The Lord of the... whatever, Book II, Chapter 3:
The Ring Goes South
Later that day, after a couple of dinners, the hobbits held a
meeting in Bilbo's room. Morrie and Pipsqueak were angry when they
heard that Sam, having been eavesdropping outside the Council, had
been chosen as Frodo's companion.
"It's so unfair," said Pipsqueak between two seed-cakes. "Instead
of cutting off his ears as a warning to the lower classes against
listening in on their betters, El Rond rewards him for his
presumption!" Morrie had explained to Pipsqueak about the
freely-growing Cannabis Sativa probably found in the South, and
Pipsqueak was as eager to go there as Morrie was.
"We should all go," said Bilbo. "Winter is coming on, and spending
it under a warm sun would do my old bones quite a favour.
When the North Wind rules the land
and sleeting snows tear face like sand
when Sun is seen an hour a day
'tis best to be quite far away.
Not that it is cold and drafty in El Rond's House; quite the contrary.
But the out-houses are just that - out-houses, and not heated."
The Hobbits spent several weeks at Rivendell, wondering why it took
so long to decide who were to go South with Frodo and Sam, and so long
to get started. But they didn't fret. For one thing, Frodo consented
to lending the Ring to his hobbit friends now and again, including to
Bilbo on one occasion. Since hobbits are so singularly capable of
sneaking, unseen and unheard, El Rond never found out about it. Nor
did Gandalf, which would have been disastrous: wizards are wed to
celibacy in a way far more fundamental than Frodo had been until
recently, and he would have been certain in his envy to direct El
Rond's attention towards the adventurous hobbits' adventures. Luckily
the deceptively perceptive wizard was busy in conference with El Rond
most of the time. Occasional nightly clinking of glass and sagging,
blood-shot eyes in the mornings indicated to the hobbits what the two
were sometimes conferring about. Strider was gone, officially in the
company of El Rond's two sons. Where Arwen was, nobody knew.
Still, autumn was fading into winter. The nights outside became
crisp and cloudless, and ghoulishly cold upon the bare earth; and they
became long. When it was not Frodo's turn to have the Ring, he often
stood outside watching the stars. Particularly the constellation of
Cassiopeia intrigued him, having nearly the same name as someone he
had known (or tried to know). One of the elves told him that the
constellation was supposedly the throne of the beautiful princess
Cassiopeia, but the recently awakened Frodo quietly disagreed.
One day he asked Gandalf about the Ring. "Why is it that the Ring
confers invisibility only to some who wear it? I become invisible,
Bilbo became invisible, but I noticed that Sam did not on the occasion
when he lent it."
Gandalf shrugged. "It's just the way of the Ring," he said. "Some
become invisible, some do not." He refrained from offering his
opinion: since the Ring was a tool of seduction, it would confer
invisibility to those with faces like last week's manure with maggots
in it. Those with plain or even beautiful faces would not need their
features to be hidden from the eyes of the seductees.
"Are you coming too," asked Frodo.
"I believe I am, but I am not sure," replied the wizard.
Frodo, who was not altogether thrilled at the prospect, asked: "Why
should you go?"
"To keep an eye on the Ring, of course, and the Bearer." But
Gandalf did not reveal the secret reasons why both he, El Rond, and
Aragon were so eager to see the Ring destroyed:
To Gandalf, forced to remain celibate by his profession, the Ring
would be but a penis-ring, tormenting him with its very availability
while it existed, and the opportunities it offered. El Rond suspected
what was happening in his House by the power of the Ring. His wife
being long gone, he disliked the thought of other people getting what
was no longer available to him. And as for Aragon, he hated and
feared the thought that it might come between himself and Arwen.
The hobbits had spent the most pleasant two months of their lives
in the House of El Rond, when the scouts began to return. Travelling
undercover, they had searched diligently for the nazdaq, but neither
they nor the G-men of Sauron had been found. Only those who had gone
West brought tidings of trouble, from The Forsaken Inn, from Bree and
from the Shire, where irate mobs were searching high and (most often)
low for Frodo and his companions. But since they were not heading
home, this did not trouble them much as yet.
El Rond summoned them to him. He looked searchingly at Frodo, who
returned an innocent look. "The time has come," he said. "It is high
time that the Ring leave this house. Not just you, but the Ring also.
We agreed, remember?"
"Yes," sighed Frodo. "I will go with Sam."
"Then I must appoint your companions," said El Rond.
"How about Sam, Margarita, and young Findu-lass", thought Frodo,
but he was wise enough not to think it aloud.
El Rond said: "Nine shall you be: Nine Walkers, to oppose the Nine
Nazdaq men, who are evil. With you, as your leader, shall Gandalf
go." Unspoken: "...to keep an eye on you, that you don't slip out of
our agreement." Spoken: "For the rest, I shall appoint members of the
other Free Peoples: Elves, Dwerrows, and Men."
