignoring the men staring at her, and gave the top of a Hobbit-head behind the counter her most charming smile.
 
"Hello," she said. "I would like..."
 
"Yes, of course, here it is, Miss," said the head as a matching hand put a shiny MallornGoldCard on the counter. "Your sister seems to have dropped it, Miss."
 
Arwen smiled politely, even though she had no idea what he was talking about, and snatched the card from the counter. Some things were priceless (especially for her), but for the other things this card might come in handy.
 
"Thank you. Can I speak to your supervisor?"
 
Moments later, a fat and very unattractive mortal stood before her, wiping his dirty hands, feet, mouth and nose on his apron.  
Ugh. Men are disgusting.
 
"What do you want now, Miss?" And rude, too.
 
"I am looking for Aragorn."
 
"Who?"  
Oh brother, here we go again...
 
"Um... Son of Arathorn, Estel, Elessar, Dúnadan, Telcontar, Elfstone, Wingfoot, Isildur's Heir, Wielder of the Sword that was..."  
Oh bother.
 
"Tall guy, greasy hair, dirty clothes, weird behaviour, no table manners, deadly odour. Seen him?"
 
A dark look came into the Innkeeper's eyes and he looked away, muttering incoherently. Arwen then lost her patience and pulled him over the counter by his apron.
 
"Look here, buddy, I'm with the ElfBI and this smelly human is wanted for some serious cases of Hobbitnapping. So tell me where he and the little dudes went, or I'll turn you in at the Health Association for serving whatever it is that smells so bad in here! Got it?"

Nob, who had been patted on the head by the lady-elf, got a gleam in his eyes.
 
"Yo, Hob! She fell for it!"
 
"Fell for what?" came the reply from behind the kitchen stove, where he was searching for a penny that had been dropped by Barliman a week ago.
 
"She took our 'Bywater Blueberry Bagel Card' instead of the Mallorn Gold Card she handed me.  Now we can charge our drinks, say good-bye to this place, and find some new horses, clothes, and travel goods.  I'll call the order in and make sure it goes through.  Then we can blow this burg and head to the South Farthing."
 
A few minutes later, after the bogus draft had been charged and their account was paid in full, Hob and Nob quickly headed out to the Barn.  They were confused for a few minutes, as they realized that it should have been empty, but there was one horse left - - a dappled black and brown horse that looked quite hungry and smelled of peroxide.  
 
Oh well, they thought, any saddle in a storm.  
 
As they rode off, their guilt got the better of them, and they slipped back to the Prancing Pony and slipped the Gold Mallorn Card back into the bags of the Lady-Elf's horse.  
 
"What d'ya go and do THAT for?" cried Hob.
 
"When things are too easy," replied Nob, "it takes the fun out of it.  My family owns half of the Pipeweed sold in the Shire.  I could have paid this off weeks ago.  But the fun is in the Fleecing!"
 
And with that, the two diminuitive con-hobbits turned in their saddle and rode out of Bree.  They were arrested at the Grey Havens a few years later trying to stow on board with another hobbit, who had gained passage.  But that is another tale, and must be left for now.  
 
We return to Bree, Butterbur, and the Bru-ha-ha with Arwen.

Somewhere in the Air...

Gandalf sat miserably atop his winged steed holding his hat in his hands, the long grey hair streaming behind him. It seems after that last turn the point hat had given up the flying business and tried to leave his head. I wasn't until Gandalf took it off and held it in his lap that the hat finally calmed down.
 
Gandalf sat and muttered about birds that didn't know anything about passenger comforts; a blanket would be nice as it was getting quite chilly, alittle something to drink, maybe some eyewear so he could see something in front of them instead of only behind. Though it was obvious Gwahir either couldn't hear him unless he was screaming or was just ignoring him he contiuned his rant about non-accommodating birds, brainless elves, loosing his Lorien brush and comb set (how would he ever get the knots and tangles out of his hair now?, just thinking about it made him cry  or maybe it was the wind streaming into his face) and anything else he could think of to complain about.

Out of the Marshes...

"I'm glad to see the last of that place," Merry muttered, picking limp salad greens from his teeth, and Cousin Hand wiggled his fingers in agreement.  
The other hobbits had begun to notice that even through the worst of the mud, urger-burgers and skeeters, Merry had kept a frantic hold upon his pack, and wouldn't even let Cousin Hand all the way inside it. He sprayed it frequently with Scotchgard and never let it out of his sight. And despite frequent barrages of ketchup, mustard and pickles, the pack remained curiously fragrant. The other hobbits shrugged it off for the time being, thinking that Merry must still have some of Goldberry's shower gel left, but they grew curiouser and curiouser as they trudged along.

Up in the Air...

Gwaihir shot over the top of the last set of ridges, dusting his complaining passenger with ice crystals of snow.  Winging down to the plains he zigzagged around trying to scope out a good fat herd of horses for Gandalf, though why the wizard wanted to eat a horse when there were so many nice fat mosquitos over by the river, he had no idea.
 
The horses scattered in terror from his low buzzings, except for one large whitish-grey one.  Yup. That would do. If it were too dumb to run from a Mosquito-hawk like Gwaihir, then it would be nice and easy for a wingless predator like Gandalf to catch and eat.  Gwaihir was nothing if not a gracious host.
 
He landed in a great whoosh of flattened grasses, tilting just enough to roll his passenger gently onto the ground.  "There you go! Nice and fat and stupid. The horse that is. Now I'm off to rustle up some grubs! 'Bye!"
 
Dipping his wings politely to the wizard who was still laying in the grass, he shot back up into the air and headed for the distant wetlands.  He made a mental note to check back in on Gandalf after a while. Maybe in the spring.

In Rivendell....

"Have you got it yet?"
 
"No, I haven't!  And stop asking me every 5 seconds... I am trying to concentrate..."
 
....Silence for several moments.....
 
"I think I hear someone coming!"
 
The elf-twins shouted with all their lungs and tongues, but the footsteps passed by their room and faded away.  Elrohir returned to his attemt to file through the duct tape that their father had used to bind them both to chairs in their room.  He was working carefully with a fingernail file that he had concealed in his sleeve.
 
"Hurry up!  My arms are going to sleep!"
 
"You'll be going to sleep permanently if I  get out of this tape before you do!  Why did you have to confess to taking the MithrilMasterCard?  Honestly, are you sure that you are my twin?"
 
"Elrohir?"
 
"What!"
 
"That is my finger you are cutting through..."

Having calmed down at least enough to bear the sight of his children without flinching, Elrond decided the twins had been tied up long enough to thoroughly consider their recent actions and begin to get rather numb, so he'd better cut them loose before they were rendered totally useless (or even more useless than usual).  
 
"Okay, my sons and heirs," he said, with an Eru, help me added under his breath, "I hope you enjoyed your little jaunt across the West because it's the last one you're going to have for a while."  
 
He liberally duct taped various housecleaning implements to the twins. "It's time you begin to work off the Mount Doom-sized debt you created, and get this place ready for the party."  
 
Elrond pointed the broom-handed and Swiffer-footed Elrohir toward the Hall of Fire with a feather duster in his teeth. He added a plunger and mop to Elladan's similar gear and dragged him toward the scene of Glorfindel's recent plumbing disaster.  
 
"Since you can't seem to behave and play nicely together," Elrond said sweetly, "I think we'd better separate you two."

Meanwhile...

Frodo plodded along with the others following the boot-tracks of their lanky guide.  He ran his fingers through his still-damp hair grateful that it no longer smelled of pickles and mustard.  He glanced over at Merry who had three hands running through his own curls and shuddered slightly. How Merry could be attached to such a macabre pet, he had no idea, but just when you thought you knew all there was to know about someone....  Pippin, who had fallen to the rear and was pacing along behind Merry had a strange look on his face, as if he smelled something funny.
 
