The Lord of the... whatever, Book II, Chapter 9:
The Grey Liver
Frodo was roused by Sam, not that there's anything wrong with that.
He awoke from a wistful dream of Galadriel's lament as their boats slowly
drifted out of Lorien. Long afterwards he interpreted them, as well as
he could given Bilbo's somewhat fraudulent tutoring in Quenya:
"Eh! leeke-a guld fell zee leefes in zee veend, bork, lung yeers
noomberless es zee veengs ooff trees! Right On! De years gots' passed
likes swift draughts uh de sweet mead in lofty halls beyond da damn West,
benead de blue vaults of Varda wherein de stars tremble in de song uh ha'
voice, holy and queenly. Slap mah fro! Who now shall refill thuh cup fo'
me? Fur noo zee Keendler, Ferda, zee Qooeee ooff zee Sters, frum Muoont
Ifervheete-a hes upleeffted her hunds leeke-a cluoods, und ell peths
ere-a drooned deep in shedoo; und oooot ooff a grey cuoontry derkness
leees oon zee fuemeeng vefes betveee us, und meest cufers zee jooels ooff
zee Celecurya fur ifer. Now lost, mostly, lost to those from thuh East
is like wow! Valimar! Oh, wow! Farewell! Gag me with a SPOOOOON!
Maybe thou shalt find Valimar! Gag me with a pitchfork! Maybe even
thou shalt find it. Farewell!"
Frodo found that he was lying, wrapped from head to toe in all the spare
elven cloaks, ropes, and forlorn leaf wrappings from the twinkies
(or so he hoped) that Sam had collected from the Company's baggage.
Looking up as he extricated himself from the swaddling, he noted that
he was under a large, grey-skinned tree that looked vaguely humanoid.
Pipsqueak noticed this as well and tried to strike up a conversation,
but no amount of prodding, poking, kicking, name-calling, or waving of
brands from Giggly's little fire could get a response from it.
They started again shortly before noon, though Morrie would gladly
have slept through lunch and tea-time. Nor were most of the Company
eager to hurry southwards, considering the crises of leadership and
bitter recriminations (to say nothing of the heat and humidity) that lay
beyond. Aragon let them drift with the stream as they wished, but stopped
after the third time Boromir ran his boat aground with a strange,
vicious glee. But he insisted that they start earlier each day, for his
resentment of the Fellowship's defiance of his divine right after the
escape from Moira still burned hot in his heart. If I can't assail the
Dark Tower in glorious conquest as befits a returning king, he thought,
I can still have a lot of fun running the stupid halflings straight into
Nonetheless the hobbits held up surprisingly well, and they saw no
sign of an enemy for two days. The lands began to change slowly: first
the trees thinned and became less ominously anthropomorphic. On the
east bank, they say long slopes, grey and withered like the cirrhotic
liver of one of the Big Folk who had spent far too many summer evenings
in the common room of the Prancing Pony. They had come to the Grey
Lands that lay, vast and desolate, between Southern Smirkwood and the
hills of the Emyn Mail. Aragon admitted, after much taunting by Arwen,
and scowls and eyerolling by Boromir, that he had no clue what evil,
horrible deed of the Enemy had so transformed the entire region. The
hobbits noted with a mounting sense of horror that the hills far to the
south seemed to be paved with a dark, matte substance and painted with
white lines like the bones of some long-extinct fish.
There was no sign of living moving things, save birds. Of these there
were many: annoying little ones, medium-sized ones that seemed
predestined to drop guano on the shoulders of the Men (who were little
consoled when Lego-lass pointed out that being hit was a symbol of
good fortune among the Elves of Smirkwood), and the hugest flying
creatures they had yet seen. Once or twice the travellers heard the
rush and whine of a sound like the shadow of the shape of wings, and
looking up they saw a familiar "V" shape streaming along the sky.
"Ai, ai!" cried Lego-lass. "A B--... oh, never mind, they're ducks."
"Giant Arnorian mallards, by the looks of them," muttered Aragon.
"Now I understand. What an evil fortune! And I am already hungry!"
"How wide and commercialized all this country looks!" said Frodo. "I
always imagined that as one journeyed south, it got warmer and
merrier, with many retired people lounging about in the bright sun."
