The Lord of the... whatever, Book V, Chapter 4:


[Staccato, repetitive music.  Close on the two anchors, one an
excessively perky helmet-blonde, the other a dour, thick-browed greying
crew-cut brunet, seated behind a desk emblazoned with the tengwar
parma-tinco.  Behind them, a night shot of the towers of Minas Tirith™,
the floodlit Tower of Commerce at center-right.]

Anchor 1:  Good evening!  And welcome! to the midnight edition of
PalanTirith! featuring round-the-clock news from Minas Tirith™!  I'm
Melineth Malthuriel! and this is my co-host, Sargon Turgonion!

Anchor 2: Thank you Melineth, and good evening.  Our lead story
tonight, the tenth of Súlime thirty-nineteen, and for the next several
nights to come, is [ominous music] Minas Tirith™ at War, featuring a
full range of features on the wartime conditions.  But first, we turn
to our weather correspondent, Súriel Gwildol!

[Weather correspondent appears.  She looks much like Anchor 1, except
with poofier hair.]

Weather C.: Thanks, Sar!  Well, have we got weather tonight!  Muggy and
sticky tonight, with no chance of rain, but we've got another warm
front moving in from the east, carrying a huge bank of clouds from
Mount Viagra.  Wonder what's cooking out there, huh?  Moms, better take
your washing in early 'cause we might get a little ash falling out from
those clouds, though it looks as if all that air is going to be lifted
up over the cooler air this side of Anduin.  The current temperature is
just above freezing, with highs later on today in the fifties.

Anchor 1: Thanks for the report, Súriel!  Well, we're all wondering
what's cooking in the Black Land, aren't we, Sargon?!

Anchor 2: Indeed we are, Melineth.

Anchor 1: And our first report! looks at preparations for war within
the City!  Let's go to our star roving reporter, Ariellë Húriniel!

[Shot of reporter standing in the street shouting into microphone while

Reporter: Well, all around me the preparations are going on to bring
Minas Tirith™ into a war footing!  But we're by no means unprepared. 
Ever since trade negotiations with Mordor looked like they were going
to break down over the copyright issue, Lord Denethor™ has been buying
up stock, hiring corporate lawyers, and dominating the news, scoring
coup after propaganda coup!  We're definitely well positioned to ride
that one out.

Anchor 2: Well, that's good to know, Ariellë.  Can you tell us exactly
where you are right now?

Reporter:  I'm right in the absolute thick of things, Sargon; in the
heart of the Citadel itself, at the barracks of the Citadel Guard,
where, as you can imagine, excitement is rising to a fever pitch!

[Camera pulls back to reveal an empty, silent street.]

Anchor 1:  Ariellë, tell us about that uniform you're wearing!

Reporter: Well, as you know, I'm a long-time member of the Guard
Reserve, and I've just been activated due to the emergency, though I
expect to continue serving PalanTirith as a reporter.  This is based on
the ancient Atlantean naval uniform, and it's full of symbolism!

Anchor 2: I can see that.

Reporter: Right now we're going to go into the Guard barracks, and see
what the boys are up to.  Let's go!

[Tracking shot follows Ariellë into barracks.  Lights shine on a very
fat old man leaning over one of the beds.]

Reporter: Well, as you can see, we have, uh, what we have here is, uh,
a man who seems to be engaged in the act of, uh, placing a pillow over
the face of one of the Guards.  Let's see if we can find out more.

[The man turns and blinks into the camera]

Reporter:  Why, it's Mesprendeur, formerly Court Fool™ of Gondor™! 
Would you like to tell us what's going on here?

*     *     *

   Gandalf turned around, sensing difficulties with his plot.  He found
himself staring down, down, down at a very young woman in the garb of a
soldier of the Citadel, holding a microphone into his face.  "Um," he
replied, "I was just engaging in some friendly fraternity hazing..."
   The young woman had, however slipped past him with her camera crew,
and they were focused on Pipsqueak, still gasping for air.
   "Why, aren't you the famous Prince Paragraph of Took, Lord of the
   "Hobbits," gasped Pipsqueak.  His gasps had less to do with want of
oxygen, or even outrage at the use of traditional Gondor™ian epithets,
than with the woman standing before him.  She was only a few inches
taller than Pipsqueak himself, with long red hair fastened up on each
side by seashell-shaped pins.  She could hardly be older than sixteen,
Pipsqueak thought, and wasn't especially well-developed for her age;
but she was wearing that remarkable uniform to great effect.
   "Hobbits," repeated the woman to the cameras, "is a term in the
Halfwitts' quaint northern dialect.  So tell me, Prince Paragraph, how
do you find Gondor™?"
   "Well, you take the rooad through Edoras, and toorn right at Mount
Minnie," Pipsqueak said brightly, falling easily into his new rôle and
making sure to have as rustic an accent as possible.
   "So why do you call yourselves hobbits?"
   "Oh," said Paragraph, "it's joost a name.  We could 'ave called
ourselves 'boggies', bot we liked the sound of 'obbits bettah."
   The other guards, who had woken at the sound of the interview,
crushed themselves around Pipsqueak and Gandalf, rendering escape for
the latter impossible.   When the messengers from Denethor™ came later
to summon them, the interview was still going on.