Up ahead of them a flat-topped hill with the remains of some sort of building on it was slowly growing closer.  Strider seemed to be headed in that direction.  Maybe there were other buildings too?
 
"Strider, where are we going?  Is there an Inn near that hill thing over there?  A soft bed, and a warm meal with a hot cup of tea sure would be nice tonight."
 
The Ranger gave him a strange look.  "That's Weathertop," he said. "We Rangers hide supplies here and there in the wild and that's one of the places, so I'm hoping we'll find someone's stash of coffee, dimestore novels or chocolate there. "
 
"Kind of like how squirrels bury nuts?"
 
"Er - yeah. Kinda."
 
Sam perked up slightly. "Nuts?  What nuts?"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Khamul, khamul... respond... Khamul..."
 
The voice came like a misty dream and Khamul, The Shadow of the East, tried to shake it off and go back to trying to sleep.
 
He knew it was useless. Undead could not sleep. Ever since the big guy tricked him with that ring deal, he had not been able to eat, drink, sleep or take a leak. All pleasures he had enjoyed in his younger days in the Burning Sands.
 
He rolled over, right into a pile of slimey brown goo.
 
"Camel spit!" he yelled. "If that stooopid Beuford and Bubba don't stop giving Penelope chaw I am going to kill them! Well... kill them again! OK... maybe just disenchant them for a while until his lordship can put their idiotic images back together again."
 
"But anyway..." said the dreamlike voice/vision.
 
"Yes, your Angmarness!"  
 
Khamul nodded as he got the instructions to rejoin and the vision disappeared.  
 
"Weathertop? Where did these Westerners come up with these names anyway," he thought. "Why can't they give hills normal names like Khali-kan-mikul or Necra-mik-salan. Jeez!"
 
Well it was back to work he guessed. But at least this time he didn't have to supervise those two idiots and the cross dresser.
 
He climbed on Penelope and spurred her sides.  
 
"OK, girl, move out."
 
The camel lurched forward unexpectedly fast, ramming Khamul's face into her forward hump, that was unusually tall, even for a giant camel from the east.
 
Khamul knew he should have pressed Angmar harder for a Mumakil. No humps and a nice little shack on top to sleep in... well... try to sleep in anyway. But no...
 
"They' re not stealthy... they're not secret... They'll stand out" he mocked.
 
"Stand out!" he spit the words again. "Nine undead riders on black horses with red eyes and nails in their hoofs and you're worried about standing out. Every beast for a 60 mile radius gets the heebie-jeebies just when we're nearby! Stand out!"
 
So Penelope the Giant Camel was his compromise. He had to at least pick out a black one. But at least it was better than sleeping with a horse for the length of this "adventure". Man did they stink.
 
He braced himself, spurred the camel again, and moved out. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At the sound of Chocolate and Nuts, Sam got excited...He'd had enough Potatoes to last him a while, and there was only so much Uger-burgers one could have before they went berserk.
 
"Um...are they maybe, Chocolate covered nuts??" Sam licked his lips. Everyone looked at him.
 
"Oh, sorry, I, er, thought someone mentioned....oh nevermind." Sam blushed. Bill was laughing in his ear.
 
Sam perked up again and said, "You know, Chocolate covered nuts are Rosie's favorite! Her mother makes them every summer and...." Sam trailed off as he saw everyone's blank stares. "...and they are really good." he added quietly.

Pippin used the opportunity while everyone was busy gawping at Sam to whisper in Merry's ear.
 
"When Pongo wanders off 'to hunt' tonight we can cook up our mixed grill, after all the firewoord up there will light better than the ketchup covered stuff last night. . And at least if only brings back more salad we'll have had a hot bite first."

Frodo smiled good-naturedly at Sam's blush.  Everyone in the Shire knew he was sweet on Rosie Cotton, probably one of the only ones in the land who could out-do Samwise at the Annual Cook-Off.   If they ever wed he imagined they would soon both be too fat to fit through their own front door.  
 
As they got closer to Weathertop his smile faded.  A sense of foreboding hung in the air so low they sometimes had to stoop to go under it and faint ominous music notes slipped past their feet from time to time like grass snakes.  A bat flitted past even though it was still daylight.
 
"Is it always like this here?" asked Frodo.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
 
Reginald stopped practicing his cello.  He was frustrated beyond all belief.  Every note he played came across as "low and ominous" even though it was labled dolce.    
 
"How am I supposed to play something 'sweetly' when I am stuck in this get-up!?!"  Huffing, he pulled the gaping sleeves back away from the strings, and rested the bow on the grass.  
 
As a mortal, he had been a tailor specializing in gowns for "Big and Tall."  That had been before he met "Anger-Mar", that horrid drag-queen who despite the loveliest gowns that Reginald could create still came across as the ugly stepsister to RuPaul's 'Cinderella.'  And the Witchking - -  that "frog in a frock"  he snarled, had ensnared him with the simplest of deceptions.  
 
How long had he been working that he forgot rule number one . . . 1-- Too many accessories spoil an outfit.

But the small gold ring sparkled so beautifully under the lights, and he tought it was going to be the perfect gift for his beloved Charlotte.  So he had picked it up, slipped it on his finger, and entered the world of the wraiths, locked into servatude for eternity with men who didn't share his flair for fashion.  
 
No Paisley, no Pastels!  Only Black wool, which not only smelled when travelling, but wrinkled too.  Of course they had a point though - - after the decay set in, nobody wanted to see a wraith in spandex.  And the Wool capes did add volume.  
 
He had suggested some Linen for Khamul, but that had so upset him that he had asked to be reassigned from the "crossdresser" - - which was not true of course; Reginald only made women's clothes, he didn't wear them.  He had been briefly assigned to Beuford and Bubba, where he had managed to find Black on Black plaid for their shirts - - which delighted them to no end.  Their stupidity and boorish behavior, however had made a re-allignment of partners necessary, and Basil was always an easy mark.
 
"He never suspected that the 'teapot cozy' I had knitted for his last Wraith-day had been enchanted!" he laughed.  "But that's Basil for you.  Who else besides Emily Post would find it necessary to write a 'thank you note' for a cursed gift that got him paired with B&B?"
As he sat on the side of Weathertop (did that make it Weathermiddle?), he got a waft of frenchfries and ketchup from the plains below.  
 
"I better call Khamul, Angmar, and Pete and let them know that the Ring is approaching.  They can call the twins and give them orders."  
 
He picked up has bow again, and began playing the wraith themesong (which sounded very much like the Addams Family theme) and spread the news quickly.  "Let's hope that the 'snapping' thing doesn't bother the folks below." he thought.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Strider looked up from where he was currently trying to pull up some plantains. What was that...snapping...coming from?
 
The snapping stopped. Huh.  
 
He shrugged and went back to tugging on the stubborn plants.

Frodo sighed with resignation as their guide paused to add yet another salad green to his gradually filling bag.  He had noticed Sam surreptitiously feeding a few of them to Bill when he could - the pony certainly seemed to enjoy them more than his hobbit companions would.  
 
The day was moving on apace and they still had a little ways to go - at this rate it was going to be nearly dark before they even got there.  The sense of foreboding grew heavier, sinking down like a huge sagging bag that they found most annoying to deal with.  It didn't bother him too much until the Ring squiggled a bit in his pocket and squeeped.   The times it had been the happiest had always been the worst for him, so this was not a good sign.  The Ranger was still struggling to pop a large plantain out of the ground.  
 
He looked up at the lowering sun and sighed again.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

...In distant Mirkwood, a lone elf stands before his king, receiving orders to bear tidings to the White Council that will have bearing upon the destiny of all Free Peoples...