"But we have not journeyed far south yet," answered Aragon. "It is
still winter, and we are far from the sea. Far away down in the
Bay of Tampalas, to which Anduin runs, it is warm and merry, maybe,
or would be merry but for the Tampalas Bay Corsairs. But here we are
not above sixty leagues, I guess, south of the Southfarting away in
your Shire, hundreds of long miles to the east. You are looking
now southwest across the north plains of the Riddlemark, Rohan the
land of the mysterious and eccentric Horse-lords. Ere long we shall
come to the mouth of the Dimlight that runs down from Dolorn to join
the Great River. That is the north boundary of Rohan; and of old all
that lay between the Dimlight and the Off-White Mountains belonged to the
Rohirrim. It is a rich and pleasant land, and its turfgrass has no
rival; you will find no golf courses for which it is harder or more
expensive to get a tee time. But in these evil days folk do not dwell
by the River or ride often to its shores. Anduin is wide, yet
the orcs get great range with those horn-backed composite bows and
ugly but functional orc fletching of theirs, so waterfront property
values have understandably taken a dive. Lately the orcs have even
started crossing the water and playing a few holes on the greens of
Rohan." Aragon shook his head ruefully as he visualized the Uruk-Hai
beheading their hapless caddies.
"As for the commercialization, what you see here is but the beginning,
not even a faint shadow of the great, magical kingdom that my
ancestors built." At this cryptic comment, Aragon suddenly became
close, as if he had said too much already, and not even Arwen could
get him to speak again for hours.
Sam looked from bank to bank uneasily. The trees had seemed hostile
before, but some of the isolated treelike figures on the shore were
jumping up and down, giving him Bree cheers and making rude gestures.
He had a feeling that the Company was completely exposed to any orcish
sniper who could shoot a hobbit child's bow, meandering slowly in
little open boats in the midst of shelterless lands, on a river that
was the frontier of war, but then the feeling passed.
In the next day or two, the Company passed steadily southwards as the
River broadened and gravel shoals formed. These became so rough that
Boromir stopped running the boat aground and actually started
steering intently. The faintly drawn lines on the southernmost hills
of the Grey Lands began to resolve themselves into neat rectangles,
a little over a tall Man's height across and twice as long. Each
member of the Company was busy with his or her own thoughts.
The heart of Lego-lass was running under the stars with some handsome
Noldorin lad in Lorien; Giggly was running his fingers through gold in
his mind (silken, flowing rivulets of gold), and also wondering what he
would use as the housing of the Lady's gift. Morrie and Pipsqueak in
the middle boat were ill at ease as they watched Giggly in the following
boat, eyes shuttered, muttering and giggling to himself as he recalled
some strange memory. Boromir was muttering as well, sometimes
biting his nails, sometimes grabbing a paddle and standing up in his
boat poised to deliver a resounding whack to the back of Frodo's head.
Then Pipsqueak, who sat in the bow looking back, caught a suspicious
look in Boromir's eye as he aimed the death blow. But then
Boromir would shake his head and sit down, and Pipsqueak's
suspicions passed. Sam looked serene and peaceful, but was actually
locked in a mortal struggle against his pathological phobia of boats.
Ever since he had heard about Master Frodo's parents, he could not
shake his obssessive, constant, driving fear of them. It never ended,
not for a single waking moment. Even now a voice akin to the Dark
Lord's was resounding through his skull: "I'm in a boat, I'm in a
boat..." Neverending. Never.
As dusk drew down on the fourth day, he was looking back over the
bowed heads of Frodo and Aragon and the following boats-boats-boats,
boat-boat-I'm-in-a-boat, in-a-boat; he was on the verge of mental
collapse and would have willingly killed the rest of the Company to
feel sweet earth under his toes. Suddenly something caught his sight;
at first he stared at it listlessly, then he sat up and shook his
head violently to make the bad boat-thoughts go away; but when he
looked again he could not see it any more.
That night they camped on a small eyot close to the western bank.
Sam lay rolled in blankets beside Frodo, shuddering and hoping that
eyot wasn't an Elvish word for boat. "I had a funny dream an hour
or two before we stopped, Mr. Frodo," he said. "Or maybe it wasn't
a dream. Funny it was anyway."