"And Women," said Arwen, who was standing a little away. El Rond
ignored her routinely.
"With you shall go Lego-lass for the Elves and Giggly for the
Dwerrows. Two Men shall go: Aragon and Boromir. Boromir has fought
Sauron before, and knows the procedures of his police force."
Unspoken: "And I really need to get Aragon away from my daughter." El
Rond did not know how patently too late that was.
"That leaves two," said Frodo. "I know that Morrie and Pipsqueak
are willing." Oh yes, both willing and able.
"And I am willing to send them," replied El Rond darkly. Morrie
snickered behind his face, with practiced skill.
The Sword of Elendil was reforged by Elvish smiths. Not only did
they put the two pieces together, which requires great skill if the
joint is to be as strong as if the blade were newly-forged, but with
the improvements in metallurgy which had been make during the
millennia, they shaved a pound and a half off its weight, yet leaving
the blade far stronger and less brittle than it had been before.
In Bilbo's room the old hobbit was busy giving Frodo advice. Frodo
was busy feigning attentiveness: Bilbo was now an old hobbit, and he
still had a bit of fortune.
"What about that sword of yours?" Frodo said suddenly. "Mine broke
when I was cutting a slice of bread with it, and since you are not
coming, you won't need yours."
"Forget it, young rascal," answered Bilbo. "It's been with me for
a long time, and it's dear to me."
"And your mail-shirt?"
"Frodo, my lad! Why are you trying to get worldly things out of
me? Don't you know that advice is the best that a hobbit of my age
can give to you?" Then he continued lecturing Frodo on the merits of
stealth and burgling.
With his mouth Frodo said: "I cannot even begin to thank you for
this store of wisdom that you give to me."
In reply, Bilbo sang:
I lie upon my bed and miss
the things that I have done
with every lovely lass I've kissed
and more - with every one.
I walk upon the fragrant grass
recalling seasons gone
recalling everything that was
recalling actions done.
I look into the fire and see
myself when I was strong.
Whatever will become of me
at death? That won't be long.
I look into my room and there
are many things I stole.
But now I have a mounting fear:
a six feet, yawning hole.
Thus singing, he suddenly nodded off. Frodo, taking some of
Bilbo's advice, helped himself to what Bilbo had refused to give him,
and tiptoed out of the room.
It was a cold evening in the cold end of December when the Company
set out. Only the four hobbits were (moderately) high-spirited: their
mood had been boosted by much that had been given them, without El
Rond's knowledge, although they of course regretted having to leave
those givers behind. Boromir had another way to improve his spirits.
He raised his horn. "Always before setting out on a journey I do
this," he said. He put his horn to his lips. Then, "glug glug glug."
He grinned. "You didn't seriously think that I use this horn to play
music or battle-blasts, did you," he said as he refilled it from El
Rond's farewell barrel of Margarita. Gandalf looked at him
appraisingly: wizards, too, like to have stores of liquor with them;
and the store in Gandalf's huge wizard's hat was enough to float a
boat, or in other words, almost his fill for one evening.
"You said that we were to be nine, Master El Rond," said Frodo.
"But here is Gates the ass with us, and that makes ten. We really
should leave him here. I'll go down to three silver pennies."
El Rond just looked at the animal in disgust. To Frodo: "You do
not have three silver pennies." Actually Frodo did have more than
that, recently acquired; but he was not going to let El Rond (or Bilbo)
know this. El Rond addressed the Company.
"The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Viagra. Only
on him is any charge laid: neither to cast the Ring away, nor let any
outside the Company or myself handle it, nor sell it. The rest of the
Company may follow him as long as chance allows or their travelling
Now many cheerless days and weeks followed. They made camp during
the day, lighting no fire, hiding from spies and elil. During the
dark hours they walked as swiftly as they could, stopping only to pass
hraka now and again. The icy wind made that very uncomfortable. They
always buried their hraka, to leave as few traces as possible for elil
to follow. Without Gandalf's margarita, which he grudgingly doled out
on rare occasions, the others would have found the journey unbearable.
Their first serious adventure after leaving Rivendell happened one
evening, when they saw a knight come thundering towards them from
behind a nearby rock. Another followed swiftly behind; he bore a
spear in his left hand, and his right one was missing. They were
riding rather fast horses, and couching his spear, the foremost one
aimed it at Lego-lass. "Ai, ai, Sir Breuse Sans Pité is come," she
cried. But Aragon leaped towards the approaching knight, beheading
his horse with his sword. Sir Breuse tumbled to the ground. The
other knight couched his spear with some left-handed difficulty and
aimed it at Aragon, but Boromir leaped forward, cutting off his
remaining hand. "As Sir Blyaunte cut off Sir Bartelot's right hand,
so I have cut off his left one," said Boromir.