"But... Daaaaaaaaad!"
 
Thranduil turned and looked at his son, summoning up his best frowny-face.  He couldn't quite manage the sharp bitter lines that Elrond could but still, he was daunting.  He glowered at Legolas and shook his finger.
 
"No 'buts'!  I told you to look after that gollum-creature and you let him escape.  So you have to take the news to Gandalf in Rivendell.  And don't think I have forgotten about that little 'wine incident' that led to the Dwarves escape!  How you could let 13 dwarves tiptoe out of the kingdom right under your nose..."  Thranduil took a deep breath and began reciting calming excersises.  His anger-management therapy was all that kept him from disowning this boy sometimes.  Two thousand years, you think he would show a lick of sense...
 
Legolas stood before his red-faced father, hanging his head as if deeply shamed.  In truth he was trying to keep Thranduil from seeing the grin on his face.  He did feel bad about letting Smeagol escape, and he was really sorry about the dwarf-thingy, but his dad was so funny when he was mad, it was all he could do not to laugh out loud.
 
Thranduil counted to ten and released his breath.  He took a long knife from the tabletop and held it out to his son.  It had a bone-white handle and was razor sharp.  "Bear this as your weapon, and take your bow as well, my son.  And do not loan Elrond's sons any money this time.  You know you can't trust those two with a wooden nickle.  Neither a borrower nor a lender be... give many folks your ear but few thy tongue... don't ride side-saddle if you don't want to be called "miss"... and bring back some Angmar Chocolate Chip Cookies if you can.  Ernest owes me a batch for that last shipment of Dworthonion Red Wine I sent him.  Are you going to remember all this?"
 
Legolas sighed and reached into his tunic for a parchment and quill.  It was always like this when he went out.  "Anything else, sire?"
 
"No, that should cover it.... wait!  I almost forgot!  Don't, what ever you do, under any circumstances, go on any quests!  I want you to come straight home after the Council.  Do I make myself clear?"
 
Legolas scratched rapidly away on the parchment, filling the small sheet quickly, but just as he got to the last item, his Banford Uni-Ball Gel Swan-quill ran out of ink.  Well, it shouldn't be hard to remember that last line.... he thought recklessly.
 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Pippin looked around at the small camping area beneath the rock ledge with the ruins perched upon it, 'above' them and blew a raspberry
 
"Okay this is bad enough, hundred of tons of rubbley old heap could crush us as we sleep! But I'm cold, tired, covered in glop and ketchup and where is that sauna you promised us?!"  
 
He looked sharply at the Ranger "As we were coming up the hill, you jabbered about this being 'the old wash tower with a sauna' so where is it!"

Frodo picked his way carefully back up the slope from the grassy dell where Bill the Pony was tethered below.  Between them, he and Sam had managed to get the last of the foodstuffs from the baggage hoping to have some sort of edible meal out of the wind.  
 
Pippin was grumbling, but brightened slightly at the sight of food that had more gumption to it than the pathetic bowl of mixed greens left for them by Strider.  As with the previous days, they left one portion for the Ranger and very quietly fed the rest to Bill,  fine feeding that had made Sam's pony already appear much fatter than when he left Bree.  The sense of foreboding had shifted slightly to the East and the bats were only an occasional nuisance, so aside from the strange bouts of snapping and ominous notes, he was feeling a bit better. Still, with it starting to get dark...
 
"Well," said Frodo as he dropped his load of blankets and food and straightened his back.  "Should we light a fire, since the Camping Guide said it keeps wraiths away or should we not light a fire since the article I saw in the Bree Movie Review Guide said it attracts them?  I vote for a good roaring fire myself. "

...Three leagues outside of Bree heading towards Weathertop, an argument was being waged...

"Come along, Angmar.  Can't this beast move any faster?" asked Pete, once again knocking his knee with a teapot and spilling boiling water on the Witchking.  
 
"Well, we could have taken YOUR horse, but wait, no, YOU had to loose him.  He is now leagues away from here with two halflings.  D'you remember me telling you about halflings from the Shire - - You were supposed to CATCH some, not supply your HORSE to some!  And tell me how that horse is now a Peroxide Blond again?  Perhaps because you named him CREAMPUFF!!!"  The Witchking was fuming now, letting off more steam than the teapot that Pete kept levelling at his knee!
 
Pete cringed, "I told you I was sorry about that but . . . "
 
"Oh, Shut UP!" snapped Angmar.  Then he snapped again, without planning to.  He was puzzled for a moment, but then realized that Reginald was nearby playing the wraith theme, and this infernal snapping was only going to alert the travellers to their arrival.  The Witchking raised his voice and yelled, "Bows and Arrows"  A crescendo of thunder was heard, and the music suddenly stopped.  
 
"And get rid of those infernal teapots!  Your cover has been blown! 'Sound the Crumpets!  Pete the Teapot Salesman is really a Black Rider!'  Front page of the Bucklebury Banner, and the Bree Gatekeepers Union, local 104, has your photo up.  If you hadn't scalded my steed with hot water we could be rinding 'Flash!' at top speed.  But without your horse, and having put mine up lame, what was our choice?"
 
A muffled voice came from below the riders, but Angmar would have none of it.  "Just keep Quiet, Ferney!  You and that southron idiot who let the hobbits go off with that Ranger were the only ones that fit the horse costume.  And blast it all, we are the Black Riders not the Black Strollers!!"  
 
"You are just lucky we didn't turn you into horses . . . or at least the front of them, as you seem to do fine as their REAR ENDS!  So quit whinning, and step up the pace!  We must make Weathertop by nightfall.  Fortunately, Khamul seems to have passed this way, if I can judge by the camel spit.

They settled into a sepulchral silence and kept plugging along . . . Meanwhile on WeatherMiddle . . .  

 
In the middle of an etude, Reginald was suddenly shocked to find that the bow he had been pulling across the cello had turned into an arrow.  The arrowhead had severed all but the G-string.  Thoughts of Bach's Sonata for G-String were set aside as he heard his masters voice on the roll of thunder.  .
 
The thought of Angmar and G-Strings collided in his head with the sort of carnage that forced people to rubberneck on the highway - - you knew you shouldn't look but that you HAD to - - and convinced the Wraith that putting the cello away was a good idea.  
 
From this vantagepoint, as he closed the case, he thought he could make out the form of Khamul sneaking up from the left.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Merry set down his pack and rubbed his hands together. "Well, for once I'm with Frodo and say that a fire would be a great idea. Perhaps if Sam can get his mind off Rosie for six seconds, he and I could have a look around for some firewood and get one started, if the rest of you want to explore and see what's on the other side of the mountain. Five hands work faster than four."
When the others blinked at him, Merry held up Cousin Hand as if he were Exhibit A.  
"He's quite good with the smaller twigs," Merry grinned.

In Rivendell...

Elrohir shuffled down the corridor, leaving clean streaks from his Swifter-footwear.  He had waited until his father and brother were out of sight before he spat out the feather duster and began gnawing at the duct tape that bound a broom and dustpan to his hands.   But Elrond is not known as the Master of Rivendell for naught.  No matter how he chewed and bit, he could not remove the tape.
 
Cursing under his breath, he Swurfed to Bilbo's room, hoping he could persuade the gentle and kindly old hobbit to  help free him from this humiliating penance.
 
He knocked politely on the door, sweeping up the pile of dry leaves as he waited for someone to answer.

Bilbo heard the knock at the door and looked up from his writing.
"Yes? Is it supper time already?"
The voice behind the door was a bit unclear.
"Er, no. It's...um..."
Bilbo hopped down from the slightly too-large chair and carefully picked his way across the room, trying not to step on any of the papers strewn about the floor. Halfway across the room his mind was already wandering back to the poem he had been in the middle of writing.  When he reached the door, he was no longer sure why he had gone to it.
 