"Well, what was it? You need a better primer than that, Sam," said
Frodo, recalling that Sam had not had the same training in oration
that he had received from Bilbo, and bracing himself for a stale
punchline. (In fact, Sam had had the benefit of the best education
in public speaking that a hobbit could get, sitting in The Green
Dragon at Bywater.)
"It wasn't funny that way, Mr. Frodo. At first I thought I was
hallucinating, the way I do whenever I get near r-r-r-running
w-w-w-water. But I swear I saw a log with eyes!"
"Oh, sure," said Frodo. "That's just Gullible. He's been following
us all the way through Moira and right down into Lorien. He thinks
he's all sneaky and clever, but he's really as loud and clumsy as an
oliphaunt in a mathom house. Just play along and humor him. We
can grab him any time we want to, but he makes a good decoy for the
Aragon overheard this, but remained silent and feigned sleep, for he
had tried twice to catch Gullible in the middle of the night and
found him too sly and slippery. There was no need to admit this to
the hobbits, of course.
The night passed without Gullible showing so much as a shadow again.
After that the Company kept a sharp look-out, but the Men and Giggly
saw no more of Gullible while the voyage lasted. The hobbits,
Lego-lass, and Arwen, on the other hand, caught sight of him every
now and then. He was usually flailing along attached to a
moss-eaten log or other piece of flotsam, trying desperately and
ridiculously to camouflage himself by daubing himself with river
mud. The Company had adopted a don't-ask, don't-tell policy
regarding the relative powers of observation of each member, so
nothing was ever said. Giggly and the Men could always pretend that
it was due to the cover of night that Gullible seemed invisible.
In this way the time passed rather boringly until the seventh day.
The weather was still grey and overcast, and dim enough that the
Company could hardly tell the sky from the surrounding hills. A wind
from the East parted the clouds and the young sliver of the Moon
appeared. As Sam was staring at its reflection, perplexed, he heard
Gullible sloshing horridly along the east bank, sneezing as the
reeds tickled his nose and cursing under his breath (but still very
loudly) as he tripped and fell into the stream.
The next day the country on either side began to change rapidly.
The banks began to rise and grow stony, and as the land sloped
higher, the paved grey hills in the distance vanished for a time from
the Company's view. More birds circled overhead, and as the Company
was getting under way for the evening, a wondrously loud cry caused
all heads to snap upwards. A great shape passed, high and far off,
now wheeling, now flying on slowly southwards.
"What is that, Lego-lass?" Aragon asked, pointing to the northern
sky. "Is it, as I think, an eagle?"
"No," said Lego-lass. "It is... uh..."
"WHAT IS IT, LEGO-LASS?"
"Well, it's hard to say, but I think the Dunedain call it a...
"What?! Who ever heard of FLYING mumakil?"
"Well, didn't you hear it trumpeting?"
And so the debate continued, with Arwen taking Lego-lass's part and
Boromir joining Aragon in proclaiming the impossibility of what
the Elves claimed to have spied from afar. Finally Aragon tired of
the argument (which, truth to tell, the Men were losing) and insisted
that it was fully dark and time for the Company to resume its trek.
The eighth night of their journey came, silent and windless. "Come!"
said Aragon. "We will venture one more journey by night. We are
coming to the reaches of the River that I do not know well; for I
have never journeyed by water in these parts before, not between
here and the rapids of Sarn Eisner. But if I am right in my
reckoning, those are still many miles ahead, and I hear there are a
few cheap eateries along the way, at least until we get there."
To Sam in the leading boat was given the task of watchman, in
addition to his duties as squire, cook, washing boy, latrine digger,
porter, second oarsman, and all-around lackey. "From each according
to his abilities..." he chanted stoically, as he stood at the head of
the boat and tried to imagine that he was standing in the basement
of Bag End. The pale foam of the River lashed against sharp rocks
that were thrust far into the stream like a ridge of teeth, and Sam
and Morrie emptied their stomachs into the swirling waters for the
third time that night. Morrie wistfully noted that they had had
only ONE dinner to throw up. "Please remain seated at all times,"
intoned Aragon, in a strange voice.
"Hoy there, Aragon!" shouted Boromir, as his boat lurched up
and down, smashing into the leader but curiously not moving
laterally. "This is madness! We cannot ride the Rapids by night!
But no boat can live in Sarn Eisner, be it night or day."