Morrie, true to his character, leaped forwards and aimed a savage
kick at the stunned and prostrate man's voonerables. Immediately the
tittering of the other hobbits and the pain in his toes made him
realize that, when kicking a man's voonerables, waiting until that man
has had his bloody plate armour removed is a good idea. Especially
when you are a barefooted hobbit, and not a heavily-booted little man
of the Night Watch. He shot a venomous glance at Pipsqueak. "Eat
hraka, Pipkin!" Pipsqueak stopped laughing immediately, clenching
his fists and baring his front teeth.
In the meantime, Aragon had unlaced the fallen man's helmet and
beheaded him. And some miles behind them, a female figure looked at
her fiancé with surprised appraise. "So there is some spunk in that
clod after all," she thought to herself.
"Who was that man?" asked Pipsqueak.
"That was Sir Breuse Sans Pité," replied Boromir. "The worst
coward and murderer who ever put a 'Sir' before his name. He
especially enjoyed killing ladies. Aragon must have avenged a whole
schoolful of them with that stroke."
"What does 'Breuse Sans Pité' mean?"
"It means 'the pitiless bruce'," said Frodo, "unless my Australian
is off the mark."
As the Company settled under their blankets after that night's
march, Morrie heard Sam singing, a single line:
...for he knew his toes could feel it...
An almost inaudible snickering told him that Frodo and Pipsqueak
had also heard that.
Some days later they saw the Misty Mountains marching almost
straight across their path. Nearly due south three mountains arose
above the main ridge. Giggly began to smile warmly.
"There they stand, the three mountains of Moira," he giggled. "Oh,
Khazad-Mum, the Dwerrow-wench, who is called the Golden Pit. Above
her house stand the three peaks erect: Barazinbar the Hardhorn,
Zirak-Zigil the Silverthrust, and Bundushathûr the Risinghead. Long
has she been absent from her house, we know not where though we know
"Why?" asked Pipsqueak.
"She was the undying wife of the Dwerrowen kingdom under the three
mountains," replied Giggly. "But then, many lives of ordinary
Dwerrows ago, a terrible menace was awoken as the Dwerrows were
digging in the mines beneath the house. The people were scattered,
and Moira lost."
"The wife of the Dwerrowen kingdom?" whispered Sam to Frodo.
"Yes, the Dwerrows do tell strange tales concerning their lives and
fates in this world," replied Frodo. "It is nothing compared to the
religious practices of certain pagan peoples of Men."
"It is for the Dim Rill dale between the three mountains that we
are making," said Gandalf. "There is a great ski resort there, on the
west side, where we may rest, and rent skis for the journey across the
pass of the Hardhorn Gate."
"For whose money?" muttered Frodo. "I have none left - that the
others know about, at least. But many have IOU's with my names on
them, both Underhill and Baggins."
The Company started climbing the pass. But soon they noticed that
something was wrong. In the far distance they could see the hotel,
and ski lifts leading upslope from it. There should have been smoke
coming out of the chimneys, and the ski lifts should have been teeming
with activity, as should the snowy slopes. But all was still.
Huffing and puffing with the exertion (especially Gandalf, the heavy
smoker), they reached the front door of the hotel. There was a sign
on it: Temporarily closed by the health authorities. The sign was
written both in Westron and in the Black Speech of Mordor, and so they
could guess what the real cause and motive were. Steel bars behind
the windows prevented them from burgling their way in. Only Frodo
breathed a sigh of relief, as they plodded on.
Snow began to fall, and so did the temperature. This, however, did
not bother the Company much, except when they had to bare their
backsides to pass hraka in some nook among the cliffs, wiping with
snow that was happily newly-fallen and soft, not composed of hard
sharp grains. Nor were they troubled much by the rising wind, which
made the snow swirl. El Rond had provided them with amply warm
clothes, made of double reindeer skins with the inner layer having the
hairs inwards: a trick learned from the Lossoth. Even the hobbits had
put on soft boots of that make, except Morrie, who wore steel-capped
boots like Strider. Worst was the loss of visibility, but both Aragon
and Gandalf had been that way before, and did not need to see their
road much ahead to follow it. But other perils did the cruel pass
have in store for them.
The wind wailed among the stones. Rocks came crashing down from
the unseen heights above. Gates the ass shivered and gibbered, and
only with threats and continual booting did they get the animal to
move forward. "This is a weather for penguins, not asses," muttered
Eerie noises began wailing, shrieking and laughing maniacally.