   Before long Pipsqueak was walking with Gandalf (under heavy guard)
once more down the marble passage to the Tower Hall.  There Denethor™
sat in the gloom, eyes darting to left and right, like a skittery
cockroach ready to bolt into the nearest crack in the wainscoting,
Pipsqueak thought; thus intuiting, though he did not know it,
Denethor™'s most common nickname among the folk of Gondor™.
   Denethor™ sat staring at the tickertape emerging from a machine on
his desk.  "Belfast Resorts down, MTStarChannel down, Lebanon Theme
Park down, PalanTirith way way down..." he mumbled sorrowfully to
himself.  He looked more hopeful when he saw Pipsqueak approaching, and
managed a sort of smile.
   "Well, Master Paragraph, I hope you have enjoyed the City?  Though
you may have found fewer drugs available than you hoped for."
   Pipsqueak had the uncomfortable feeling that there were a great many
surveillance cameras planted where he could not see them, and mentally
thwapped himself for not having thought of that before.
   "So, what would you do in my service?  Can you sing?  Tap dance? 
Jump through hoops?"
   "I can sing... a little," Pipsqueak answered half-truthfully.  "Well
enough for my own people.  But we have no songs fit for mighty castles
and theme parks, lord.  We seldom sing of anything more joyous than the
assassination of an enemy.  And most of my songs are sad and dolorous,
not to mention downright depressing."
   "And why should such songs be unfit for my castle?  We who have long
offered entertainment and amusement may surely listen to echoes from a
primitive and barbarous country without such benefits?  Then we may be
certain that there remain markets to be exploited."
   Pipsqueak's heart sank.  Most of the songs he knew were bawdy
ballads entirely out of place in the family-oriented atmosphere of
Minas Tirith™; but at length he dredged up from his memory a semi-clean
piece that was pseudo-traditional in his family, to be sung with a
Bucklebeltland Brogue:

   From the day that we're born till the day that we die,
   There's never a pleasure that money can't buy,
   So pour out the whiskey and drink it with glee,
   For Death and the Devil are our company!

   In the game-hall we gamble till money be gone,
   Then the shirts off our backs go to him who has won,
   But never mind money, we'll get more for free,
   When Death and the Devil are our company!

   In the bawdy-house we'll find Jill, Janet and Rox,
   We'll enjoy them each one till they give us the pox,
   Which the apothecary cures for a small fee,
   Since Death and the Devil are our company!

   In a dirty back alley well covered in mud,
   A jolly sharp bodkin shall pour out our blood,
   The four of us ever together shall be,
   We, Death and the Devil in one company!

   By the end of this song, Denethor™ was laughing and pounding his
fist on the table in time to the music.  "Well done!" he cried. 
"Flunkey!  We've got a new musical here!"
   Gandalf interrupted.  "Denethor™!" he said.  "We should be talking
about the Rohirrim and their policies, and the position of Eonard,
HeyHoDen's nephew..."
   "Nutz to that," Denethor™ replied.  "I already know all about it. 
Say, Paragraph, you'd better get into the livery of the Tower, I like
all of my manservants to wear it.  Return when you are suitably clad!"

   Pippin wandered somberly from the Tower, hoping against hope that he
would be spared the ordeal.  The weather, as predicted, was quite
gloomy, and it was only by sheer accident that, after many hours of 
"accidentally" wandering around the city (and noting the few gin-joints
and speakeasies still open for business) that he ran into Bererond
again.  Bererond had to chase him for many blocks before catching him;
but at last, yielding to the older man's sense of propriety, he found
himself ensconced with Bererond in a high embattlement of the city,
looking out at the scene below and licking his chocolate éclair.
      It was the sunset hour, and maybe across the river in Ethelien
Frodo and Sam were romping in Disgiliath, but here in the shadow of
Minas Minnie nothing so orgiastic could possibly occur. Pipsqueak
sighed.  Already it seemed years to him since he had come to Minas
Tirith™, when he had still been a footloose and spendthrift wastrel. 
Now he was an employee of the Tower of Commerce, earning a salary.  In
some other time and place Pipsqueak might have been pleased with his
benefit package, but he knew now that with Minas Tirith™'s stock
sinking like a rock, his options were fast becoming worthless.  He
   "You are concerned about your stock options?" Bererond said cannily.
   "Yes," admitted Pipsqueak, "very; but I'm more worried about the
depressing effect this trade war will have on the entire economy.  Not
to mention the depressing effect the weather is having on me.  Do you
often have such glooms when the wind is in the East?"
   "Nay," said Beregond, "this is no weather of the world.  This is
some pollution brewed by the Dark Lord in his great factories in
Nurnenshire.  Doubtless he is producing some new product that can be
produced more cheaply and in more massive quantities than our own
tourist fare."
   "Yes," said Pipsqueak.  "I think Gandalf is also worried about the
competition.  And I think he was disappointed not to find Faramir here. 
And where has he got to?  He seemed to have lost some argument with
Denethor™, and was in a bad mood, more so than usual.  Perhaps he has
some foreboding of Bad News."

*     *     *

Anchor 1: Good evening!  And welcome! to our evening edition of
PalanTirith! featuring round-the-clock news from Minas Tirith™!  I'm
Melineth Malthuriel! and this is my co-host, Sargon Turgonion!

Anchor 2: Thank you Melineth, and good evening.  In late breaking news,
we have word that Doctor Faramir, eldest son and heir presumptive to
Lord and CEO Denethor™ of Gondor™ Enterprises, is attempting to return
to Minas Tirith™ just ahead of a host of lawyers and accountants from

Anchor 1: And we turn now! to our on-the-spot star reporter, Ariellë

[Short of upper battlements of Minas Tirith™.   Reporter with hair
blowing in a fierce wind, one hand pressed to earphones, shouting into
microphone.  Pipsqueak and Bererond in the background, peering over the

Reporter: Melineth, I can barely hear you, but right now we've got a
good zoom shot on the exciting events going down on the Pelennor.  Can
we show our viewers?

[Close-up shot of Pelennor.  A swift-moving column of cars, trailed by
a squadron of motorcyclists, is traversing the road to the City gate.]

Anchor 2's voice: Ariellë, can you tell us what's going on down there?

Reporter's voice:  Well, it looks like Dr. Faramir's motocade is
proceeding up the highway, and not far behind him at all is a group of
either paparazzi, or it could be lawyers, in hot pursuit!

Anchor 1's voice [breathless]: Do you think they're going to make it?

Reporter's voice:  It's too early to tell, but they've definitely got a
definitive chance!  Hold on... there's something strange going on...
can you hear that noise back there?

Anchor 2:  Can you turn up the gain there?


Anchor 1: Yes, we can hear it.  It sounds like....

*     *     *

"Black Men!" muttered Pipsqueak.  "Black Men of the air!"

"So you know of them," Bererond replied. "But in enlightened Minas
Tirith™, we refer to them as the 'Men in Black'."

"Then those must be...." Pipsqueak faltered.

"Alas, yes.  Those are their Black Helicopters."