"Back, back!" cried Aragon. "Turn! Turn if you can!" He drove
his paddle into the water, trying to hold the boat and bring it
round. The boats seemed completely unable to turn, but Aragon,
Sam, Boromir, Lego-lass, and Arwen were able to push them
back up the river with strenuous rowing.
"I am out of my reckoning," whispered Aragon to Frodo. "I did
not know that we had come so far: Anduin flows faster than I thought.
Sarn Eisner must be close at hand already."
"You're a little out of shape, too," noted Frodo, hearing the
ragged panting in Aragon's voice.
As the boats slowly inched back up the river and came to a
complete stop, Frodo felt the keel beneath him grate upon stone.
At that moment there was a twang of bowstrings: several arrows
whistled overhead, and some fell among them. One smote Frodo
between the shoulders, about halfway between the Morgul-knife scar
in front and the orc-spear wound on his side. Frodo felt like a
hobbit-kebab as he lurched forward with a cry, sure that he was
going to get tetanus from that cursed suit of mithril mail this
time. A second arrow passed through Lego-lass's hair, but
fortunately the huge hairdo she had acquired in Lorien had confused
the archer. A third arrow stood fast in the gunwale of the second
boat, close by Morrie's hand. "Please keep your hands inside the
boat at all times," suggested Aragon helpfully.
"Yrch!" said Lego-lass.
"Did that arrow get you?" cried Giggly.
"No, orcs!" she replied.
Now that Lego-lass had pointed them out, Sam thought he could
glimpse orcs in crude camouflage running to and fro upon the long
shingle-banks that lay under the eastern shore. They were all dressed
as shrubberies. Strangely enough, there were no other shrubs of any
kind on the banks.
"That idiot Gullible! Look at him trying to hide behind that orc,"
said Sam to Frodo.
Suddenly a black-feathered arrow sprouted from the torso of the
orc in question and he fell over, revealing a quivering dark shape,
nearly unclothed and crouched low, who scrambled into the rocks.
"Well, in this case, it seems to have worked," remarked Frodo wryly.
Sam leaned foward, straining at the paddles, as the boats continued
to move backwards in a straight line, one against another. Even the
rest of the Company took a hand now that real danger was imminent.
Every moment they expected to take an arrow through the eye. Aragon
was especially anxious about this as it had actually happened to his
father while he was "on errantry" with Arwen's brothers, or so they
said. Many projectiles whined overhead or struck the water nearby;
but there were no more hits. As it turned out, elven cloaks and
grey boats were very good camouflage in the Grey Lands, much better
Stroke by stroke they labored on. In the darkness, it was hard to
tell that they were indeed moving at all (in fact, they were moving
much slower upstream than the orcs, who had far overestimated the
Company's rowing ability and completely lost track of them, even
with their night-eyes). At last, as far as they could judge, they
had broken free of the rapids and were able to gradually row
towards the western shore. Under the shadow of the bushes leaning
out over the water they halted and waited while Sam, who had done
most of the rowing while the boats were jammed together, caught
his breath and tried not to cough up a lung.
Lego-lass laid down her paddle and took up the +3 bow that she had
brought from Lorien. Then she sprang ashore and climbed a little
way up the bank. Stringing the bow and fitting an arrow she turned,
peering back over the river into the darkness. Across the water
there were some whistles and catcalls, but nothing could be seen.
Lego-lass turned away, sorry that she had not found a target to aim
at but a little relieved that she could not see the orcs whistling
at her, either. But now great clouds advanced from the South,
obscuring sections of the starry fields. The Company suddenly felt
a fear of the dark much like Sam's fear of the river.
"Elbereth Gilthoniel!" sighed Lego-lass as she looked up. Even
as she did so, a dark shape, like a cloud and yet not a cloud, for
it moved far more swiftly, came out of the blackness in the South,
and sped towards the Company, blotting out all light as it
approached. Soon it appeared as a great winged creature, blacker
than the pits in the night. Fierce voices rose up to greet it
from across the water. Frodo felt a sudden recognition running
through him and the memory of an old, old fear. He crouched down,
as if to hide.
Suddenly the great bow of Lorien sang. It gave a rather marginal
rendition of Laer Cu Beleg (the Song of the Great Bow), as the bow
was accustomed to singing duets with its archer and was simply not a
good soloist. Frodo looked up just as the song reached a crescendo.
