The Lord of the... whatever, Book I, Chapter 11:
A Stab In The Back
It was a raw night back in the Shire. Howling winds and sudden gusts
of rain led to an atmosphere worthy of any particularly bad detective
novel. Fredegar Bolger sat quietly in the house in Crickhollow, nursing
his ninth Southfarthing Malt and chewing his fingernails in dread. Then,
suddenly yet predictably, he heard a noise from outside: a squick,
squick coming down the path, as if from waterlogged boots. Terror seized
Fredegar. A heavy knock came on the door.
"Open, in the name of Arwen!" rang out a female voice.
"No, sorry, not buying, no visitors after ten," Fredegar said
instinctively. "My mom locked the door and lost the key. Lease says no
"I'm looking for a lone Ranger," said the voice.
"Can't help you," Fredegar stammered, missing all the obvious
"Come on!" said the voice. "Let me in. I just want to dry off.
Look, I'm two thousand years old and I'm really sexy."
Fredegar's mind was too preoccupied with terror to consider this.
"Go away!" he shouted. "I'm not in. Leave a message with the building
manager and we'll call you back in five working days or your pizza's free."
"I'm just trying to increase the size of my part, damn you!" the
woman howled out in earnest. "There's a movie coming. Open up!"
Fredegar said nothing. The mysterious woman continued hammering at
the door for several minutes, cursing beautifully-rounded epithets, until
finally she gave up and left. Fredegar heard the squick, squick of her
boots as she headed back towards Crickhollow. Her departure, however, did
not cure his terror. He continued looking around the quiet room, looking
for some nameless horror he could not yet identify.
After a time he heard a commotion from the stables at Brandy Hall.
Fredegar leanded over the wooden table, peering towards the
wood-silled windows. All outside was black until a flash of lightning
illuminated the countryside. He could just make out a lithe figure in
camouflage riding away on a stout horse. Some of the local Hobbits were
dashing out with bows and arrows. It seemed less terrifying outside,
somehow. The Horn-call of Bucklebeltland, unheard for over a hundred
years except on gramophone, rang out again.
G-Men! Shirriffs! A Hit! No Witnesses!
In a flash Fredegar realized the source of his terror. Wood table,
wood sill, wood-planked walls, floor and ceiling. He was surrounded by
wood! Like being surrounded by trees, only more cunning! So they
domesticated themselves, the evil bastards! And now we rely on them!
Only a matter of time till they kill us all. It all made sense, that
perfect kind of sense that only comes with excessive drinking. A dawn of
understanding came to Fredegar. Visions of a brick house, with a stucco
ceiling and wrought-iron patio furniture, came to him as visions of
peace. No longer would anyone have to fear slivers! In a flash his
purpose was clear. His mind resolved, Fredegar Bolger stood and went to
the closet. Inside behind the bowling balls and collections of pocket
lint was the great Axe. With a grim chuckle he hefted the steel-handled
Axe over his shoulder and walked towards the door. There could be no
compromise. Deforestation was the only answer.
Bolger smashed open the wooden door and walked into the night.
Frodo awoke from a deep sleep. Something heavy and pointed had
rammed him im the side. He looked up to see Strider standing over him,
holding a finger over his lips and making a shushing noise. With quick
precision Strider went to each of Frodo's three companions, kicking each
in turn with his steel-tipped boots and motioning them to silence. When
he reached Morrie and kicked him Morrie instinctively sensed the movement
and pulled a knife, motioning to cut a throat which turned out to be
"Good instinct there," Strider whispered, examining the ankle of his
boot. "That's the sort of instinct which will help you out in the Wild."
Silently they packed their few belongings, along with several of
Butterball's towels and souvenir ashtrays. Strider urged them on,
emphasizing the need for haste. When they were ready, however, he stopped
and led them quickly to their own rooms. The hobbits gasped as they
surveyed the wreckage: the beds cut and mangled, the table actually
burned to ashes, piles of crockery broken and smashed. With a motion
Strider reached down and picked up one of the many pieces of paper
littering the floor.