"But see, Bererond!  They are hunting something, surely?  See how they
bank and dive, always down to that point over there?  And can you see
something moving on the ground?  Dark little things.  Yes, men in
automovili, four or five.  [Expletive deleted]  Where the [expletive
deleted] is Gandalf?


   Faint through the noise of the choppers came the long wail of a
siren, ending on a long high note. 
   "Doctor Faramir!  It is his call!" cried Bererond. "But how can he
win through, if these foul whirlybirds are armed with long-range
remote-guided missile systems?  Will no one go out to him?  Faramir!"

*     *     *


Anchor 1: Ariellë?  Ariellë, can you hear us?

[a moment of silence]

Reporter [faintly]: Yes, I can hear you.  I'm sorry, I'm.... I'm
finding this personally difficult.  It appears that the NAZDAQ
helicopters have taken up position over Doctor Faramir's motorcade. 
They may be firing upon it.

Anchor 2 [compassionately]: Ariellë, if you need a moment to compose

Reporter: Thank you, I'll be all right.

Anchor 1: We can see a flash of white and silver coming from the left
hand side of our screens.  Can you tell us what that is?

Reporter:  Um, well, it looks like it could be... can we zoom in any
closer than that?  It looks rather like a white and silver Lamborghini
heading toward the motorcade.  And we've got some observers in the
background cheering it on!

Pipsqueak: Gandalf!  Gandalf!  Way to go!  Go get 'em, Gandalf!  Baby
needs a new pair of boots!  Go on!  Go on, Knight Rider!  Go go

Bererond: Naz-daq!  Naz-daq!  Shoot 'em down, Men in Black!  I've got
fifty silver ridin' on ya! Go on, Mordor!

Reporter: Well, as always, there are some differences of opinion...

Anchor 2: It looks as if the helicopters have noticed the intruder--

[Sound of machine-gun fire in the background]

Reporter: They're shooting... but no!  It's a bullet-proof Lamborghini! 
Armed with  ...  it can't be... yes! 

[A flash of flame erupts from the vicinity of the white streak, and
there is an explosion near the Black Helicopters.  They turn wildly,
regain control, and fly off East in a precision formation]

Reporter: Stinger anti-aircraft missiles!

Anchor 1: What a deal, huh!

Reporter [grinning]: And the best part is, we bought them from Mordor

Anchor 2: So what's going on down there?  It looks as if the
Lamborghini were headed straight for the lead car and....

[Distant sounds of crunching metal]

[A moment of silence]

Reporter: We appear to have, er, some kind of a sort of a situation
here.... [sotto voce] damn, that was a nice car.

*     *     *

   It was not long before a noisy hubbub was heard in the streets
leading up from the outer circles, and there was much cursing and
crying of the names of Faramir and Mesprendeur.  Presently Pipsqueak
saw headlights, and followed by a huge crowd, Mesprendeur riding slowly
on a huge Haug of Mordor (or Harlë in the Elfish tongue).  On his
handlebars, spread in a good imitation of a Pietá, was the limp body of
Doctor Faramir.
   Pipsqueak pressed forward as they passed through the gates, and when
he saw Faramir's death-like face he caught his breath.  It was not the
pallor that dismayed him -- he had seen corpses aplenty before -- but
the unholy likeness between Faramir's visage and that of Gandalf riding
   The Haug screeched to a halt, still belching smoke.  "Friends,"
Gandalf said sadly, "I come to you bringing ill news.  Here is Doctor
Faramir, who has been, I fear, mortally wounded in the motor accident
that tragically occurred just as I was saving him from the grip of the
evil Black Helicopters."
   A sigh arose from the crowd, as well as a high-pitched "No!" from
Pipsqueak.  At its sound, Faramir suddenly opened his eyes.
   "I'm not dead yet!" he gasped, glazed eyes staring at the heavens. 
"I have seen... halfwitts!  Like him!" he continued, pointing in
Pipsqueak's direction, "But in Ethelien, bearing the R..."
   At Faramir's first words, Gandalf bent over him with a concerned
look.  One hand of Gandalf's was upon Faramir's breast and another
behind his neck as Faramir's last word collapsed into a dying croak. 
"Alas, alas!" cried Gandalf.  "Faramir has passed away even as he gave
us his last words: 'Victory, victory to Gondor™ forever!'  Farewell,
Prince of Gondor™!  Take him away to the Tombs.  Bitter will be this
death for Denethor™, Steward and CEO."  He bowed his head in grief.