Almost above him the winged shape swerved. There was a harsh
croaking scream, as it fell out of the air, vanishing down into the
gloom of the eastern shore. The sky was empty again. There was a
tumult of many voices far away, scattered curses, shouts, and wailing
in the darkness, and then silence. Neither shaft nor cry came again
from the east that night.
After a while Aragon led the boats back upstream. They felt their
way along the water's edge to a small shallow bay where they awaited
the dawn. A thin smoke wafted down from the east, borne by a very
"Praised be the bow of Galadriel, and the hand-eye coordination of
Lego-lass!" said Giggly, as he munched a twinkie. He marveled at
the tensile strength of elf hair. "That was a mighty shot in the
dark, my friend!" Even Arwen could not suppress a hearty "you go,
girl!" but the Men looked away, embarassed.
"But who can say what it hit?" said Lego-lass.
"I cannot," said Giggly. "But you were right to shoot first and
ask questions later. I am glad that the shadow came no nearer. Too
much it reminded me of the shadow in Moira - the shadow of the
Balrog," he ended in a whisper.
"It was not a Balrog," said Frodo, still shivering with a strange
sense of foreboding. "I think it was - " Then he paused and fell
"What do you think?" asked Boromir eagerly, seeming to catch
"I think - no, I will not say," answered Frodo. "Whatever it was,
its fall has thrown our enemies into disarray."
"So it seems," said Aragon, his face still red. He could not look
Lego-lass or Arwen in the eye. "But what the day will show who can
tell? Have your weapons close to hand!" With this he hefted
Endurit and flexed his biceps ostentatiously.
Sam sat tapping the hilt of his sword with a dumbfounded look, and
looking up at the sky. No one noticed this, of course, but at length
he murmured, "It's very strange. The Moon's the same in the Shire
and in Wilderland, but it seems to be running slower. You'll remember,
Mister Frodo, that it was waning as we lay up in that tree; a week
from the full, I reckon. And we'd been a week out of Lorien when up
pops a New Moon thin as an anorexic barrow wight. Anyone would think
that time did not count in the Elvish country!"
Lego-lass and Frodo, hearing a now-familiar sloshing from the east
bank, exchanged significant looks. "Perhaps that was the way of it,"
said Frodo, too loudly for Sam's liking. "In that land, maybe, we
were in a time that has elsewhere long gone by - ISN'T THAT RIGHT,
LEGO-LASS?" he ended almost in a shout.
"QUITE SO, Frodo," answered Lego-lass. "Time tarries in fair Loth-
lorien, so that those who dwell at its heart do not age at all, even
as centuries pass in the surrounding lands. Why, we were probably in
there six or seven hundred years! How many generations of Bagginses
have grown and gone in the Shire, do you think?" Suddenly from a
shadowed alcove on the bank there was a gasp, a strangled cry that
turned into a hoarse wailing, and then a steady muted slamming as if
of a soft object on a rock.
Frodo mused, "The wearing of time must be slowed by the power of the
Lady. Rich are the hours in Caras Galadhon, where Galadriel wields
"SHHHH!" hissed Arwen sotto voce. "Grandma's really sensitive about
her jewelry. See that Elfstone she gave Aragon? That's a common
semiprecious stone, a copper a dozen in Rivendell. She says that if
he expects to ever wear the real emerald, he'd better show he
deserves it." Her voice sounded none too confident to Frodo.
The night passed silently. No sloshing or head-banging was heard
again from the water. The travellers huddled in their boats felt
the weather getting warmer and moister as the River took them towards
the still-distant sea. The rushing of the rapids grew louder as the
the Company was tested and found wanting in whitewater skills. A
white fog swathed the shore; the far bank could not be seen.
"I can't abide fog," said Sam, "but maybe it will hide us from those
"Orcs, you mean?" queried Morrie.
"Same difference," snapped Frodo quickly.
"What IS the difference? Old Bilbo never did explain---" yammered
"Enough, you silly hobbits!" cried Boromir. "Where in Middle-earth
would anyone find petty nitpickers such as you?!"
"Quiet, all of you!" interjected Aragon. "I'm trying to chart our
course past Sarn Eisner and down to the Emyn Mail."
