The Lord of the... whatever, Book I, Chapter 10:


     Frodo hurried the others ahead of him, anxious to get to the
safety of the parlour. Morrie had not yet arrived, but Frodo
locked and barred the door anyway, worried about any creditors
that might be seeking him. It was not until he had puffed up the
embers of the fire that he discovered that Strider had somehow
slipped ahead of them. There he was calmly sitting in a chair!
     "You cannot escape me so easily," he said with a slow smile. "You
promised to have a quiet talk with me, after all."
     "What have you to say?" Frodo asked, alarmed.
     "Several things," answered Strider. "But, of course, I have my
price." He looked at Frodo expectantly.
     Several moments passed in silence.
     "Well?" Strider said at last. "Will you not make me an offer?"
     Frodo thought uncomfortably of his lost accounts. "I cannot," he
said with reluctance. "All that I have now would hardly satisfy a
rogue, and I cannot spare any of it."
     "Don't be ridiculous," Strider said. "You're a Baggins, no matter
how you try to pass yourself off as an Underhill. Everyone knows
that you have plenty of money."
     "Oh, indeed!" cried Frodo. "Well, that is no longer true. I am
afraid that I have nothing to my name, save some small spare
     Strider laughed. "You are, of course, in jest."
     "I am not."
     Several more moments passed. Strider looked at the hobbits with
narrowed eyes.
     "Are you serious?"
     Frodo squirmed a little; but Pipsqueak answered readily. "Yes, he
is!" he exclaimed. "Frodo has lost almost everything he owns,
thanks to Gandalf."
     Strider stared at them for a moment longer, then turned away in
disgust. "This is NOT fair!" he shouted, glaring at the ceiling.
     "Sorry," said a disembodied voice. "Take it up with the Heroes'
     "Don't think I won't," Strider muttered. "This is the fourth
charity case this year." He turned back to the hobbits and forced
a smile on his face. "Very well, I will assist you for nothing."
     "Who said we want your help?" blurted Sam. He did not the look of
this pudgy, tall Man.
     "You certainly need help from someone. That much is clear,"
Strider answered. "Otherwise, you will never get out of Bree
alive, much less reach Rivendell. You are not my ideal choice of
travelling companions; but I see no other way to handle the
matter. I hope we shall get to know one another better. When we
do, I hope you will explain what happened at the end of your
song, Mr. Baggins. That little prank has made people notice you."
     "It was sheer accident!" Frodo defended himself. "The Ring
somehow slipped onto my finger!"
     "The Ring?" Strider said sharply. "You have not the Ring, Frodo.
Why else did you fail to disappear?"
     Frodo opened his mouth to protest, then shut it again. Strider
was right! The Ring should have made him invisible! He pulled the
small circle of gold out of his pocket and examined it closely.
It was a cheap imitation, not the real thing!
     "Where is the Ring?" Strider demanded. "We cannot allow it to be
     The hobbits looked at each other, then --
     "Morrie!" they chorused.
     "No wonder he slipped away!" Frodo exclaimed. "He has gone to use
the Ring himself."
     "But Frodo's pants fell down," protested Pipsqueak. "Are you sure
that wasn't the Ring's work?"
     "Frodo is rather out of shape, is he not?" said Strider with a
curl of his lip. "It is not surprising that his belt could no
longer bear to support his trousers."
     "You're not in better shape yourself," Frodo retorted,
     Strider looked down at his own ample middle and shrugged. "It is
a disguise of sorts. No one expects the heir of Elendil to be
     "Elendil," Strider repeated. At the blank expression on the
hobbits' faces, he tried again. "Isildur's eldest son? Lord of
the Numenoreans? Come on, the kingdom of Arnor?"
     Frodo shook his head. "Never heard of it," he said.
     "Ridiculous! Haven't you even heard of the fabulous swords of
Westernesse?" Strider rummaged in his pack and withdrew several
sharp knives, long, shaped like the ears of an elf, and keen, of
marvellous workmanship, damasked in red and gold. Each scabbard
was stamped in tiny black letters with the words, "MADE IN
     Frodo took one and turned it over in his hands, almost slicing
his palm open in the process. "They are beautiful blades," he
said in wonder.
     "Guaranteed to break undead wills, or your money back," said
Strider proudly. He paused in hope for a moment; but when the
hobbits did not offer to pay, he sighed and leaned back in his
     "And Arwen wonders why I can't get any financial backing," he
muttered to himself. After a moment, he drew his hand across his
brow. "Well, I have become accustomed to such treatment. So what
must I do to convince you?"
     "I don't know," Frodo admitted. "Why the disguise? Who are you
really? What do you know about the Ring, and how do you know it?"
     Strider frowned. "Why should you believe my story, if you do not
trust me already? Still here it is --"
     At that moment there was a knock on the door. The hobbits 
jumped at first, then realized it was only Butterball, bringing them
candles and cans of hot water. As Frodo opened the door, Strider
withdrew into a dark corner.
     "I've come to bid you good night," Butterball began, his voice
grudging. Then, looking troubled, he withdrew a letter from his
pocket. The parchment was crumpled and stained with jelly and
     "I'm not a postman," he grumbled, "and Gandalf didn't offer me
much money to deliver this."
     "Gandalf!" Frodo cried.
     "Yes, Gandalf. Dratted old wizard! Still, I don't need him
putting curses on his beer; I'm a busy man, with no time or money
to spare for having hexes removed. So here, take this letter.
Gandalf left it here yesterday morning for a Mr. Baggins."
     "But I told you my name is Underhill," Frodo interrupted.
     Butterball frowned. "Do you really think anyone was fooled?
Everyone knows 'Sharkey' Baggins. And if I was you, Mr. Baggins,
I'd be paying a tidy sum more for the chance of a peaceful night
without anyone bothering you, if you know what I mean."
     Frodo did not bother to try to explain that he was currently
broke. He snatched the letter out of Butterball's hands and
hastily shoved him out the door.
     "What do we do now?" Frodo asked wildly. "Butterball's threats
are clear enough, and I don't have any money to give him!"
     "Start by reading the letter," Strider advised, coming out of 
his dark corner.
     Frodo examined the letter. It was written in Gandalf's usual
illegible scrawl.