The old hobbit opened the door.  An elf was standing on the threshold.
"Hello? Oh! Elladan is it? No, Elrohir. I still have a hard time telling the two of you apart. Now, what can I do for you?" he said vaguely, working out the meter for the line on his inky fingers.

"Forgive me for disturbing your... composing, Master Baggins," said Elrohir, bowing and whacking himself across the chest with a broom.  He grimaces and leaned against the doorjam, trying to look casual, even though he was bristling with gear as if he had been mugged by the Fuller Brush Man.
 
"I was just passing by... wondered if you happened to still have that Gondolin-ish sword lying around?  I need a little help with this tricky duct-tape... could you please, maybe... cut me out of this?"

"Eh...sword thing?" Bilbo said, a bit confused.  
Leaving the elf at the door, he stuck the quill behind his ear and erratically began to search his room, looking under papers, inside a tobacco pouch and patting the blankets on the bed.  Patting his pockets for good measure he worked his way back to the door.
"What was it you were looking for? I can't seem to remember.  Now what did I do with my quill? And...oh, I say!"
 
He peered a little closer at the strange-looking elf-twin.
"Are you selling brushes? I could use a new lint-brush for my best coat, if you have one. There's a good fellow. Except right now I can't remember where I put my wallet... well, perhaps another day. Good Morning!"
 
He shut the door.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Huddled at Weathermiddle, Frodo gratefully soaked up the warmth of the bright fire that Sam had kindled, watching with the sort of interest only a hobbit can generate while the last of the mildly squashed tomatoes from Bree were brought out and set to sizzle with sausages and floppy slabs of nice, greasy bacon.  No doubt they would crisp up eventually and he, for one, was looking forward to that event.  He wondered where Strider had got to.
 
Darkness teetered on the horizon then finally fell with an abrupt flop and the sense of foreboding returned, only held at bay by the cheerful crackling of the flames.  The crackling seemed to have a certain rhythm to it, almost to the point that a person would absently snap along with it.  Frodo's attention was drawn from the food to the Ring as it wriggled and rooted around in his pocket looking for a way out.
 
At Weatherbottom, a dozing Bill the Pony inhaled a piece of grass and sneezed it back onto the ground.  
 
On Weathertop, a nice wraith tea party in honor of finally tracking down the Ring was about to commence.

The Witchking, Angmar, rolled his eyes, snapped his fingers convulsively, and sighed.  "I thought I put a stop to your playing, Reginald!"
 
"Well, you changed my bow into an arrow, so legato strokes are out, but I managed to pluck the theme in a pizzicato fashion.  Gives the theme a more dancelike quality."
 
"So give me the bow, and I will change it back!" snapped Angmar.  "We should inspire fear and terror, not a CONGA-LINE!"
 
"I would," the wraith said, laying the cello on its side and breathing heavily,  "but Khamul and Pete have it."
 
"What?!  Where are they?", he said, looking around in panic, only to see Ferney and the Southron, Clem, sitting on a stone eating something chewy.
 
"Well . . . they saw the Hobbit's fire, and decided that what we really needed to lift our spirits (pardon the pun, your Wraith-king-ship), were some s'mores.  So they took the bow, put some marshmallows on it, and slipped down to the fire dressed like one of the horses.  They gave Ferney and Clem the first, as they were the ones who had the Graham Crackers . . . and also they are the only ones who can digest.  But the first for the Undead goes to you, oh magnificent leader!"
 
Angmar swore under his breathless breath, and peered out into the gloom at the fire below.  Sure enough, there were two of his Nazgul, dressed in a horse costume, obscenely holding the bow from the loins of the horse towards the fire, roasting Marshmallows.  They left the camp unseen, but one of the little fellows began sniffing the air as they made their departure.
 
"Give me strength!" he said through gritted teeth.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

...The Great Rivendell Escape...

Elladan cleaned his way through the Hall of Fire, the kitchen, the roman baths (unclogging the drain in the Lord's Showers with much effort, freeing what appeared to be a large golden tribble from the U-bend in the drain) and found himself in the stables.  There he perusaded a hungry pony to gnaw through the  duct-tape that bound his hands to the broom and mop.  He made short work of the Swifter-slippers and was soon free of his domestic drapery.  He hid the cleaning impliments and backtracked to the House, hoping to spot Elrohir and reunite.  Irritating as he could be, with his wild schemes and fixated values, Elladan missed his brother.  They were a team.
 
He skirted the Council Chamber and scaled the outer wall, avoiding the idle gazes of the Elves who walked about in seeming directionless boredom.  Peeking in through one of the many windows, he espied two clean streaks down the center of the corridor.  Elrohir had come this way, apparently.  He climbed sideways, ducking as Fereveldir and Elrond walked past, noshing and chuckling.  
 
He heard then a door closing, and a sudden squawk.  Looking up he saw to his surprise Elrohir, staggering backward when a door had been closed in his face.  His Swifter-feet could not find a purchase, and with a squall he tipped over the balcony rail and plummeted toward the river below.. studded with sharp stones....
 
....Or would have, but for the hand that reached out and caught him by the long, braided rope of dark hair.  Elladan swung his brother to safety and helped him get free of his fier- and whisk- weskit.
 
"We've done it!" whispered Elrohir with excitement. "We have escaped the punishment of Elrond!"
 
Elladan hushed him. "Now let's get outta here before...."
 
A shadow passed above them and looking up, their hearts sank to their toes.
 
"... someone else finds us." Elrohir finished his brother's sentence.  
 
OOC: anyone else wish to participate in the elf-bashing?

Gwaihir finished chewing the tasty grubs of the Entwash, took a long drink and headed back over Rohan to see how his old friend was doing but not seeing him anywhere in the grass, headed for Rivendell instead.  There was that old hobbit there who sometimes saved the nicest treats for him...
 
He landed with a whoosh on the railing outside the old hobbit's door. In anticipation of a treat, he dropped a large dropping over the edge where it would soon be taken care of by the river and tapped at the door.
 
Below him there was an odd splat noise, unnoticed by the great Mosquitohawk as the hobbit opened the door, smiled up at him and brought out a large ornate jar full of lightning bugs, just for him.  He happily slurped them up. Bilbo watched him in great satisfaction, recieved a new extra-big feather to use for a quill and waved goodbye as he shut his door again.  Gwaihir contentedly let fly one more dropping over the edge before taking wing towards the Carrock on the other side of the mountains for a dessert of honey.

Elrond was just about to round the corner when he heard the plop of eagle poo behind him and caught the twins trying sneak out of their well earned punishment. First he sighed that deep long-suffering sigh designed to induce guilt in even the most heartless and irresponsible children, then he fixed them with an icy glare made all the more sinister as he wrinkled his nose at the eagle poo smell.  
 
Having recently revived his powers of speech not to mention his more colorful vocabulary with a couple shots of miruvor straight, Elrond lit into them and let them have it in no uncertain terms. "Just where in the Halls of Mandos do you think you're going?" he exploded. After carefully enumerating the long list of their faults and recent escapades in mischief-making, something seemed to snap in Elrond and he let all the pent-up frustration of the past two ages out. He ranted and he raved, he fussed and he fumed, and generally scowled and frowned and looked as if he'd been chewing bitterweeds. The twins didn't dare try to escape but listened in meek silence while Ada got it out of his system. They'd heard enough similar outbursts over the years, but this time he really seemed to mean it.
 
