Aragorn Longshanks and the Case of the Missing Plot

by Laiquendi

Between the light and the dark there is… moonlight. And illuminated by that moonlight is… a building. And inside that building there is… a man. And that man is up to… no good. For that man is… a hardened evil-doing criminal. And the only person that can solve crime is me… Aragorn Longshanks! Four years ago I was mortally wounded in a horse-accident, rescued by a mysterious government group dedicated to solving bizarre and obtuse crimes. For £6.50, I was rebuilt by shoddy Elven blacksmiths, and with my trusty streetwise sidekick, Faramir “Shingles” McCracken, was sent out into the moonlight to catch those criminals. I am Aragorn Longshanks, and this is my story….

Aragorn Longshanks and the Case of the Missing Plot

The flickering torchlight barely illuminated the darkened street as the horse and carts rumbled loudly down the hill, quickly accompanied by a shout and the sound of a Hobbit rolling down the hill after the horse. This is the seedy underbelly of Middle-Earth, a rotten hole of debauchery and crime known throughout the land as the Worst Place in the World to Live 3288-89, as voted for by readers of My Elven Paradise magazine. Narrowly outvoting Mordor following a printing error on the return slip. This is the great city of Merdor, situated on the banks on the River Slime, at the crossroads of the Great North Road that strangely only heads south.
After having received an encoded message from my handler, Elrond Elfington-Smyth, Shingles and I braved the Great West Road to meet him here in this cesspit of a cucumber. The message said we were to rendezvous for some je ne sais quoi at après-midi inside the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse public house on Rue-de-Criminalité.

It was half-past 18 o’clock in the morning and no sign of him yet, I had sent Shingles outside to pump the locals for info, leaving me to sit in the back of the bar and look suspicious. Everyone leaves you alone in a place like this, or maybe it was because of the strange smell coming from the Orc in the booth next to me. You would think no-one washed before having a clandestine back-room meeting in a pub that’s full of other smelly people.

Suddenly the front doors swung open and disturbed my worrying musings on bathing as Shingles rushed in, his mop of curly locks making him look like a girl who had escaped from a ponytail contest with a ‘try better next time’ award. As I muttered to myself, the doors swung open once again as if they could not move in any other fashion and a tall man in a dark cloak followed the sauntering schoolgirl to my table.

“Tis the Elro, bro!” Shingles garbled at me, struggling to overcome his typecasting. He moseyed to the chair next to me and deposited himself down in a strangely uncomfortable position whilst ogling the scantily-dressed barmaids that floated amongst the tables.

Elrond floated mysteriously to our table and perched himself on a stool opposite me as if it were a commonplace happening. Gathering the hood of his cloak so that it almost entirely covered his face in a baffling manner, the mild-manner man intoned, “Mr. Longshanks, I see you got my message.”

I took a sip of my cold, generic-brand barley and hops concoction, for I knew this could take a while since the man was incapable of coming to the point within 45 minutes. It was considered record time within the Elvish community, for they are a bland and serious bunch of people, even if they do make great apple pie.
“Four days ago, a grand reception was held in the Great Hall of Imladris to receive the venerable ambassador from the people of Erebor. As part of the on-going Elvo-Dwarven mineral extraction treaty negotiations, the Ambassador of Erebor was to present the Elven peoples with a gift of great importance and magnificence.” The monotonous intonation of Elrond’s voice was grave and solemn, adding unneeded ambience and gravity to the situation.

“Wow, that’s some deep stuff, man.” Shingles added, in his own particular way.

“Yes, indeed. Very deep stuff.” Elrond said sympathetically. “The presentation of the Ambassador’s gift is to be undertaken 3 days from now, at the conclusion of the treaty negotiations. However….”

“There’s always a ‘however’.” Aragorn muttered to himself as he took another sip of his beverage, thinking that maybe he should have gone for the better life insurance option this time round.

“However, “ Elrond continued. “Last night during a banquet held in the Ambassador’s honour, there was a break in. The Ambassador’s gift was stolen.”