Boromir said, "If we are almost at the Emyn Mail, I do not see
why we cannot just abandon these boats---"
"YES! YES! OH, SWEET ELBERETH, YES! WOO-HOO!" screamed Sam.
"We can, if we are making for Minas Tirith," countered Aragon,
"but that is not yet agreed. And such a course may be more perilous
than it sounds. The vale of Mentwash is flat and fenny, and Sam
would have a hard time lugging nine packs through it on foot.
I would not abandon our boats until we must. The River is at least
a path that cannot be missed."
Sam looked as if he would willingly carry the Company's baggage all
the way to Mount Viagra to be rid of the boats now. In truth, he
was seriously entertaining the notion of borrowing the Ring the next
time Frodo was asleep. Surely Master Frodo would not notice its
absence for the short minute it would take to "convince" Aragon to
hack the boats to pieces with Endurit or do away with them himself.
"But the Enemy holds the eastern bank," objected Boromir.
"And even if you pass the Gates of Argonath and are admitted to the
other side, what will you do then? Leap down the Falls and land in
"Hah! Shows how much YOU know!" answered Aragon. "If you were as
competent a leader as I am, you would have Sam bear our boats by the
ancient way to Rauros-foot, and there take to the water again."
(Hurin making his last stand at the Fen of Screech could not have
looked more fell than Sam did at this moment.) "Did you not know,
Boromir, or do you choose to forget about the North Stair, and
the high seat upon Momin Hen, that were made in the days of the
great kings? Huh? Didya?"
After some browbeating Boromir admitted that he had heard of
Momin Hen and the North Stair, but that they had slipped his mind in
his hurry to get back to his home city before it was razed by a
hundred thousand Mordor orcs. "It is not the way of the Men of
Minas Tirith to desert their friends at need," he said, "and you
will need my strength, if ever you are to reach the Tindrock. To
the tall isle I will go, but no further. There I shall turn to my
home, alone if my help has not earned the reward of any
companionship." At this Boromir turned a puppy dog gaze on
each member of the Company in turn. Even Lego-lass was moved by
the sheer pathos of his expression. Millenia of stewardship and all
the courtly brown-nosing skill that they entailed were not lost on
Boromir. Aragon was left with a hefty guilt trip, but being
engaged to Arwen for over thirty years had taught him how to shake
those off quickly.
The fog lifted as the day grew and Aragon and Lego-lass prepared
to go scouting ahead. Aragon hoped to find a short-cut. "Boats
of the Elves might not sink," he said, "but that does not say that
we should come through Sarn Eisner with a penny to our names. None
have done so yet."
"Well, it was nice knowing you, Aragon," smirked Boromir. The
expenses of this land were enumerated in many a tale told to
frighten Gondorian children, princes being no exception.
"Wait for one week," said Aragon. "If we do not return in that
time, then you will know that evil has indeed befallen us (or that
we have found a REALLY good dinner buffet). Then you must take a
new leader and follow her as you will." Arwen had been looking a
trifle jealous and Aragon hoped that this would mollify her.
As Frodo saw Aragon and Lego-lass climb the steep bank and vanish
into the mists, he had a feeling that they weren't coming back.
Little did he know that the rest of the Company was thinking
likewise; but all their fears proved groundless. In less than
half a day, Aragon and Lego-lass came staggering back, looking
"All is well," said Aragon, as he clambered down the bank. "Not
only is there a track, but there is a whole strip of inexpensive
fast food joints only an hour's hike downstream. There is no
buffet, but all manner of diners are there. There is even a little
fruit stand if you fancy a bit of dessert."
As promised, Sam was laden with a boat, though Giggly and Boromir
magnanimously carried the packs. In two trips the Company was
able to bring both the goods and the boats along the portage-way
to the cheap dining district that Aragon had mentioned. Giggly
was at first disappointed that there were really only four very
shoddy-looking shacks, but suddenly his eyes brightened. A sign
in the back of the food court read:
DURIN'S LAST STAND
OVER 140 SERVED
"Surely this is a franchise of the hamburger chain founded by our
ancient forefather, perhaps the only remaining one in Middle-earth,
or at least on this side of the Misty Mountains!"
The proprietor, an aged Dwarf, came hobbling out. Giggly and the
hobbits, not having tasted fast food for months, were most eager
to place their orders, and Frodo ordered an extra 6-piece box of
chicken nuggets. The Dwarf swore that his special sauce was handed
down from Mahal himself, "or my name's not Max Goldstein."