"Nazdaq," he whispered solemly. "The Riders. It is as I feared!
This is but one receipt of many; they have broken in during the night and
run up a massive room-service tab. We must escape from Bree before they
come to us with the hotel-bill. To the stables! Quickly!"
They went to the stables as quickly as they dared, being careful not
to wake the greedy Butterball, or his servants, who would undoubtedly
demand a gratuity. Once inside they went directly to their ponies. But
disappointment held them fast again. Around each of the ponies' necks was
a slender steel cable, attached to barrels of lead painted with the
legend IMPOUNDED. Strider swore.
"Fie!" Strider cursed, "It is as I feared. They have taken them in
lieu of a deposit. We Rangers travel light, and seldom carry
bolt-cutters. I fear we must leave them behind."
"But how will we carry all our food, and these towels?" Pipsqueak
"We'll have to improvise," Strider answered. He led them out through
the back door of the stable and into the early dawn light. Four good
ponies! he thought. They could have fetched a good price. And what have
we got in exchange? Towels! One thing Arwen's not going to be glad to see
me with, it's extra towels.
The tall Ranger led the puny Hobbits through Bree by many back-ways,
helping them over the occasional fence, till he reached a particularly
squalid house by the edge of town. Rusting appliances and tipsy sawhorses
littered the yard. Motioning the others to wait, Strider snuck up to the
barn and expertly picked the lock. In a flash he was inside. After a long
moment he emerged leading a large donkey. "I don't think old Ferny will
miss this," Strider whispered confidentially to the others. "He stole it
himself from a Southerner only four days before." They placed their
possessions onto the ass and led it quietly out of Bree. At the gates it
seemed positively cheerful, as if happy to get out of the small
"It seems to like gates," Sam said stupidly, and then named the ass
Gates for no particularly clear reason.
After an hour Strider led them off onto a narrow side-trail. "It
would be good for us to get off the Road," he said. "The Riders I fear,
but not half so much now as the Bree law-enforcement. I fear it will go
hard for any Ranger who strays into the Pony for some time."
The way was easy all that day. Whether by Strider's skills or sheer
dumb luck the trail was quiet and pleasant, and the sun was out. At
Pipsqueak's request Sam fished out the bottle of suntan lotion from his
pack, and they passed it from hand to hand; even the tall Man took some
for his neck and the bridge of his nose. When the bottle returned to Sam
it was empty. "You should have brought two bottles, Sam," Frodo said
gaily. "Or perhaps three! After all, the servant class should better
anticipate the needs of its masters. Anyway, you'll just have to burn,
and do without."
"Oh, I'm burnin', all right," Sam muttered quietly to himself.
That night they spent under the stars. As the others fell asleep
Frodo condescended and offered to let Sam suck on his fingers for a time,
but Sam declined. No point, Sam thought irritably. Nobody'll be likely
to wake up and witness it. No witnesses, no blackmail. Where's the point
in that? He rolled the other way, pulled a stolen inn-towel over himself
and fell quickly asleep.
The proceeding days turned more difficult. Strider began taking them
across rougher country, leading them through rocky vales and marshlands
full of carnivorous insects. The ass Gates, while content and useful on
easy and well-worn paths, became sluggish and uncooperative on any path
that required effort. Often it would stop with a blue scream and refuse
to budge forward until someone booted it. It began to fear the sight of
Strider's heavy boots. "Couldn't you have stolen something more
cooperative?" Frodo asked plaintively.
"I'd rather we had bought a good pony than taken this for free, even
if we had to go into debt to do it," Pipsqueak laughed.
"Do not speak of such things!" Strider said quickly, and with
They journeyed on. Mosquitos the size of small ducks began to harass
them. Gates continued going slower and slower, consuming their resources
at an alarming rate. After a day or so Strider found a trail fenced by
high hedges and trees. "Here is an ancient path of my people," he said.