"From now on, you're on your own. I'm finished," he finished. "Forget all this Last Homely House business, forget maintaining a safe refuge for all the elves of the West, forget being a respected and wise ruler on the White Council, forget all this responsibility and grief, I'm sick of it all! Does anyone appreciate it? Does anyone ever pat me on the back and say, 'Good job, Elrond! We really appreciate all you do here to stem the tide of evil from the East and maintain the safety and well-being of the West not to mention the entire elvish race. Thanks for the free room and board, thanks for being constantly vigilant, thanks for being a font of ancient wisdom, not that we ever listen to your sage advice because we know you'll pick up the pieces when we screw up our lives and need a place to hide no matter how many trolls and orcs chase us to your front door. Thanks, Elrond, thanks!' No, of course no one ever says that!" he paused and took a deep breath before he went on:  
 
"What do they do to show their appreciation? They ruin my plumbing and steal my credit cards, that's what they do. As soon as I can score a couple of tickets on the S.S. Outtahere, Arwen and I are gone. Valinor is the one place that Ranger can't wander into no matter how lost he gets," he said with a wistful, dreamy look on his face, imagining a world free of smelly Rangers with dubious claims of kinship to Elrond's underachieving brother.  
 
Fortunately for the twins, Elrond had stumbled upon the right theme to distract him from their own shortcomings. "That Ranger! There's another fine example of ingratitude for you. Take him in, raise him as your own son, share with him all the ancient wisdom of the elves, and how does he repay you? Tries to elope with your only daughter -- who isn't even the same species, for crying out loud!"  
 
Having started on this new rant, Elrond wandered off still scowling and grumbling and wondering how hard it would be to sneak past Cirdan and stow away on the next ship out of the harbor. The twins stared after him in a cloud of confusion, albeit thankful confusion, not to mention poo fumes. 

Back at Weathermiddle...

Frodo slapped his hand on his pocket, trying to quell the wiggling Ring, then risked a peek inside at it. It seemed very bright, bright as a lightning bug and as tempting as sweet honey, bright as a newly-polished floor, smooth as a brushed velvet coat, or a sweet concerto...
 
He almost took it out to admire it more closely, but remembered to snap the pocket shut instead.  It was a near thing.  I must be strong about it he thought. Stubborn as a camel, strong as tea, digestible as a marshmallow... wait. What? Where were these strange thoughts coming from?


Pippin looked up from his sausages and bacon, and sniffed
 
'marshmallows?'
 
"Hi Sam, don't start doing the smores yet, we've only had one course of the fry-up"
 

Strider poked around in the bushes near Weathertop, determined to find a couple more marshmallow roots to go with the carob he had.  All he needed was a couple more, then some sugar cane and a wild milk-cow.  Homemade Ranger s'mores were a difficult dish to make.
 
He could hardly see what he was looking at. How did it get so late?  He ought to head back soon...good thing Weathertop was nice and big so at least he had no danger of becoming lost.
 
He sniffed the air.  His Dunedain senses told him that somewhere nearby there was a camel.  That was ridiculous, so he disregarded it and decided he'd just have to boil up the few marshmallow-roots he had with some apple juice instead of sugar cane if he could find an apple tree.  Poking at the ground and peering at the trees as he went he headed back to fetch a torch.

  Merry raised his eyebrows at Frodo, who was getting even more obsessed daily with his pocket, and by the even more glazed-than-usual look in those wide blue eyes Merry imagined that Frodo was having visions again.
"Kinda like he does when he's had a few too rum slammers at family parties," Merry remarked to Pippin. "I kinda would like to go exploring at the top of the hill a little later. Wanna come?" He pulled his pack to his side protectively.

Pippin belched politely behind his hand, and turning to Merry
 
"Yeah, sounds good, maybe we can find somewhere up there to sleep upwind of the tall guy. Hey, do you still have that dark blanket from Bree in your pack? I've had a really bad idea!"

Merry grinned at his younger cousin. "Are your ideas ever anything else, Pippers? Yeah, I still got the blanket here in my pack- DON'T TOUCH THAT!" he bellowed. "I'll get it out!"
Cousin Hand rapped Pippin's knuckles and clicked his fingers at him reproachfully.
Merry carefully extracted the blanket and handed it to Pippin. "So what did you have in mind?"

Kirk and Kyle, or the selfstyled Wraiths with Wit couldn't believe their luck.  
 
"This is gonna be GREAT" whispered Kirk, with a mischivous grin. "What luck!  Not only has the party announced itself to the world with a ROARING fire, but they also have the TWO things that Wraiths can't resist: the call of the Ring, and Marshmallows!"
 
"I know!" chuckled Kyle.  "And NOW aren't you glad that we stopped at "Jojo's Yo-yo's and Novelties!"  I told you it would be worth it.  Where else could you find Major McMidgewater's "Gimme Gimme Marsh-My-lows"?.  That fool, Khamul is warming one over the fire now.  When the smell of that marshmellow fills the glade, EVERYONE will want it, which should throw enough pandemonium into the party that we will be able to get the ring with no problem."
 
"Yeah" laughed Kirk.  "And seeing Angmar and the others covered in Marshmallow goo while we deliver the Ring to the Sauron should be well worth the few gold coins it took to buy all the horses in Bree!"
 
"Uh, Kirk?" said Kyle.  "What is going on with those two and the blanket?  If they flip it out, won't that send the waft of "My-Mallows" over to us?" . . .

In Rohan...

It took a few attempts to get standing again. Between the light-headedness from the flight and then the rough landing and his robes all in a tangle...
 
"Ah that's better."  the wizard said when he finally got standing up straight and the robes were hanging free again. Gandalf looked at the large whitish-grey horse regarding him nearby. 'Gwahir was right he is fat, looks a bit stupid, but at least he knows a mosquito-hawk doesn't eat horses, even one as big as Gwahir. Or maybe it's too stupid to know a predator when it sees one.'
 
"Here horsey. Here boy."  Gandalf tried to get near the animal. This one was no where near as pretty as the horse he'd had to leave behind in Isengard, but anything in a pinch...
 
The horse backed away from the smelly human in the funny hat. "Come on horsey. I'm not going to hurt you, I just need a ride to Edoras so I can talk to the King there. That bird couldn't find it, so he thought if he landed here and I could find a horse who knows the land hereabouts I might make it in time for my meeting. What about it? Feel like helping an old man out and giving him a lift?"

Back at Weathertop...

Frodo listened to the rest of the bacon frying and tried very hard to think of something besides the Ring.  The flames were such a pretty gold, almost like...
 
He turned away from the fire and watched Pippin and Merry doing something with a blanket.  The blanket was soft and smooth and warm, just like....
 
He turned back to the fire.  The bacon was sizzling. It had little red lines of meat among the golden fat, like the pattern on the....
 
He turned and gazed out into the darkness.  It looked like a horse was going off into the bushes, but he couldn't be sure.  Bill must have pulled up his tethering-peg.  The night was dark and cold and he wanted to put his hands into his pockets to warm them. He reached towards his pockets, then pulled his hands away from them and turned back to the fire.
 
The bacon fat was making little squeaking noises as it cooked, like the cute little sounds the wonderful adorable Ring made when it was happy...
 
He thought he smelled marshmallows.  Marshmallows were nice and soft and small, just like the.... argh!  He looked at Merry and Pippin again and tried to think about them, just them, very very hard.

Sam watched Merry and Pippin snickering and conspiring with a resigned sigh, and then turned toward Mr. Frodo, who was poking his pocket with wild abandon and sniffing the air urgently.
Sam sniffed the air too, and then did a surreptitious sniff of his underarms. He turned slightly pink and muttered, "Guess I shoulda done a better job with the laundry; Mr. Frodo's probably allergic to th' urger-burger juice, but I'd better check on 'im to be sure."  
He hurried to his master and asked, "What is it, Mr. Frodo? What do you smell, an' why are you pokin' your pocket...?"
Then Sam smelled it too- a light, sugary, almost-caramelly smell, followed by the heady scent of rich, dark...
"Chocolate an' marshmallows-s'mores," Sam breathed. "Mr. Frodo's favorite dessert- it's callin' him."