Exclamation marks came in fives from the darkness around them. The
hobbits grew uneasy. "Is it the stallo we hear?" asked Pipsqueak.
"Or a sort of draug of the mountain?" But he was not answered.
Suddenly a gigantic dark figure loomed in the path just before
them. They stopped dead, and two other figures appeared beside the
first one. The dark figures strode forwards, appearing to shrink in
size but becoming sharper as they came closer, until before them stood
three customs officials with leering grins. "I feared this,"
whispered Gandalf. "These roving bands of customs officials and
immigration authorities often haunt this pass. It is difficult to
pass them by." Unless you leave them all your liquor and tobacco,
and don't belong to some minority. But who will lose his liquor and
tobacco to these creatures? Certainly not I.
"So," sneered the foremost figure. "Anything to declare?"
At once the Company began shouting abuse at the obnoxious men in
"Abusing government officials, eh?"
Suddenly Aragon, Boromir and Gandalf leaped forward, Giggly and
Lego-lass following. There was a short, sharp affray, and soon the
customs officials lay bound and gagged beside the path. Morrie, with
his inherited and ferocious animosity towards such creatures, hoped
that their thick greatcoats would not keep them from freezing to death
in the blizzard. He made sure to kick them in the voonerables, hard
and cruelly, this time with boots on, and his victims without plate
armour. Sam was little less hateful towards them, representatives of
an oppressive bourgeois State as he perceived them to be. The same
went for Frodo: he saw them as representatives of Communist oppression
and control of free citizens. The Company helped themselves from the
pockets of the customs officials, and moved on. But the respite was
short. Other such bands lay in wait further up.
"Anything to declare?"
Sock bam bonk
Plod plod plod
"Anything to declare?"
Sock slam grind ouch
"What's in your packs then?"
Bonk bang oof ding you big oaf
Soon it became obvious that they could not continue that way.
There were too many such bands, and they increased in size as the
Company ascended towards the crown of the pass that marked the border
between Eregion and Wilderland. Soon, if they continued, they would
be overcome, thrown in the slammer, and have all their contraband
seized. The last few bands of customs officials had looked with scorn
and contempt at the hobbits: "Well what have we here? Minorities?
Look rather minor to me." Sock sock aargh boink bang sod you
chtong - rummage
They stopped beneath a half-shelf that offered some shelter from
prying eyes. There they spent the remainder of the night, cold but
not altogether cheerless. At least this good had come of their
encounters with the roving bands of customs officials: they had some
loot to examine and divide. It wasn't much. The wandering tribes of
customs officials of the Misty Mountains, while seizing anything in
the possession of anything with a pulse, a flask and a purse, were
equally wont to spending it again swiftly.
It was Morrie who discovered the most valuable treasure. As he,
his back towards the rest of the Company, was rummaging through some
of the take, he found a little plastic bag with some dust in it.
Great was his pleasure when he discovered it to be a teaspoonful of
Vala dust, a very powerful narcotic. Great was his chagrin when, as
he was gloating over his prize, Pipsqueak, peering over his shoulder,
gleefully announced his find to the others in that loud, high-pitched
voice of his. Morrie was forced to share. It was something which he
had never understood the point in - when it was his belongings being
Gandalf forbade the Company to use any of the precious dope at that
time and place. "We are high enough up as it is," he said.
"I wasn't going to use it myself," Morrie sulked. "Some of us
know how dangerous that stuff is."
Morning came, revealing black specks further up the path. Aragon,
experienced smuggler as he was, knew them for more customs officials.
"We cannot go that way," he said. But turning back down, the Company
encountered the largest and fiercest band of customs officials that
they had yet met. Standing a furlong down the path, they grinned
expectantly as the Company approached. Their leader strode forwards.
In his hands were visa waivers, green and menacing, slips of stiff
paper almost like cardboard. "Halt," he said. "You must first fill
in these, if you want to pass."
They took the visa waivers, and wearily they started filling them
out, none too truthfully. The leader of the customs officials watched
them writing, closely. Then he collected the waivers and examined
"Hold!" he shouted. "These are filled out in the wrong colours!
It has to be with yellow ink, signatures in red! You have written the
whole lot in black or blue. At it again!"
Boromir looked at Aragon. Aragon looked at Boromir.
Crash bang ouch splotch bang slam crack
Grind kick hate snarl biff sock pant bite sock
Finally the road was clear. Green visa waivers, many of them torn
to confetti, lay scattered upon the path or fluttered in the light
wind that came down from the pass.
The Company began descending the path again. The customs officials
of Charadhras had defeated them. This time.
A slender figure slid quietly into hiding between two boulders,
watching them pass by. In her pockets were a few items which the
Company had missed in the dark when rummaging through the belongings
of the customs officials further down.
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