"It is cunningly hidden and well-protected. It will take us East towards
Gambletop, where perhaps we may figure out what the hell we're doing."
"This feels like the country we were in a week or two ago," Morrie
noted. "Are there Barrow-wights around here?"
"Not here," Strider answered, and Frodo felt oddly disappointed.
"Though the Exiles from Atlantis once lived here. Upon Gambletop there
was once a watch-tower, set as a defence against the Leech-king of old.
Many generations it stood. It is said that Isildur himself once stood
upon it, waiting for Gil-Gallamine, at the time of the Last Relaxing."
"Who was Gil-Gallamine?" Pipsqueak asked. After a moment a voice
began quietly singing:
I dreamed I saw Gil-Gal-la-mine,
Alive as you or me.
'I thought they killed you, Gil,' I said,
Said Gil, 'I did not flee;'
Said Gil, 'I did not flee.'
'You went to Mor-dor, Gil,' I said,
'To fight mon-o-po-ly,
And kill the Rob-ber Bar-on there,
And end the Bour-geoi-sie;
And end the Bour-geoi-sie.'
'I went there, sure, and fought His greed;
I went there, sure,' said he.
'And with me went brave I-sil-dur
And wor-kers brave and free;
And wor-kers brave and free.'
The voice fell silent. Suddenly they realized the voice had been
Sam's! "Don't stop there!" Pipsqueak said. "Keep going!"
"Uh, I don't think I should," Sam answered quickly. "You might not
like the rest."
"I wonder what the song means by robber baron?" Frodo asked. "And
workers brave and free. Honestly, the stuff they write into these old
songs. They don't make any sense. Give me a nice simple tune about ale
and fox-hunting any day, that's for me!"
Pipsqueak and Morrie mumbled agreement, and proceeded with Frodo
down the path. Strider gave Sam a short and knowing glance before walking
away, then left him and Gates to fend for themselves.
Travel was easier on the path. By morning of two days later they say
Gambletop shortly ahead of them, a great rounded hill with a broken
circle of old mortarwork upon its crown. Strider urged them on more
quickly, wanting to get out of the long travel exposition as soon as
They made it to the foot of the hill by midday, and by sunset were
nearing its summit. Just short of the top they found a small dell, fenced
round on three sides by rocky outcrops; there they left Sam to set up
camp, gather some wood, light a fire, prepare the meals, air out their
belongings, set a watch and tend to Gates while they went on to explore a
At the hill-top they found the circle of broken stone. In the middle
of it was the remains of a campfire, and a handful of fist-sized stones.
Strider examined the remains of the fire expertly. "Someone else was
camping here," he said, "and recently. I suspect it may have been
Gandalf! This fire was started by burning old Racing Forms, as is often
"You mean Gandalf was here in the last few days?" Frodo snapped.
"And didn't even stay to wait for us? That cantankerous old bastard still
has my money, too!"
"And lo!" Strider continued, lifting up one of the larger stones. A
soggy note was beneath it. Pipsqueak reached for it, only to be hit by
Strider with the rock. "A note on stationery stolen from the Prancing
Pony," Strider continued, picking the note up himself. "It's Gandalf, I'd
put money on it. If I had any."
Frodo craned in to look. "What does it say?" he asked.
Strider held the note up and squinted at it intently. "I can't make
it out at all," he answered. "His scrawling was torturous in the best of
times. He wrote this in a hurry, and it's all wet and smudgy. But here is
the G-rune for Gandalf," he added, pointing at a particularly messy
"This word near the middle of the letter could be trap," the
Ranger continued slowly. "And this word just before it might be
Gambletop. And I think this little bit here in the Feenamintian runes
could be... uhm... nazdaq. Yes! Yes, that's it."