Frodo, his concentration on Merry and Pippin completely broken by Sam's query, looked at Sam in confusion.  Pocket? He hadn't even realized he was poking it. He casually clasped his hands together so they wouldn't wander back to his pocket again and tried to think about Sam.  Not marshmallows, not the Ring...just Sam.
 
Sam's face was cheerful and round, just like the.... He broke that train of thought and tried again.
 
Sam's hair was curly, loops of it were lit up like gold in the firelight just like the....  no, this wasn't working.  The Ring made a little burble noise and squirreled around in his pocket again.  He didn't seem able to think too clearly, his mind felt like a haze of marshmallow and gold, with the vague sense of foreboding hanging over all.  
 
"Sam, do you smell marshmallows? And do you have any idea where Strider went off to?  I just have the feeling that...we're not alone."

Arwen finishes shopping at last

Arwen rode out of Bree, as a small mob of shop owners and plastic surgeons waved and cheered after her. It was not such a bad place to be after all, she thought.
 
Muffy had different thoughts. Almost every inch of horse had been draped with little carrier bags, embroidered with names like Maybellendil, Ngiladriel's Boutique, and The Gap (of Bree). The horse was also not at all happy with the peroxide treatment that, according to the trimmer, was the new fashion for black horses in Bree.
 
The Elf-princess was in a better humour than she had been in decades. She had an all-new wardrobe, looked a thousand years younger and had lots of other goodies, and the great thing was that Daddy was paying it and would blame the Elbrats. 
 
She would have laughed if doctor Bob had not forbidden her to for the sake of the stitches. Instead, she just mumbled as happily as her bruised lips would allow it, and made the poor horse run even harder into the woods.
 
Now, where had she been going again?

Back at Weathermiddle....

"Well ideally, the trick is for me to get on your shoulders with the blanket over us, and give Frodo and Sam a quick scare! Y'know leave us the all the s'mores!"
 
"See I take the blanket, and whip it around over my head and shoulders..."
 
the dark blanket whipped up and around wafting a great draught across the fire, streamers of flame and little dust devils whirled upwards and out, out away over the hillside
 
"like this, and when I'm on you we'll be covered up and look like that crazy teapot salesman that wanted Sam's horse. Frodo will jump up and try to hide his wallet and Sam will freak out and try and hide the pony. You see!?"

Aragorn carefully picked his way through the dark trees wishing he hadn't wandered so far from the camp.  Suddenly something brought him up short.  What was that...off to the right?  He heard whispery voices and the breathing of large animals then he smelled...
 
Marshmallows.
 
Store-bought ones, with vanilla in them.  Who would have those out here in the wild?
 
He stuffed his own collection of raw marshmallow roots into his pocket and crept closer, ducking his head under the sense of foreboding which was quite heavy here.

Elrohir sat in the kitchen, amid a huge pile of roots, scraping the skins off of potatoes.  He sighed and stared out the window, a dreamy look coming over his face.
 
His brother whapped him over the head with a cookie sheet.  "Don't even think about it!"  Elladan said, then hammered the dent out of the pan with the heel of his hand.  "We promised ada we would behave, and we will!  Now finish up those spuds and help me clean and whet these coneys.  We are going to have guests soon."
 
"Who on earth is going to eat all this food?" asked Elrohir, flipping another clean tater into the pot.  
 
"We're expecting some of ol' Bilbo's cousins, and if they eat half as much as he does, we'll be catering by noon the day after they arrive."
 
"Guests?"  Elrohir dropped his knife. "We should escort them in!"
 
"Oh no, you don't!"  Elladan pushed him back into his seat.  "That's Goldy's job."
 
Elrohir snickered.  "You mean 'baldy'?"
 
Elladan tried not to laugh, but failed, "He'll have to change his name to  
Glor- U- fin -del!" 

Merry rolled his eyes. "Really, Pippin, aren't even you getting too old for such juvenile pranks? Frodo and Sam would never fall for that...again. We tried it with a bedspread back at Crickhollow, remember?"
He glanced over at Frodo and Sam. Frodo was lovingly caressing his pocket and dreamily drifting up the hill while Sam braced his feet and held on to Frodo's jacket and saying something about the Lure of the Things.
"What do you suppose is going on with them, Pip? And where is Strider? I hope he's not off looking for salad greens again- I just got my teeth properly flossed from the last- PIPPIN! Leave my pack ALONE!"

"Whaat !?" hissed Pippin in an aggrieved tone, "I was just stuffing your blanket back in Mr Don'tWantAGoRepeatingOurselvesDespiteALongHistoryOfItEspeciallyAfterSouthfarthingCheeseOrSprouts..."

Frodo was vaguely aware that Sam was yanking on his coat, pulling and pulling at him, just like....
 
With some difficulty he focused his eyes and found he was a good way up from Weathermiddle, almost to Weathertop and Sam was behind him, a long double-line of heel marks in the dirt marking their communal upward path.  He looked down at Sam's hands which were curled into fists on his coat.  They were soft and fat, just like marshmallows.  His own hand was protectively cuddling his pocket.... The scent of toasting vanilla sugar wafted past and all other concerns were lost once more in a haze of sweetness and shiny golden light.

Creeping under the bushes as quietly as he could Aragorn finally found the source of the heavy breathing.  In the darkness he could just make out an odd assortment of horses, and one of them seemed to be very strange.  It grunted and spit and was the most sway-necked nag he'd ever seen, yet it was taller than the others too.  All of them had red eyes.
 
His fears were confirmed - the wraiths must be nearby! Now the marshmallow smell made sense.  He had heard legends in Rivendell of their insatiable desire for marshmallows, the only food that was almost as soft and shapeless as themselves especially when it was held in the fire until it had a crunchy black outside.  And they were looking for the Ring too.
 
Hobbits liked marshmallows and one of them had the Ring.  His keen Ranger instincts told him there would be trouble brewing tonight.

Sam looked down at his hands, and then at Mr. Frodo, who was looking at him a little too greedily, and gulped as he released his grip on Frodo's jacket.
"Now, now, Mr. Frodo, you don't want to do anything hasty. I know you love marshmallows, sir, but this ain't the Shire, an' I don't hold with foreign food, so you'd better at least let me go with you an' check it out- but I'd like to go without worryin' about your teeth in my wrist, beggin' your pardon, Mr. Frodo."

Merry held up his hands in mock surrender. "All right, all right, Pippin, don't get your little Tookish trousers in a twist. I'm sorry. I just don't think now is a good time for a stunt like that, because I don't think Frodo and Sam would notice right now if you and I suddenly had cheese sprouts coming out of our ears."
Merry sniffed the air. "Mmmmmm...that does smell good, doesn't it? After days and days of salad and urger burgers and skeeter parts..."
Suddenly Merry paled. "Oh, no, I've just realized that is marshmallows we smell, and that would explain Frodo's strange behavior-for the last ten minutes, anyway. C'mon, Pip, we'd better follow them- and where is Grease- I mean, Strider, anyway?"

In Mirkwood...

Legolas ran swiftly through the trees, keeping to the upper branches.  He had been forced to abandon his horse and supplies in a desperate attempt to elude the scores of hairdressers and make-up people who were stalking him through Mirkwood Forest.  He found that, while they were sure-footed and swift as striking snakes to smooth his braided hair or touch up his flaking foundation, they could not quite manage to stay balanced on the slender limbs in the upper portions of the trees.
 