   So at length Gandalf and Pipsqueak came to the private chamber of
Denethor™.  There were recliners and good central heating, and cold
beers were brought; and Pipsqueak hid behind Denethor™'s chair, having
no will to get involved in the inevitable argument.
   "So, Denethor™," Gandalf began, "Now all have seen me risk my life
to save your son.  Let my good will to Gondor™ be doubted no more! 
Alas that I could not give my life to save his!"
   Denethor™ snorted.  "You killed him," he replied.
   "Piffle," quoth Gandalf.  "He sustained severe injuries in the car
   "Which you caused," interposed Denethor™.
   "Which accidentally happened in the course of my rescue mission. 
Would you rather he was killed by Nazdaq bullets?"
   Denethor™ shrugged.  "You tell me.  He was your son, after all."
   Gandalf arose, red-faced.  "I deny that!"
   "Whatever.  In any case, your point is that you have now convinced
certain gullible persons in the City that you are a hero, and you
intend to use your new-found status to claim influence.  Very well. 
What do you want?"
   Gandalf drew himself up, and began to speak as if declaiming a
speech long rehearsed.  "The Elder Age is gone, Denethor™, Lord of Men. 
The Middle Ages are passing. Now comes the New Age, and a vast fortune
is to be made selling crystals, beads, books, and tapes of soothing
music to an immense new market.  This is the world which we must rule!"
   "Bullcrap, Gandalf!  That'll always be a niche market and you know
it.  Whereas in every age people want to see movies about bouncy
animals with big eyes, so I'm not worried about these Ages anyway.  But
what do you mean 'we'?  You and your tapeworm?"
   Gandalf strode up and down the room, making Kow-milking motions with
his hands.  "I am offering you a state beyond your comprehension!  Do
you not see how events have providentially transpired?  Your heirs are
lost to you.  But, as if from heaven, there comes from the north a
scion of ..."
   "I have an heir, Mesprendeur," Denethor™ calmly interrupted.
   "What?" Gandalf sneered.  "Your elder son, Boromir™, is most
certainly dead -- I have reliable reports that he died in a hail of
Ork-bullets across the Anduin..."
   "Yes, yes, I know all that."
   "You do?"
   Denethor™ winked.  "Never mind."
   "And your son Faramir has just died."
   "I still have an heir.  And I wasn't planning on dying or going
bonkers just yet, so holdjer horses and wait in line and tell Aragon
son of Arabarf,  or whatever his name is, to park his résumé with
Central Casting."
   Gandalf stood up, tall and terrible, and fixed Denethor™ with a
deadly piercing gaze.  "My Lord Denethor™," he said, "the cares and
troubles of office, the tragical deaths of your two sons, and a rapidly
encroaching senility have weakened your reason.  Your wife Clarabella
is long dead, you are old and impotent, and since her death you have
preferred the company of strapping young men in very short sailor
tunics.  You cannot possibly have an heir."
   Denethor™ burst out laughing.  "Did you come all this way just to
try to reclaim your job as Court Fool?  You're just proving that you
really were 'out of the loop'.  I remarried years back, in a small
private ceremony to which you were not invited.  And you vastly
underestimate the power of the loins of the House of Húrin.  As for the
Guard uniform - heh - I just think it's cute."
   "Then who is this heir?" Gandalf shouted furiously.
   "Ah," replied Denethor™ with a grin, laying a finger aside of his
nose, "perhaps my heir would be safer if left unknown to Monsieur
Mesprendeur.  I leave it to you to find out.  But I'll give you some
hints: despite a certain youthful appearance, my heir has already
solo-climbed Mount Minnie, gone spelunking in the Caves of Aglarond,
deep-sea-dived in the Bay of Tampalas, defeated the Corsairs in their
own stadium twice, is an astronaut (elenciryamo) in Project Elemmírë,
a Brigadier of the Citadel Guard..."

*     *     *

Anchor 1: So, Ariellë -- I realize this is an especially difficult time
for you -- but can you try to put in words how you feel about the loss
of your brother?

Reporter [tissue in one hand]: Shocked, Melineth.  Saddened. 
Grief-stricken.  Upset.  The fall of Doctor Faramir isn't just a
personal loss, it's a loss for all the people of Gondor™.  But we all
need to be strong and keep his memory alive by fight, fight, fighting
for the noble Atlantean ideals that he stood for!

Anchor 2: We feel your pain and appreciate your patriotic sentiments. 
Ladies and gentlement, a moment of silence for Faramir Húrinion, MD,
PhD, 2983-3019.

*     *     *

"... and star reporter for PalanTirith, our corporate-run, nationally
televised newsmagazine.  You really ought to watch that show."
   Gandalf wheeled about.  "Great grief will come of this!" he shouted
grandiloquently.  "You haven't seen the last of me yet!  Come on,
Paragraph."  He strode forth boldly from the room, tripped on the edge
of the carpet, and fell on his face.

*     *     *

Anchor 1:  Good morning!  And welcome! to the morning edition of
PalanTirith! featuring round-the-clock news from Minas Tirith™!  I'm
your morning anchor, Gwilwileth Lindoriel! and this is my co-host,
Gonhir Malbornion!

Anchor 2: Thank you Gwil, and good morning.  Today is the eleventh of
Súlime thirty-nineteen.  We'll have late-breaking war news coming up in
just a moment.  But first, we turn to our weather correspondent, Súriel

Weather C.: Thanks, Gon!  Well, it's just going to be totally blah
today.  There's a thick cloud cover coming out of Mount Viagra, and
that's going to keep the temperatures down in the forties.  No sun, no
rain expected today or tomorrow; more of the same tonight, with temps
dropping below freezing.

Anchor 2: Thanks for the report, Súriel.  And in today's war news, our
Special Correspondent Brigadier Ariellë Húriniel has been put in
command of the forces of Gondor™ in Disgiliath.

Anchor 1: That's right, Gon!  While there were disputes over her
appointment at the Steward's Council, in the end the voices in favor of
Ariellë's overwhelming competence won the day!