With a curious sinking feeling the four of them looked past the rim
of the hill and out into the falling night. On the ground far away they
could just make out three dark shapes some leagues distant, who seemed to
be pointing straight at them and gesticulating wildly.
"I'm sure we're perfectly safe," Strider said confidently, back at
the campfire. "They were a long way away. They'd never find their way up
here until tomorrow afternoon at least, and by then we'll be long gone.
Nope, way too hard for them to climb this hill in the dark. Yep,
absolutely safe, I'm certain of it. No need to set a watch even.
Absolutely, one hundred percent safe, without a doubt, no question."
Reassured by Strider's optimism, the hobbits relaxed and roasted
marshmallows and told ghost-stories as the night descended.
"Tell us more about old Gil-Gallamine," Pipsqueak said to Sam.
"Can't remember," Sam said curtly and evasively.
"Old Bilbo used to sing some of that stuff," Frodo said, "though he
never explained it afterwards. As I remember it, Gil-Gallamine and
Isildur, and his sons Elendil and Annarggion, got together a huge army to
attack Mordor. And the siege lasted for nine years, and five hundred
thousand Men were brutally murdered, and five hundred thousand Elves were
brutally murdered, and Gil-Gallamine was brutally murdered, and Isildur
was brutally murdered, and Annarggion was bru-"
"Uh, yeah, maybe we should just skip that tale for now," Strider cut
in, looking quickly towards the edge of the dell. "It's time to all go to
bed and dream of sugarplums and dancing cornflakes or something."
"But we want a tale of the Ancient Days!" Pipsqueak whined
obnoxiously. "Do you know any tales of the Ancient Days, Strider?"
"All too many," Strider said wearily. "For I have lived in the house
of El Rond, where one may hear them all endlessly and to one's great
weariness. But I will tell you the tale of Trollopiel, in brief, and only
if you all shut up afterward." And once they had all agreed to his terms,
the tall Ranger sat up and began singing quietly:
In Dors-o-loch, in ancient time,
The luckless wand'ring Bluto lay;
His hands were smeared with blood and grime
From battles fought in wandering.
He came to Dos-o-loch that day
Though being there was held a crime;
In desperation sought his way
Though Elves said he was trespassing.
What evil luck, what evil fate
Had come upon his mortal name!
In Dors-o-loch he might abate
The headache he had simmering.
And so beneath the fence he came,
Not knowing that he'd find a mate
In Elvenhome's most lovely dame,
A lass of sexy quivering!
One night beneath the Moon he spies
Fair Lustianne upon a hill,
A sight too good for Mortal eyes,
And no clothes there a-covering.
With inhibitions running nil,
And Bluto's heart a-tantalize,
He calls out: Fair Trollopiel!
She shrieks, and runs for costuming.
Now blind and looking for that lass
He hunts for her for twenty days,
With mem'ry of that shapely ass
That set his hormones quivering.
And all that time inside she stays,
So frightened some would think her crass
For her nocturnal naughty ways
In quiet starlight shimmering.
But hormones call, as hormones will,
And out one night she goes again
To dash through Nature, wearing nil
But dew upon her, glistening.
And Bluto sees, and calls again!
Though common sense tells her to run,
She stands there, naked, listening.
Then Bluto does, lust-shaking, walk
To Lustianne with gentle care,
For if by sudden move she balk,
Another month of wandering!
But Lustianne somehow will dare
To wait for him. And so they talk,
Then touch, then grope, then passion's flare
Consumes, and leaves them foundering.
Next morning naked they were found
By guards of old King Thinowilld.
(And Lustianne, by Bluto, bound!
The sergeants stood there sniggering.)
The mighty King is fury-filled.
A Man, have Lustianne ungowned!
His daughter, looking lust-fulfilled!
His rage is now a-triggering.
But Mirilou, the Queen, recalls
To him their courtship long before,
And how he chased her through the halls
And took her 'twixt the curtaining.
How nat'ral that their child adore
That lusty joy, that now appalls
The King! If now one oath he swore,
She says, a Royal Divorcing!