Sometimes being an Elf is not all it's cracked up to be, Legolas mused to himself.  Everyone always thought he was so engrossed with himself, vain and superficial... why, the very idea was absurd!  How many polished surfaces do folks think are in a forest?  After two thousand years, anyone can learn basic appearance maintanence... even Peter Jackson!
 
and all this talk about "how delicate" and what a "light-weight" he is... the son of Thranduil fumed at the rumours he had heard.  "Ridiculous!  I'd like to see these chaps take a fall out of a three storey window and walk away... ok, well, yes, I *did* break my back, but still... I got better!"
 
Legolas paused, allowing a heard of slavering fans to cross the glade below him before he dropped to the ground and ran for the Ford of Carrock to cross the Anduin River.  With luck, the hairdressers and the fans would delay each other, fighting over his hair-brushes and discarded make-up bibs.
 
It was going to be a long trip to Rivendell.

On Weathertop...

Wraiths looove marshmallows

Khamul looked over at Pete as he continued to chew on the Marshmallow. He remembered that he was supposed to be doing something, but couldn't remember what it was. So for now he just kept stuffing marshmallow after marshmallow into his ethereal mouth, hoping that just the nearness of the corporeal delicacy could bring him some comfort.
 
But then there was that nagging feeling again.
 
"The Ring!" he finally remembered.  
 
He looked over at the camp and saw the hobbit that he thought held the ring. He started to shuffle forward, groping his hand toward the ring...
 
Then he realized that the marshmallow drool from his mouth had solidified into a long hard string and attached itself to a nearby log. He pitched forward face first into the ground and remembered little else except a burning desire for more marshmallows and the feeling that Angmar would be angry with him.

Frodo continued up the rocky slope towards the ruins above them.  The glow of a small campfire could now be seen upon the ancient stones and strange low hissing voices were croaking a camp song... the scent of roasting marshmallows was overwhelming his senses. But how could he get to those distant treats,  guarded by such figures of terror?
 
The thought came instantly and strongly to his mind: Put on the Ring... But of course - if he put it on, he would disappear and then he could sneak up on them and snatch some of those lovely, crusty, gooey marshmallows right off their roasting sticks...
 
Reaching the top, he slipped behind part of an ancient pillar and slowly reached up to open his pocket. The bright golden Ring burbled happily, trilling and rubbing up against his fingers like a cat.  Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew he shouldn't do this. He wasn't supposed to put it on, and besides, stealing was wrong....but....
 
The marshmallows puffed and browned on their sticks and the temptation was so very great.....  
 
Gandalf had said not to use the Ring, no matter what.
 
Gandalf had no doubt never seen or smelled such lovely marshmallows, especially after days and days of horrible health food.  
 
Put on the Ring....  He trembled with indecision.  Surely it wouldn't hurt to use it just this once...?

Sam poked Frodo on the shoulder and whispered, "It's the Ring, Mr. Frodo, tryin' to make you go off your low-carb diet and succumb to the evil marshmallows. You gotta fight it, sir, you gotta fight it! Besides, I left my needle an' thread at home an' I can't let out that waistcoat no more. You had just a few too many urger burgers in that swamp, and marshmallows would just about make you lose your buttons...Mr. Frodo? Mr. Frodo, are you listenin' to me? You can't go no further, sir, it just won't do..and quit pettin' your pocket like that! You're scarin' me!"


Off in Rohan...

After finally 'catching' the fat pony and getting on it's back, (easier said than done without a bridle or saddle let me tell you), Gandalf was on his way to Edoras. He did not feel quite right about borrowing a horse without permission, it seemed kind of like stealing.
 
The horse was faster than is looked because soon they were flying over the grasslands and in a few hours came upon the Old City itself. Gandalf was very pleased about this as his butt was really getting sore.


.. the soft evening of Rivendell is interrupted by a soft knock on the door of Elrond's chamber, and the whisper of a slip of parchment being slid under the door....

The lord of the Edain unrolls the scroll and reads:  
 
OilossioEmailService
 
To: Elrond HalfElven (Edain@Imladris.air)
 
From:  Mandos (Lastword@Hallsof.eru)
 
Subject: Your request for passage to Valinor
 
We regret to inform you, Master E. Peredhil, that your request for visa and transfer of citizenship to Valinor has at this time been denied, due to the continued corruption of one Sauron Gorthaur and his cursed golden ring.  No immigration can be permitted until this problem is taken care of.  We will keep your request on file for 30 days, then you will need to re-submit after that time expires.  
 
If you feel this request had been denied by mistake or some oversight, then you must have forgotten who you are dealing with, elf-boy.  Manwe puts on the puppetshow, but I pull the strings!

 
-Namo
 
PS  Your wife says hi, and asks that when you do come to Valinor, please bring her that 5 piece pit group in the second parlor.  Give her love to 'Wenie and tell Elrohir to stop picking on his brother.
 
-N
 
At that moment, the door flies open and Elladan and Elrohir tumble inside, armed with puddy-knives and cans of AulëInstaGrout.
 
"Sorry, ada!" exclaimed Elladan, extracting himself from the elf-pile.  "We finished regrouting your shower.  Got anything else you would like done today?"


Back at Weathertop...

It was dark under the dell of Weatherbottom.  Aragorn couldn't see a thing and almost bumped into the dozing bulk of Bill the Pony.  Navigating around Bill's legs, he crawled stealthily through the grass.  When he arrived at Weathermiddle he had his sword loose in its scabbard and was ready for anything.
 
The hobbit's fire was burning unattended.  Their packs were laying here and there.  Where had they all gone?  
 
He looked up the slope.  They wouldn't have gone up to Weathertop now would they?

Frodo was vaguely aware that someone was next to him, Sam maybe.  He was babbling on about mending or something....
 
Slowly and carefully, Frodo slipped the soft, golden weight of the Ring out of his pocket and admired it as it glinted in his palm.  He gently petted it with his finger and it purred happily, gleaming and lovely.  It was altogether beautiful.  It was evil, yes yes he knew that, but somehow that didn't really matter right now. For now, it was his friend - it would help him get the marshmallows he craved so much.  Put on the Ring......why yes, that would be the logical thing to do. Wouldn't do to walk up to such hideous, dangerous, terrible creatures as wraiths in plain sight now would it.  Put on the Ring......
 
Sam was pulling at his coat.  In annoyance he tore his eyes away from the Ring for a moment to rebuke him. Something in Sam's face gave him pause and made him wonder if something was terribly wrong, then a wave of golden vanilla washed over his mind again.  He just wants the marshmallows for himself...he's afraid you'll get them first...  Sam wouldn't really do that, would he?  
 
He closed his eyes and struggled to think clearly.  If he put on the Ring, he could sneak up on the wraiths, grab the marshmallows...maybe even just grab one of their roasting sticks loaded with marshmallows. He could make a dash back here and....share his ill-gotten spoils with Sam.  Maybe.  Then Sam would see what a great idea it had been, using the Ring after all.  It was only for a moment.  The wraiths wouldn't even notice.  
 
He held the Ring, hovered it over his finger...

Merry watched the struggle between Frodo and Sam with interest.
"I wonder why Frodo keeps trying to spear Sam with a stick while poking his pocket," he wondered. "He is really getting more barmy all the time. Might be the Ring, but who knows with those Bagginses..."
Merry crept closer, and over heard Sam protesting....

"Mr. Frodo, this ain't right! You can't use the ring for that! I don't care how vanilla-sugary they smell, you know what this will do to your metabolism! It's too early in the script for you to start getting all goggly-eyed and hallucinatory...MR. FRODO! stop poking me with that stick and askin' me if I'm toasted evenly yet! You gotta fight it, sir, it's what the enemy wants, to defeat the Ringbearer by enticin' him with sweets an' stealin' the ring! You gotta fight it..."
Sam sighs and looks at us.
"I just don't get paid enough t'do this," he muttered. "I shoulda at least taken that last keg with me afore we left the Shire..."