*     *     *

   Early in the morning the Council had been summoned.  There were
Denethor™, Lord of the City; Forlong the Fat, Lord of Lotstarch,
Captain of Gondor™; Ariellë, Steward's heir; Paragraph Took, Court
Songster; and Gandalf the White, recently reinstated, following a
series of truly amazing pratfalls, as Court Fool.  Forlong had had a
specially-built, triple-sized chair brought in for him, and as the
initial formalities were being completed had been snarfing down a load
of unpeeled potatoes provided him in a bushel basket.  "Hieland spuds,
specialty o' Lotstarch," he grunted confidentially to Pipsqueak with a
grin.  "Guid for wha' ails ye!"
   "Friends," Denethor™ began, "today the fate of Gondor™ is on
the line.  Our stocks are slipping and our expenses are mounting.  If we
can't fight off Sauron and his corporate lawyers, our trademarks may be
invalidated and poof, there goes our franchise.  We're looking at
bankruptcy, lady and gentlemen.  Bankruptcy."
   Silence filled the Council hall save for a gasp from Pipsqueak.
   Forlong interrupted.  "If I may put in a wee word, my Laird
Steuart," he began.  Ariellë sighed and took out a book.  
   "My Lord Forlong," nodded Denethor™.
   "Weel, ye see it's this way.  Back in Lotstarch we hae a wee sayin',
that findin's keepin', and keepin's haein'.  Noo I am registered and
trademarked, as the custom is, as 'Forlong the Fat', and I canna be
haein' imposters imposin' upon my wee scrap o' territory.  So wha' I'm
askin' is, why yon porridge-stuffed beggar" -- he pointed at Gandalf --
"is gi'en yer Lairdship's countenance at this meeting."
   "My Lord Mesprendeur is a very funny fellow," Denethor™ began to
   "Aye, aye, tha's a' very weel, but as we say in Lotstarch, twa
bellies in ae ruim must come tae blaws.  There's anely ruim enow in
Gondor™ for ane fat man, and that man's Forlong.  I insist that this
'Gandalf' the Wizard, Clown or whate'er he be, cease and desist from
bein' fat for as lang as he dwells in this kingdom.  Those are my
richts, my Laird, and I demand 'em!"
   "My Lord Forlong," Denethor™ answered dubiously, "we are not here to
discuss your trademarks... and I don't see how Gandalf can stop being
   "We'll soon see aboot that," Forlong replied. "I challenge this
sae-called Gandalf tae a duel -- here and noo, my laird, here and noo!"
   "Not in the Council Hall -- please, my Lord..."
   "Och Aye, m'laird!  'Tis written in Ye Olde Medieval Charter that
yer wise ancestors granted to Minas Mickey, that a dispute between
members o' the Council sall be decided anely in the Council Hall!  My
richts, Laird Steuart! I demand my richts!"
   Denethor™ sighed.  Pipsqueak thought he saw Ariellë mouth words
across the table, something like "f....n rules lawyer".  
   "Denethor™!" Gandalf fumed.  "Are you really going to permit this
   Denethor™ shrugged.  "Court Fools are expendable.  You'd better
prepare yourself.  Lord Forlong, what is the form of the duel?"
   "As it e'er has been and sall be... wrastling tae a fall, o' course!"
   Forlong rose from the table and began to strip off his clothing. 
Underneath his tunic, he turned out to be wearing a white loincloth
suspended from a broad black belt.  Stomping to the far end of the
Council Hall, he began spreading a large circle on the floor, composed
entirely of potatoes.  Taking his stance at one side of the circle, he
stamped loudly with both feet.  
   Gandalf, most unwillingly, was pressed into the circle by the
others.  He was not obliged to remove his robes.  Forlong began to
circle around him as Gandalf began to intone "I am Gandalf the White,
the Great Wizard.  Hear my words and obey them.  Your limbs are w....
   Forlong's massive limbs slammed into Gandalf's belly, and reached as
far as they could around his ample girth.  "Huh!" Forlong grunted, as
straining he heaved Gandalf from the ground.
   Gandalf arose easily into the air.  "Hah!" Forlong shouted in a tone
of surprise.  "Licht as ae feether ye are!  Noo feel the micht o'
Forlong the Fat!"  And with a mighty heave he flung Gandalf to the
stone floor.
   And Gandalf bounced.  Five feet in the air he rose from the point
where he had struck the ground, and then he fell, and bounced again. 
"Wha' sorcery?" exclaimed Forlong, baffled for an instant.  Then a
gleam came into his eyes.  "My laird Steuart!  I claim foul play and
cheatin'!  Yon Mesprendeur's nae fat at a'!"
   "What do you mean?" Denethor™ asked.  Gandalf was sitting, somewhat
dazed, chin sunk into his puffy chest.
   "I'll shaw ye," Forlong replied, and darted from the ring to the
table, where he picked up and returned a sharp potato knife.
   "No bloodshed!  No bloodshed!" cried Denethor™ in horror.
   "Nay, my laird, there'll be nane.  Just a wee cut..."  and with that
Forlong stabbed hard into Gandalf's chest.
   There was a tearing sound and then an immense explosion.  Forlong
was blown across to one of the side walls.  When the others looked back
at Gandalf, blown to the opposite wall, they saw that his chest had
wholly caved in.  "Balloons!" chortled Forlong in glee.  "Th'
impostor's been usin' rubber balloons!"

   The stunned Gandalf was returned to the table, where a search
revealed several more balloons.  These removed, he appeared much less
imposing, and spent a long time chewing at his beard and muttering to
   "Now that this trademark dispute has been satisfactorily resolved,"
Denethor™ said, "we can return to our business.  Now I understand,
Forlong, that you alone responded to the summons sent to the provinces. 
Where are the rest of our Field Staff?  Where are Degrevant of Ringlet
Vale, Dodinas, Dinadan and Dagonet of the Vale of Martha*, Galahaut of 
Gwyntystorm, Duke Angér of Lameduc, Hervis of the Green Hills of
Vermont, the deep-sea divers of the Ether, and not least of all, where
is Prince Amraphel of Dinas Emrys?"

[* Named for an ancient Steward of Gondor™.]

   "Och," Forlong replied, "Weel, Degrevant was hae'in motor trouble,
Dodinas, Dinadan and Dagonet were on vacation, Galahaut had tae attend
his grandniece's wedding, Angér was plannin' a fishin' party, Hervis
didn't feel like it, the deep-sea divers were deep-sea divin', and
Amraphel was oot tae lunch, or sae I hae been tald."
   "So we have nothing to stand against Sauron's subpoenas, or whatever
else he chooses to throw at us."
   "Aye, but we can tak 'em weel, my Laird!  Those Sauron boys are
nobbut a rabble o' pantywaists, if ye ask me."
   "If the subpoenas are to be served, they'll be served at
Disgiliath," Gandalf put in suddenly.  "'Twere best to ambush the
lawyers there."
   "So who will lead the ambush?" Denethor™ asked, and silence reigned
once more.
   "Mesprendeur has a sartin heroic presence, or sae they tell me,"
Forlong said at length, not without sarcasm.
   "Yes," answered Gandalf snidely, "but due to a certain person's
interference, I no longer possess the powers of divine rotundity given
me by the Valar to aid Gondor™!  I have heard, however, that the Lord
of the City has in his service a person of great strength and skills:
astronaut, navigator, skydiver, general..."
   "Who, me?" said Ariellë looking up from her book.  "Sure, I'll go."

*     *     *

Anchor 2:   Good evening, and welcome to our evening edition of
PalanTirith.  I'm Sargon Turgonion; my co-host, Melineth Malthuriel is
off today.  In today's war news, a Flag and Drum Corps has issued from
Minas Goofy and is marching on Disgiliath.  They have been joined by
rockabilly bands from the South.  We have also learned that the
Nameless Tenor, known to many as the Leech-King, is leading them, and
the fear of his singing has passed before him across the River.