   Dear Frodo,

   Bad news has reached me here about your secret bank account
   in Isengard. I must go off at once, and cannot wait for you
   any longer. Leave a message for me here, if you pass through
   Bree; the landlord (Butterball) is not very trustworthy, but
   he won't cheat you much. You may meet a friend of mine on the
   Road: a Man, tall, a bit overweight, dark, by some called
   Strider. He knows our business and will help you, if you pay
   him enough. Make for Rivendell. El Rond will advise you.

   Yours in haste


   P.S. Why didn't you give me your account number? It would have
   made things much easier.   

   P.P.S. Don't use IT again, or you'll be leaving behind a trail
   of outraged husbands that will make it too easy to track you.   

   P.P.P.S. Make sure it is the real Strider. There are many strange
   men on the roads, and most of them are overweight. His true
   name is Aragon.

        While all that is gold does not glitter,
          The wandering folk can get lost;
        The loss of a kingdom is bitter,
          Especially when out in the frost.
        For an elf-maid his ardor will be woken,
          For her sake he'll do anything;
        He can't fight with blade that is broken,
          But who knows? He just might be king!      

Frodo reread the letter, stunned that Gandalf had discovered 
his secret bank account and that even that money would be lost.
"Things are going from bad to worse," he groaned.
     As Frodo passed the letter to Pipsqueak, Morrie furtively 
slipped into the room. Strider pounced on him immediately and 
wrested the Ring from him.
     "Take it back," he snapped at Frodo, tossing the Ring at him,
"and this time, keep an eye on it!"
     Frodo fumbled with the chain, then slipped the Ring back into 
his pocket. "Why did you do something so foolish?" he cried to
Morrie. "And how did you use it?"
     "I didn't do much," Morrie defended himself. "Well, I went out
for a stroll --"
     "I'll just bet you did," snorted Pipsqueak, glancing up from the
     Morrie glared at him, then looked at Strider. "Who is this?"
     "That's what I want to know," said Sam, who had fidgeted silently
beside his master during the confrontation with Strider. "I don't
trust him." He glared at Strider. "What say you to that?"
     "That you are an idiot," answered Strider. "If I was not who
I say I am, I could have easily overpowered you already. You have
just seen how I willingly gave the Ring back to your master. In
fact, if I wanted to kill you all, I could do it -- NOW!"
     He stood up, and suddenly seemed to grow taller and well-muscled.
In his eyes gleamed a light, keen and feral. Throwing back his
cloak, he laid his hand on the hilt of a long sword that had hung
concealed by his side. Sam stared at it, horrified.
     "But I am the real Strider, fortunately," he said, looking
down at them with a suddenly kinder eye. He smiled. "I am already
betrothed to an elf-maid, and I have no need for the power of the
Ring. I am Aragon son of Arathon; and if I can save you from your
own stupid mistakes, then I will."
     There was a long silence. Pipsqueak and Morrie stared at 
Strider with new-found respect at this revelation of his state.
     "I think we will have to trust you," Frodo said at last. "What 
do you think we should do?"
     "Stay here, and do not go to your rooms!" said Strider.
"Butterball sells an excellent beer, but he will also surely sell
information about you to the highest bidder; and the location of
the hobbit rooms in this inn are well known. We will all remain
together here instead."
     "So much for a comfortable bed," Sam said gloomily. "I don't 
like this, and that's a --"
     "Will you stop that!" shouted Pipsqueak. He thumped Sam solidly
on the head.
     Muttering to himself, Sam slouched into the corner and prepared
for bed.
     Strider remained sitting by the fire, warming his hands as
the hobbits dropped off to sleep one by one. Once he was sure they
were snoring loudly, Strider rose noiselessly from his chair:
swiftly and silently he rummaged through their belongings.
     "So they were telling the truth about not having any money," he
mumbled disappointedly. "Elendil! It looks like I'll have to take
them with me to Rivendell for nothing, after all."
     Moodily drawing a bottle from Frodo's hidden stash of
Westfarthing Chinook, Strider returned to his chair by the door
to await the coming of the Sun.

Book I, Chapter Nine / Table of Contents / Book I, Chapter Eleven
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