So Thinowilld is stuck at last,
And says to Bluto, mortal Man,
That now his anger is all past
And this new guest he's welcoming.
But also now he plots a plan
To rid him of this horny guest
who dares to take his Lustianne!
His thoughts are dark and troubling.
Strider stopped for a long moment, wrapped in some inner lust. "That is
but a part of a long tale," he said, "in an ancient Elvish mode which
requires rhyming three syllables on every fourth line, for which rhyming
dictionaries are bloody useless. It tells of the meeting of Bluto, son of
Bearhand, one of the First Men to come out of the factory, and Lustianne,
by far the sexiest and most kick-ass of the Elves. Her father Thinowilld
gets all huffy and makes a barroom bet with Bluto that he can't steal a
slipcast from the Iron Fist of Mordred. Bluto takes him up on it, and
though Thinowilld locks up all of her clothes Lustianne goes with Bluto
anyway. They have many adventures. I think there's a set of children's
books about it. Anyway, after a long while they settled down and raised a
family. Elysium the Mariner was of their kin, and El Rond and Earohed his
children. El Rond you know of. Earohed was the first King of Atlantis,
and from his lineage comes the great Sea-Kings, and Isildur, and the
great and unfailing line of truly just and noble kings who rightfully
should hold undying Godlike dominion over every little bit of
Middle-earth by divine right."
The hobbits looked at Strider. There seemed to be a fiery light in
his eyes and a nobility in his face and a power-mad tremble in his lip
which they had never noticed, or at any rate had been able to somehow
ignore, till now.
"Wow, must be about four in the morning," Morrie said, eager to
change the subject. "Look: the Moon is setting. And there's three or four
dark meanacing figures beginning to make their way into the dell."
Strider leaped to his feet. "Keep close to the fire!" he shouted.
"Take out those cheap little swords I gave you, and stand ready! Oh, if I
hadn't been reciting that damn poem I could have been on the other side
of the Hill by now."
The dark shapes came closer. In them Frodo seemed to perceive a
hatred of all living things, a darkness beyond darkness, a soulless
Void without light, mercy or hope. Or maybe it was just dinner catching
up with him. Morrie and Pipsqueak were collapsing into a blind terror, so
horrified that they could barely laugh. Sam stood off to one side, his
eyes wide, barely able to concentrate on the dishes. Strider alone stood
bravely, holding a flaming stick in his right hand and pointing
surreptitiously towards Frodo with the left. The horrific black shapes
drew nearer and nearer.
And suddenly Frodo got the urge to put on the Ring. Not with any
plan in mind, not to turn invisible and certainly not to seduce them, but
just to put it on. The calling seemed to come from outside him. Perhaps
it was a venomous, fell voice of Doom; perhaps it was the whisper of the
wraiths, carried terrifyingly by the frail wind; perhaps it was just Sam
whispering "Puuut the Rinnng onnnnn..." in a deceptive whisper. Frodo could
not tell. Finally succumbing to his terror, he slipped on the Ring.
The world of light faded, and Frodo suddenly saw the black shapes
for what they were: nightmarish victims of other Rings, their souls
forever enslaved, and not just minorities after all. One of them wore a
pale crown. Yet even as he saw them they surged forward.
The Ringwraiths pressed a small envelope into Frodo's hand, then
stepped back. Frodo opened it, looked briefly at the page then fell back
with a cry of despair. With his last strength he refolded the letter
before blackness overtook him.
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
O. Sharp <ohh-aaaaaaat-netcom-dawt-com>.
Copyright © 2000 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
e-text and the original printed material by Professor Tolkien is inevitable. Using this
as an electronic resource for scholarly or research purposes may lead to a certain
degree of academic embarassment. All agree that the printed version of the text,
available from respectable publishers such as Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine Books,
is to be preferred.
Picture postcards of Trollopiel are now available in the lobby.