*     *     *

Anchor 1:   Good morning, this twelfth day of Súlimë.  I'm Gwilwileth
Lindoriel, and welcome to our abbreviated morning edition of
PalanTirith.  In today's war news, our boys have suffered a temporary
reverse at Disgiliath, apparently being met not, as they expected, by a
subpoena but by large numbers of automatic weapons and some appalling
brass.  Brigadier Ariellë is leading the troops in a strategic movement
to the rear, returning to the forts on the wall of the Lammas Ichor. 
The Court Fool, Lord Mesprendeur, was also dispatched to the front with
orders to pick up the mens' spirits.

*     *     *

Anchor 2:   Good morning on another gloomy day, the thirteenth of
Súlimë.  We have another dispatch from the front.  The enemy has
dynamited, I repeat, dynamited the Lammas Ichor, which now stands in
ruins and poses no hindrance whatsoever to the advance of the enemy. 
This a gross contravention of the rules of war which, as finalized in
the Disgiliath Accords, require them to stand on one side of the wall
while we hurl insults and cows at them.  This is a terrible atrocity.

Anchor 1: That's right, Gonhir.  Court Fool Lord Mesprendeur was the
first to return from the scene of the crime, and has gone straight to
the CEO's office.  And on our northeast flank, the vacation island of
Caer Andrews has also been seized by the enemy, who are now said to be
erecting a bandshell there.

*     *     *

Anchor 1: This is Melineth Malthuriel, reporting to you from the wall
of the First Circle.  This is a special edition of PalanTirith,
reporting on what is already becoming known as The Siege.

Anchor 2 [from studio]: Can you describe what you see behind you, Mel?

Anchor 1: Sure can, Sar.  Those men down there are our troops, trying
to get to the wall before the enemy gets here.  The enemy is probably
about seven miles distant now, and they are within, I repeat, within
the Lammas Ichor.  We can't see the enemy from here, but in the
distance you can see searchlights.  According to the stories from
retreating survivors, anyone caught in the lights is brutally

Anchor 2: Have we got any artillery or anything else that we can use
against them?

Anchor 1: Well, Sar, I'm afraid that Minas Tirith™ was built primarily
as an amusement center and most of the weapons we have are non-working
replicas.   We were really expecting a legal, not a military attack at
this point, and the story is that we were basically caught with our
pants down.  But I'm told that even as we speak, engineers are combing
the caves under Mount Minnie looking for anything that can help us. 

Anchor 2 [quiet for a moment]: I see.  Is there any news of Ariellë?

Anchor 1: She's supposed to be guiding the retreat.   That may be her
company back there in the middle of your screen, marching steadily
toward the gate.  They're about a quarter of a mile away right now. 
And here come some jeeps...

[distant sounds of shouting; the whole area is illuminated by

Anchor 1: They're under attack, even as we speak!  A company of what
looks like Orks, and, uh, motorized troops with red flags are
attacking.  Our boys are turning to face them and...


Anchor 2: Melineth!?  Are you all right?

Anchor 1: It's complete chaos out there!  It looks like we have a
Nazdaq attack along with everything else!

[Siren sounds]

Anchor 1: There's a siren from our walls -- something's happening down
there -- it's motorcycles!  A whole squadron of harli from our side! 
And there's Forlong the Fat leading them!

[Very Loud Sound of Explosion]

Anchor 1: I think a missile's just gone off near one of the Nazdaqs. 
That must be one of the Stingers.   The Nazdaq and the other troops are
retreating.  We seem to be picking up what survives of Ariellë's
company and returning to the gate.  We're going to go down off the wall
and see if we can get some pictures from Gate Square.

Anchor 2 [in grim tones]: So just to recap what we've seen in the last
few minutes.  Our troops, retreating from the walls which the enemy
dynamited earlier today.  One of our companies attacked by enemy troops
and Nazdaqs.  Ariellë Húriniel: her fate unknown.

Anchor 1: Okay, Sar, we're back.  Can we get a picture here?  This is
Forlong the Fat, Lord of Lotstarch, carrying what looks to be the body
of Ariellë in his arms?

Anchor 2: How is she?

Anchor 1: I can definitely see some blood.  No sign of movement. 
They're putting her into a City Ambulance, so I assume she's not dead. 
Let's talk to one of the men who was with her.  Private, can you tell
us what happened?

Soldier: Yeah, uh, we was marchin' back after the snafu at Disg, an we
suddenly got spotted an' fired on by a Suthren jeep column.  Lady
Ariellë took a bullet just before the cycles came in.

Anchor 2: And so we end our Special Edition of PalanTirith.  Our boys,
safely back in the city.  Brigadier Ariellë, wounded and taken to
hospital.  Lord Forlong has gone to discuss matters with the CEO. 
Until next time, I'm Sargon Turgonion.

*     *     *

Anchor 1:  Good morning!  And welcome! to the morning edition of
PalanTirith! featuring round-the-clock news from Minas Tirith™!  I'm
your morning anchor, Gwilwileth Lindoriel! and this is my co-host,
Gonhir Malbornion!

Anchor 2: Thank you Gwil, and good morning.  Today is the fourteenth of
Súlime thirty-nineteen, and Day One of the Siege of Gondor™.  If you
take a look out at the Pelennor this morning, you'll see some drastic
changes in the scenery.

Anchor 1: That's right, Gon.  The Pelennor is entirely occupied by
enemy troops, who have set up camps and have been digging trenches and,
we hope, latrines.  We also see what appear to be emplacements for
mortars and howitzers.  Behind them are what appear to be large
companies of tanks that crossed the river last night.  We still look
for reinforcements out of Edoras, but whether any help will come from
the Riddlemark remains a riddle.

Anchor 2: Speaking of riddles, some of you may have been wondering what
that awful noise is that started about midnight last night.

Anchor 1: And the answer is, that it's a brass orchestra out there
practicing.  If we zoom in to our left, we'll see a large banner spread
out over those three-story-tall amplifiers projecting the music this
way; you'll also be able to see the Flag and Drum Corps practicing
their moves.