"Your name is Max Goldstein?" piped Pipsqueak.
"What of it?" said Max. "I am a Dwarf. If you prick us, do we
"Hey, where's my pound-o-flesh burger?" shouted Boromir.
Max was unfazed. "If you tickle us, do we not laugh?" He tickled
Giggly for emphasis and was rewarded with a long giggling fit. "If
you poison us, do we not turn to stone?" he continued.
"Actually, they say that's an old wives' tale..." started Giggly,
but Max continued.
"And if you wrong us, do we not hold a helluva grudge?"
Lego-lass laughed, "Aye, that you do!"; but Max laughed in return
and called to his assistant, a Dwarvish boy who struck up a lively
tune as Max started dancing with the Elves.
As Max's other assistant served the Men, Arwen declined to order,
citing a need to watch her weight. She and Lego-lass walked to
the other side of the food court, where a very run-down hut sat
next to the river. The lettering was nearly worn off in several
places on the sign:
PEDRO'S MELONS AND MINNOWS
FRESH FRUIT AND BAIT
The Elves went in. From behind the counter stepped a thin Elf who
introduced himself as Pedro. "You ladies have no idea how hard it
is to get business in these parts," he sighed.
"Maybe you should advertise," suggested Lego-lass.
"Are you kidding? I've advertised from here to the Eregion gate
of Moira, but it's had no effect."
"Really? We just came from Moira."
"And you didn't see my ads? I should have known. They've probably
worn thin after all these years. I haven't had time to go back and
touch them up, you know."
Arwen had a small ambrosia salad and Lego-lass ordered half of a
cantaloupe. The two of them wished Pedro improved luck and started
back to rejoin the Company.
Suddenly Arwen caught something out of the corner of her eye. "Come
on, Lego-lass!" she cried. "I decided to get a nonfat Elvish latte
at Max's..." Suddenly she grabbed Lego-lass's hand and started to
run. Lego-lass though this passing strange, but was distracted as
she almost tripped over Pedro's nephew playing in the street, under
a small sign whose post was formed from the shaft of a single Elvish
arrow of apparent Lorien manufacture. The point of the arrow was
jammed into a smoking cart around which several orcs were busily
setting up, and upon which others in aprons were busily carving with
their scimitars while shoving each other around. From the top of the
sign extended a very large feather. Arwen shot a glance backward:
BAR-B-Q EEGIL BURGURS
She shook her head sadly and pulled harder on Lego-lass's hand.
Back at Durin's Last Stand, Max was still dancing. He had formed a
line with both of his assistants and they were performing a dance that
the hobbits had last seen in the Old Forest. When they finished, the
Company applauded politely. Max explained that he had learned the
dance from a traveling troupe that had recently passed through the
Grey Lands on its way to a nine-city tour of Gondor. He showed a
flier for the troupe to the travellers:
TOM BOMBADIL'S RIVERPRANCE
Coming soon to a mannish citadel near you!
"I've been advertising for them with these fliers, but it's so hard
to distribute them that I'm afraid I'm not much help," said Max.
"Why don't you just use Eagles?" suggested Boromir. "They could,
well, fly them for you."
"I had the same idea, and finally hired an air courier through the
Emyn Mail Post Office last month, but he never came back from this
week's delivery. I wonder why..."
Arwen bent low and whispered something to Frodo that made him blanch.
"I feared it was so," was all he said, and Lego-lass could not get
him to explain further.
Soon it began to rain, as the Company sat under one of Max's awnings
and nodded off one by one. Slowly the sky above grew lighter and
the clouds parted to reveal the black, paved hills of Emyn Mail,
closer than ever. The next morning the travellers bade farewell to
Max and launched their boats into a wide ravine.
Frodo peering forward saw in the distance two great rocks approaching:
like great pinnacles or pillars of stone they seemed. Tall and sheer
and ominous they stood upon either side of the stream. A narrow gap
appeared between them, and the River swept the boats towards it.
"Behold the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings!" cried Aragon. "We
shall pass them soon. Keep the boats in line, and as far apart as
you can. As always, please remain seated and keep hands and feet
inside the boats at all times."