“No way!” Shingles shouted, his little brain caught up in the story as if it were a dramatic retelling of the Lord of the Rings in some kind of moving picture format.

“As head of security for the event, it is my job to find the Ambassador’s gift and return it to him before the end of the treaty negotiations.” The tone in Elrond’s voice had grown deeper and slower with each passing word.

Aragorn groaned as he realised what was coming next. He really should have taken that walking holiday in Mirkwood with the spiders.

“I am tasking you, Aragorn Longshanks, to find that lost gift and return it in 3 days time. Only you have the skills and prowess necessary to uncover this dastardly crime and rescue the honour of the Elven peoples!”

“No pressure, then?” Aragorn sighed and downed the rest of his drink in a large gulp. The foul taste of the concoction lingered in his mouth, making him wonder if this place was indeed as sanitary as the two shoddy Michelin stars hammered to the rotten ceiling beam implied.

“Are you having any brain ideas, like, on who may have pilfered the bling, bro?” Shingles asked, surprising Aragorn that he actually asked a pertinent question, let alone could form coherent thoughts.

“Unfortunately, my agents failed to uncover any evidence of the thief. However, after going back through the CCSV (Closed Circuit Sketch Vision) footage we may have unearthed a possible collaborator…” Elrond said as he pulled out a large sketchpad from underneath his cloak. He arranged the pad in front of Aragorn and pulled the pages together in a bundle then quickly flicked through them.

“Wow!” Shingles exclaimed loudly. “The pictures! The pictures! They’re, they’re moving! Those Elves sure can draw fast!”

Aragorn shot his companion a bewildered look and rolled his eyes. Sometimes ignorance was bliss, the rest of the time it was a convenient plot point. Turning his attention back to the rapidly-moving sketchpad, Aragorn noted that a robust man in extravagantly designed robes was making a hasty exit from the banquet.
“As you can see from the time stamp – the man here is leaving the banquet two minutes before the theft.” Elrond said, his fingers starting to cramp from all the page flicking.

“Do you have any ideas about who he is?” Aragorn asked as he expertly swiped one of the pages from the pad so that he could get a better view at the gentleman in question. Elrond moaned something about ‘damaging evidence’ and put the pad back inside his voluminous cloak.

“We believe he is Baron Théoden Longenstoffen, a merchant with suspected ties to some of the shadier parts of the city. A cunning man who will do anything if it greases the right palms.” Elrond replied with a hint of disgust, quickly sidestepping the question about why he was invited to the banquet in the first place.

Studying the slightly blurred sketch of the man from the Elven footage, Aragorn tried to take a swig from his drink before realising he’d already finished it off. Looking forlornly at the bottom of his tankard, Aragorn realised that he was going to have to pump this man for information. He looked like a middle-man, which meant that he must have been hired by someone, or something for some nefarious gains. Those types of people squealed easily.

“Where can we find the Baron?” Aragorn finally asked with a sigh.

“He arrived back in the city last night. Our sources have his local address as The Golden Hall, at the top of Hillside Rise.” Elrond rose from his stool and pulled the folds of his cloak around himself. “Aragorn, and Shingles, we need to get back this gift, for the sake of Elvo-Dwarven relations. Find out who stole it and retrieve it within the next three days!”

With that last command, Elrond floated out of the pub, accidently nudging a waitress and getting covered with three tankards of beer from her tray. As he began moaning something about ‘right-of-way’ and the expensive costs of dry-cleaning, Aragorn grabbed Shingles by the arm and quickly sneaked out the backdoor as a shouting match began.

“We’re we off ta now guv’na?” Shingles asked as they moved through the dark alleyways behind the back of the pub. The dim lighting making it difficult to avoid bumping into each other, or anything else discarded in the alley as they tried to clamber back to the main streets of the city.

“To harass the nobility…” Aragorn said, jumping over a dark puddle in the alley, even though he was sure that it hadn’t rained in days.

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