Anchor 2: Looks pretty good, Gwil!  So tell me, what does the banner

Anchor 1: It's written in an Orkish variety of runic, but our experts
agree that it says something like "Ragmug's All-Brass Military Marching

Anchor 2: Let's see if we can get some audio pickup from out there. 
How are we doing?  All right, this is what it sounds like:

[Clashing brass and throaty voices singing off key 'La Cucaracha, la
Cucaracha, ya no puede caminar; porque no tiene, porque le falta,
miruvóre que tomar...']

Anchor 2: I think we don't need much more of that...

[Sound of huge explosion]

Anchor 1: What was that?

[Shadow passes in front of cameras]

Anchor 2: I've just been handed a notice saying that the enemy are
launching incendiary missiles into the city.  They are landing all over
the city.  Anything outside that is flammable may burn.  Please stay
indoors and do not go outside.  Make sure that all flammable goods are
taken inside.  We will update you as necessary.


Anchor 1 (plaintively): Oh, sh*t, I hate those choppers.

*     *     *

   During all this black day Ariellë lay upon her bed in a bunker
beneath the Tower of Commerce, in a fever that no amount of quinine
would assuage.  'Dying', someone said; and soon 'dying' was repeated up
and down the streets of the city.  By her Denethor™ sat, and watched,
and let the strings of government slip into the hands of petty
   One of these was Pipsqueak Took, who now waited upon Denethor™, not
singing songs now, but tasked with telling anyone who came there for
orders to go away. For long hours he sat by the Steward, hearing
nothing but the shouting of the Civil Defence Brigades, the snarling
sounds of distant brass instruments, and the whup whup whup of the
Nazdaq.  He saw Denethor™ crying silently.
   "Don't cry," he said.  "She could get better.  Did you ask Gandalf?"
   Denethor™ spat.  "Why should I ask the fool?  His hope has failed. 
The Enemy owns our trademarks now.  This is even as Gandalf wished it:
the utter end of the House of Húrin.  Mean folk shall run what remains
of our franchise, selling tee-shirts and coffee-mugs at roadside
concessions, making what profits they can on the black market until
Mordor finally deprives them of their licenses."
   Men came to the door crying for the CEO.  "Nay, I will not come
down," he said.  "I must stay beside my daughter.  Follow whom you
will, even the Court Fool, though his hope has failed.  Here I stay."

*     *     *

Anchor 1: Good evening, I'm Melineth Malthuriel, continuing our Siege
Broadcast from PalanTirith's new studio in a bunker under the Seventh
Circle.  Sargon Turgonion will not be with us, as he was killed earlier
today in a Nazdaq incendiary bombing raid.  In other news, Denethor™,
Steward and CEO of Gondor™, has effectively abdicated, turning power
over to Court Fool -- now Generalissimo -- Mesprendeur who will be
charge of Defence Ops.  He's been making the rounds of the walls,
trying to put some spirit back into the men with light humor and
juggling tricks, but unfortunately everybody gets depressed again once
he leaves.  And why shouldn't they be?  We're all going to die real
soon.  [sigh]  Well, let's go to Gonhir Malbornion who is now reporting
from the First Circle and can tell us just how hopeless the situation

Reporter: It does look pretty hopeless, Mel.  If you take a look
around, you'll see that the entire First Circle is on fire due to the
incendiaries.  The enemy has been using explosive artillery against the
outer wall, but they haven't been able to do much.  But smaller bombs
have been launched against the upper circles, and they've been doing a
lot of damage, in some cases levelling entire sections of wall.  You're
lucky to  be up there in those bunkers.

Anchor 1: I don't feel lucky, Gon.

Reporter: If you look behind me, you'll be able to see the tanks
massing in the area just in front of the Great Gate.  It looks as if
that's where the main assault will come.

Anchor 1: And then it will be over, Gon?

Reporter: Maybe, but I suppose we'll all be dead by then.

*     *     *

   Messengers came again to the Tower chamber, and this time Pipsqueak
let them enter.  "Bombs are falling all over the City, Lord," they
said.  "What do you want us to do?  Nobody wants to follow Mesprendeur,
much less stay on the walls and offer a target visible from seven miles
   "Fly," muttered Denethor™, looking at one that buzzed around the
chamber with a hungry look.  "Why don't the fools fly?  They could if
they had wings.  But we all have wings, even the Balrogs.  We could fly
away from here, somewhere over the rainbow, way up high..."
   "There are reports, Sir, that the enemy is contemplating a gas
attack.  Should we start distributing gas masks and pills?  There are
only enough for a few of us."
   "Gas," said Denethor™.  "Better to be gassed sooner than later, for
life's a gas.  And I?  I will go to my gas chamber!  For it's all right
now.  In fact it's a gas!  I'm Jumping Jack Flash, it's a gas, gas,
   The messengers turned and fled.
   Denethor™ looked at Pipsqueak and winked.  "That always works," he
whispered.  "Well, we'd better evacuate.  Probably the safest place is
the Tombs, on the other side of the Hill, under Mount Minnie.  Call
some servants and we'll take Ariellë there.  And, if we're lucky, we'll
soon see the Angels of Avalon."