As Frodo was borne towards them the great pillars rose like towers to
meet him. Giants they seemed to him, vast grey figures silent but
strangely reassuring. Then he saw that they were indeed shaped and
fashioned: the craft and power of old had wrought upon them, and
they were frozen in perpetual welcoming postures. Upon great
pedestals founded in the deep waters stood two great kings of stone:
still with joyful expressions they smiled upon the North. The left
hand of each was raised palm outwards as if waving to an adoring
crowd; in each right hand there was a sack, brimming with gold. Great
power and majesty they still wore, the silent wardens of an ancient
kingdom. Awe fell upon Frodo, and he cowered down, shutting his eyes
as the realization dawned that no inheritance could ever match the
wealth and grandeur of these kings. Even Boromir bowed as the
boats chugged by, frail and fleeting as little leaves, under the
enduring shadow of the sentinels of Numenor. So they passed under
the dark chasm of the Gates.
Sheer rose the dreadful cliffs on either side. The black waters
roared as Sam shrieked to wake dead and undead alike, called for
his mommy, and finally seemed to channel the spirit of Brandobas
Took as he roared a challenge to the Nazdaq. Frodo was convinced
that he had gone quite completely mental.
"Fear not!" said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned and saw
Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weatherworn Ranger was garbed
now as a Tour Guide. In the stern sat Aragon son of Arathon, proud
and fun-loving, guiding the boat with skillful strokes; his hood
was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light
was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land.
"Fear not!" he repeated for dramatic effect. "Long have I desired
to look upon the likenesses of Elendil and Anarchion, my sires of
old. Under their shadow Elessar, the Elfstone son of Arathon son
of Aradud of the House of Wupdidu Elendil's son, heir of Isildur,
scion of the lords of Andunie..." - and in this fashion he
continued rambling on through his pedigree for the better part of
an hour - "... has nothing to fear!"
Then the light of his eyes faded, and he spoke to himself: "Where
was I? Oh, a quest to destroy the One Ring and overthrow Sauron.
Frodo looked up. "Is Elendil dressed like a... a giant rat?" he
"And the other one looks like some sort of... bad-tempered
waterfowl!" Morrie added. "What kind of outfit is that?"
"Sssssshhh!" snapped Boromir. "Show some respect!"
"Anarchion is depicted in the garb of the Sea-Kings," said Lego-lass.
"... but he's got no pa--" began Pipsqueak.
"RESPECT, dammit!" shouted Aragon, losing his kingly image for a
The chasm was long and dark, and filled with the noise of wind and
rushing water and echoing stone. It bent somewhat towards the west,
but gradually a gap of light drew near and the boats shot through
into a long oval lake. Pale Nen Inenibubu, fenced by steep grey
hills whose sides were clad with trees, gleamed in the afternoon
"Behold Tol Brandir!" said Aragon, pointing south to the tall peak.
"Upon the left stands Momin Lhaw, and upon the right is Momin Hen,
the Hills of the Shrew and the Chicken. In the days of the great
kings there were high seats upon them, and watch was kept there.
Tol Brandir has a nice ride inside it, which I highly recommend if
we get a chance to come back for a longer visit, but there's not
enough time to get through the line now. And listen! I hear the
endless voice of Riproaros calling."
The Company rested now for a while, drifting south on the current
that flowed through the middle of the lake. They ate some Easterling
take-out from the stand between Max's and Pedro's. Frodo's fortune
cookie read: You will soon take a cruise with an old friend.
The sides of the westward hills fell into shadow, and the Sun grew
red and slowly sank as they drifted. By nightfall, they had reached
the shadow of the dreaded paved hills.
The tenth day of their journey was over. Wilderland was behind them.
They could go no further without choice between the east-way and
the west. The last stage of the Quest was before them.
"Everyone remember where we parked," said Aragon.
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
William H. Hsu <bhsu-aaaaaaat-ringil-dawt-cis.ksu.edu>.
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.
Boromir, Minas Tirith and Gondor are trademarks of Saul Zaentz and Tolkien Enterprises, who hold all merchandising rights to Gondor and its subsidiaries.
Exposure treatment therapy for potamophobia is recommended only when
bloodthirsty orcs are NOT aiming black-feathered arrows at your vitals. This
health tip is brought to you by the River-elves Chapter of the Survivors of the War of the Jewels.