Frodo put on the Ring.
 
Immediately there was a drastic change in everything. No longer whispery, he realized he could hear the wraiths singing their camp song loud and clear.  Sam suddenly seemed soft and wiggly and insubstantial as jello.  Jello-Sam was protesting about something, but it seemed only a vaguely heard wobbling sound.  Frodo was fascinated.  He took it back off.  Sam solidified before his eyes and the wraiths subsided.  He put it back on and watched Sam turn to jello again.  He now noticed a Jello-Merry peering over the wobbly rocks at him with very round eyes.  He took it back off.  
 
"This is so cool, Sam - you look just like a Jello! I'm going to get some marshmallows!" he said and vanished from a baffled Sam's sight once more as he put it back on.  He found it slightly difficult to navigate in this new world of jello and bounced off of Jello-Sam awkwardly.   Beyond the rocks, the wraiths squabbled over a marshmallow, unaware of his upcoming plans to rob them.

The wraiths are revealed!
The wraiths are revealed in all their hideous glory!

Angmar was struck by the sudden appearance of a hobbit in Wraithlike clothing.  The others all looked like Jello, but this one popped in a the top of Weather, clear as a whistle, and wearing the one ring.  
 
The cheeping of the Ring called their own rings into play, and the wraiths instantly sent a message to the lid-less eye that the Ring had been spotted.
 
"Come, you idiots, leave the smores and . . . "
 
Just as suddenly as he had appeared, the Hobbit returned to his jello mold self.  
 
"Nazgul!!!  NOW!!!"
 
And with a call from their fell master, the Wraiths all headed for Weathertop quickly . . . unaware of the stealthy movements of the ranger following on their heels . . .


Aragorn slowly made his way up the slope, tracking the strange heel-marks in the dirt.  He had never realized that wraiths wore such a variety of footwear.  There were some hobbit heel-marks here and there as well, but they looked more like...feet, y'know?  Not nearly as interesting.
 
He still smelled marshmallows - in fact the smell seemed to be coming from Weathertop itself.  Faint voices argued about something up above him.  He kept climbing.

From Weathermiddle that night, came the following, sung in a rich baritone voice . . .
 
Of Frodo and the dark WitchKing
Shall harpers of their battle sing.
Upon the stones of Weathertop,  
Was a Marsh-My-low, heard go "Plop"
 
The outside brown, the inside white,  
While sugary sweetness filled the night,  
The luscious fragrance from the ground,  
Ensnared the wraiths and hobbits 'round.
 
As "Mallow-Melee" filled the air,  
and gooey evil stuck to hair.
Did Frodo feel the prick of thorn,  
when stumbled on, by Aragorn.*
 

The wraiths turned in surprise, for the voice was Bill Ferney's
 
"What the devil does THAT mean?" asked Angmar, pulling another piece of marshmallow goo from his robe?
 
"Well, as the story goes," said Bill, "You were all wrapped in a spell cast by the tricksters Kirk and Kyle.  They found some Marsh-My-Lows at a kiosk and mixed some in with your stores.  Knowing that these enchanted mallows would cause anyone smelling them to crave their marshmallowey goodness, they stuck clothespins over their noses, and let the fun begin.  
 
"And a good thing that the Ranger showed up when he did too!" added the southron, Clem.  Those hobbits might have escaped with the sugary confection and the Ring, leaving you having to answer to the Dark Lord WHY you let them escape unscathed, underwhelmed, and overfed."
 
Kirk and Kyle entered the clearing, laughing.  Their Mallow covered cohorts were glaring at them.  They stopped smiling, and hung their heads.
 
"Come on, guys!" stuttered Kyle.  "It was brilliant."  As he looked to Kirk for support, he muttered under his breathless breath, "The sense of humor is always the first to decompose!"  But to the group, he continued, "And we got three good breaks out of it: two figurative, one literal."
 
"Right!" chimed in Kirk.  "First, the Mallow distracted them enough for us to get close enough to see them.  Second, the Mallow that Khamul ate hardened out into a stick, which tripped the Ranger as he made to rescue the Ringbearer, keeping them from escaping completely."
 
Angmar had had enough!  "What do you mean, Keeping them from escaping completely?!  They are Gone!  Checked out!  Hit the Road Jack and ain't comin' back no more, no more, no more no MORE!!??" How do you figure that we have lucked out??!!??
 
"Because, Your Highnessty, if you look at Reginald's bow, you will notice that when the Ranger tripped over Khamul's Marshmallow Drool Stick, the end of the bow which had been used to heat the sugary confection pierced the hobbit "Baggins" right in his Bag-End!  
 
"You mean," smirked Angmar . . .  
 
"That's right, Angmar.  He's got a chip in his hip that will be hard to whip!  Especially when ol Reggie gets his act together and starts playing the cello again."
 
Reginald grabbed the instrument out of the case and began plucking the wraith theme.  As Khamul almost stuck himself in the eye with an edge of Mallow-stick when forced to snap to the annoying song, he bellowed, "NO, you IDIOT!  We want to own the Hobbit Heart and Soul."
 
Ferny drifted off to sleep with the cello playing the bass line, while Kirk and Kyle producing the melody on nose-flutes.  Khamul added some harmony with his Sitar and Angmar sent a message to the 3 B's to be ready for the arrival of the party.  
 
From The Campfire Songbook of Beleriand Copyright 2003

Gandalf was standing and waiting for his audience with the King and he took a few moments to look at his state-of-the-art day-calendar and pocket timer and swore softly. He was late and he still had to deal with King Theoden and the matter of borrowing the horse. He was supposed to be at Weathertop to meet the Hobbits 3 days ago and he missed the rendezvous.  
 
"Ah yes, Hama, can I see him now? I'm dreadfully late, you know and must speak to him. Thank you, thank you very much." Still a bit stiff from the ride, Gandalf hobbled into the audience chamber of Meduseld.  
 
After a brief talk with the King, or rather with his councilor he was once again on his way. They had graciously allowed him the fat grey pony that had carried him to Edoras. According to the slimey looking councilor the pony was fat and lazy and they were unable to get any use out of him and if the Wizard wanted him for a steed then fine! he could take the beast off their hands. Gandalf didn't know anything about it, but he wasn't about to tell them how fast it was if they were going to just let him have the horse for nothing else, but to get him out of the house.
 
Soon he was heading north as fast as the chubby horse could run.

Merry listened to the campfire song of the wraiths with a dreamy expression on his face.  
'Now those guys know how to groove," he said reverently. "Rock on with your bad selves. I should hire them for Mum and Da's next anniversary dance."
He thought he saw Frodo bounce past, yelping in pain, with his hands clutching the seat of his trousers and Sam chasing him with the first aid kit, but he wasn't sure. He shrugged and continued snapping his fingers in time to the music.

'Mr. Frodo, hold still for a half a moment and let me have a look at the abrasion on your posterior," Sam pleaded. "I promise I'll make you a marshmallow tuffet to sit on if you'd just hold still...lor', Mr. Frodo, you've got more wiggles than a bowl of Jello...come back here!"

While Sam had fought for Frodo's will, and Merry leered at the charade from behind a convenient boulder a certain other hobbit had retrieved a dark blanket from Weathermiddle and crept around the backside of Weathertop.
 
His sense of smell had allowed him to navigate in the dark, and so avoid the ranger who seemed to be tracking something/someone/some many back and forth across the slopes.
 
And none of these creatures, or their patsies from Bree had noticed him creep in as an additional, albeit compact, black figure. Who now sat happily near the fire toasting marshmallows on five different sticks.