   Pipsqueak called the servants, and taking up Ariellë's bed they
climbed out of the bunker into the Seventh Circle.  The clouds above
them were lit with red flashes from explosions and the white of
searchlights.  The sound of the Nazdaq choppers rang clear through the
still air.  Its own floodlights out, the Castle of Lornavaniwen loomed
dark against the clouds behind them.  Denethor™ stopped by Tarzan's
Treehouse and sighed.   They passed on into the Sixth Circle, and so
back west to the rear of the City.  There, where the walls were stained
with graffiti, stood an almost unregarded, inconsequential looking
door, painted a peeling pale green, with a keyhole in the center of its
metal knob.  Postno Bills it was called, on account of the stenciled
letters faintly spraypainted on it.  Beyond it went a winding road that
descended into the narrow land between Minas Tirith™ and Mount Minnie,
where half the City threw its garbage.
   It was also the place of the Tombs of the Stewards.  Denethor™
fished the key out from his rather impressive keyring and unlocked the
door, and they wound on down the road, Denethor™ holding a lantern
high.  Pipsqueak shuddered gloomily, for it was cold; and he did not at
first notice Denethor™ speaking to him.  "...eward Berendan sailed into
the West.  There he came upon the island of the fallen angels, the
Angels of Avalon, who live in a great tree covered with white feathers
from their wings; for the sky is filled with good and bad that mortals
never know.  They sheltered him, and promised him that if ever the City
was in danger, they would come up out of the sunrise..."
   "Er, what?" said Pipsqueak.  "The sunrise in the west?"
   "So the prophecy is told.  And they would fight on behalf of Gondor™
against the Tyrant, the Evil One, and the Dragon of Darkness."
   "Um, that's nice," Pipsqueak muttered.  Obviously the old man had
lost his mind.
   They came at last to the Silent Street, and entered the House of the
Stewards.  In this chamber were many stone tables, and on each was a
sleeping form.  "Suspended animation," hissed Denethor™.  At a sign,
the servants laid Ariellë down on an empty stone table.  Then Denethor™
spoke in a low voice.
   "Here we will wait," he said.  "But send not for the embalmers, for
she is not dead, and will not die, I think.  While the the Dark Lord
rides in force we shall remain here, waiting for the Angels of Avalon,
waiting for the eastern glow.  Time will tell us all.   You may go. 
   "By your leave, lord!" said Pipsqueak and turned and fled.  What a
dangerous lunatic he thought to himself.  Needs a real good
psychotherapist.  I had better find Gandalf.  As he came back into the
sixth circle the sounds of the bombing returned again to his ears. 
Missiles were arching high above the walls in flaming streaks, and
leaving glaring flashes of electric white where they touched down. 
Even as he watched on in dismay, three missiles struck within the
seventh circle, and with a hideous rumble, the white Castle of
Lornavaniwen shuddered and fell into ruin.
   Pipsqueak ran on, down, down toward the outer city.  Some folk,
seeing his sailor tunic, turned and shouted, but he paid no heed.  At
last he came into the First Circle, where the fires were still raging. 
But it had become strangely silent; for a moment, it seemed, the
shelling and missile attacks had halted.  No other noise could be
   Then suddenly there was a dreadful, high-pitched wail, and a deep
echoing boom.  Shaking in fear, Pipsqueak forced himself forward into
the Gate Square.  There he stopped. He had found Gandalf, but could
proceed no further.

   Ever since midnight the assault had proceeded apace.   The drums of
the Flag and Drum corps rolled, while the brass crashed and the
trumpets brayed to the hoarse voices of the Orken army.  Ever and anon
the artillery spat fire against the walls; but their Captain cared not
if they actually hit anything, their purpose was only to keep the men
of the City busy in many places.  Made by the ancient Atlanteans from
Adamantium™, no cannon or missile blast could pierce the armor plating
of that wall.  But the weak link in the whole wall was the Gate; and
against it the enemy was throwing all its strength.
   The drums rolled louder, shaking the castle walls.  Tanks crawled
across the field; but on the ground in front of the Gate, recking
nought of any counterattack from the First Wall, were explosive experts
setting up their charges.  Long wires ran back from the Wall to the
   The drums rolled wildly.  Over the hills of the slain that had
fallen before the gate the Ringwraith rode in black, the Nameless Tenor
come to exult over his foe.   He rode slowly, caring nothing for the
chatter of small arms fire that still came from the walls.  He halted
just before the gate, and removed some sheet music from his breast
pocket.  And as he did so a great fear fell on all, defender and foe
alike, and the gunfire fell silent.  For a moment all was still.
   Then in the distance the orchestra began to play, no marching tune
this time, but an aria --- and with that the Black Captain cried aloud
in a dreadful voice, singing in some forgotten tongue words of power
and terror to shatter both eardrums and glass:

      La donna è mobile qual pium' al vento,
      Muta d' accento -    e di pensiero.
      Sempre un' amabile   leggiadro viso,
      In piant' o in riso, è menzognero.
      La donna è mobil' qual pium' al vento,
      Muta d' accento -    e di pensier',
      e di pensier',    e di pensier'!

      è sempre misero   chi a lei s'affida,
      Chi le confida -  mal cauta il core!
      Pur mai non sentensi felice appieno
      Chi su quel seno -   non libo amore!

      La donna è mobil' qual pium' al vento,
      Muta d'accento -  e di pensier',
      e di pensier',    e di pensier'!

   And suddenly, on the last shrieking high note, an unseen hand
pressed the detonator and the Gate of Gondor™ burst asunder: there was
a flash of searing lightning, and the doors tumbled in riven fragments
to the ground.

   In rode the Lord of the Nazdaq, under the archway that no enemy had
ever passed without a ticket, and all fled before his face.
   All save one.  There sat Gandalf upon his Mordor-made Haug, which
alone among the vehicles of Gondor™ had failed to start, despite
repeated attempts.
   "You cannot enter here," croaked Gandalf, and the Leech-king halted. 
"Go back to the cheap recording studio prepared for you!  Go back! 
Fall into the nothingness of low ratings and popular disdain that
awaits you and your Master!  Go!"
   The Ringwraith let fall his cloak, and behold!  He was all clad in
formal evening wear, with white tie and black tail coat.  A conductor's
baton was in one hand, and a glass of champagne in the other.  He
chuckled drily.
   "Old Fool!" he said.  "This is my hour.  Didst thou think thou
couldst upstage me?  Die now, with thy vulgar commercialized
entertainment, and curse in vain!"  And with that he lifted high his
right hand and an electric shimmer ran down his baton.

   Gandalf still could not start his Haug.  And at that very moment, in
some unburnt apartment adjoining the Gate Square, an alarm clock went


   Shrill and clear it beeped, caring nothing of opera or rock'n'roll,
knowing only that it was set at 6:30 a.m.
   And as if in answer there came from far away another sound.  Sirens,
sirens, sirens, echoing from the sides of Mount Minnie.  Sirens of the
hordes of the North.  Edoras had come at last.

Book V, Chapter Three / Table of Contents / Book V, Chapter Five
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