The Lord of the... whatever, Book V, Chapter 10:
The Back Orifice Opens
"Arwen! Arwen!" A rapidly approaching hobbitish voice accompanied
by the absence of the flapping of bare feet on the flagged street made
the Elf-maiden turn. It was Pipsqueak.
"Arwen! I must talk to you. Someplace where you-know-who can't
"Very well. First you can tell me what you're on. Why aren't your
feet touching the ground?"
"Morrie and I had Ment-draught in Fungang. We've been hovering like
this ever since. Didn't you notice at Isengard? Look-"
"Last I saw Morrie he was not hovering. Houses of Healing, as they
marched him into quarantine. He was a foot or two taller than you but
his feet were on the ground."
"..." Pipsqueak suddenly looked puzzled. "Now you mention it, there
was something different about him after he came in from the battle.
That too, now you mention it. Well, no matter. Probably just his
As they stood in a deserted old souvenir shop, Arwen turned her gaze
upon the squeaky hobbit. "Well?"
"It's Gandalf. He's up to no good. He-"
Drily: "I had noticed."
"Woah! Slow down, Pitya. He killed Aruman?" She fixed her intense
gaze on the little one.
Pipsqueak explained, suddenly calm and focussed. Arwen's gaze grew
She said: "I was there. I have blurred memories of that day, but I
don't remember him killing Aruman. I remember Aruman deserving it."
"I remember better than you. I had a memory freshener when
Denethor put Gandalf to trial. I saw all on Denethor's
laptop Palantarium. Then Gandalf threw a smoke grenade, killed all but
me, and made an explosion to cover up the evidence. He thinks I've
forgotten all of that, or I should be dead now. Think back, Arwen,
think back! Remember his expertise with drugs, and remember that he
passed a bottle round among us."
There was a pause. Arwen's gaze grew distant, then pained. Then it
hardened. And hardened. And hardened even more, until she looked more
perilous than Pipsqueak had ever seen the warrior maiden before.
Suddenly, remembering his childhood, he wished fervently that Arwen had
been his mother ---
--- for a moment he had that expression that children often imagine
on a puppy-dog in a pet shop: adopt me! Arwen noticed, smiling
inwardly; then: not yet, you idiot, remain unfettered a while
--- then she relaxed a smidgen and took a deep breath.
"I saw him push Boromir out of the window. I was hiding in the
conference room where you told Aragon about his family relations."
"Then I can reassure you. That boy is a toon. Normal people falling
twenty meters onto stone will turn into rattle-sacks of broken bone and
blood. I have seen it more than once in battle in the mountains.
Boromir - didn't you forget the ? - made a hole in the street and
climbed up from it. Showing his true self, finally. I saw it. Many
did. But I'm not surprised that Gandalf would try. He wants to kill
"Destroying Sauron's Ring will make him evil again?"
"He tried to kill me, but was interrupted. Then he tried to make me
forget with magic, and he thinks that he did it. He also killed
Denethor. I shouldn't be surprised if he is after you next."
"I should. If he tries, the surprise shall be his. Briefly. Is
Aragon part of this?"
"Yes, at least partly. Gandalf wants to install him as King ---"
"That is old news."
"I think Gandalf has some sort of hold on him, and he doesn't tell
"I should think so. The Aragon that I loved was a bit shady, but
would never have stooped to such evil."
Then Pipsqueak took a deep breath. "Have you seen the Star Wars
"You know how Obi-wan was killed but could still advise Luke with
some sort of disembodied voice?"
Another deep breath. "I think Aruman is still around in the same way
as that. He has talked to me. He wants me to find an eagle and send it
to Mount Doom and prevent Frodo from throwing the Ring in."
A short pause. Then: "Ah. Leave it to me. Pitya, you have done
very well in telling me."
"Boromir! I thought I..."
"Killed me? Can't be done. Do you know what rabbits are like? Toon
rabbits are worse. Mother knew one called Roger."
Gandalf sighed, reached into the recesses of his robes, then produced
a small bottle.
"Yes, Aragon, ink eraser."
But when Gandalf returned his attention to Boromir, there was only a
Boromir-shaped hole in the stone wall, silhouetted arms frozen in
mid-flail. Peering through it, they saw a progression of Boromir-shaped
holes through the other walls clear to the outer one. Some ball-shaped
dust clouds slowly dissipated along the beeline. A cry of meep-meep
accompanied by the sound of an engine faded into the distance towards
the River. Boromir would not soon warn Gondor against Gandalf.
"What's with the meep-meep," asked Aragon. "This is a Disney place
run by a Disney-franchise family, right?"
Sitting on a stone parapet, Pipsqueak was reading. So consumed was
he that he didn't notice the figure approaching him from behind until a
hand grabbed his shoulder. "Still reading that feminist bastard,
"Morrie!" A swift look down. "And hovering again, like me! How did
you escape quarantine? You never should have let Gandalf know-"
"Never stopped hovering. It's Otto you mean, pretending to be me.
Not very good at it, or he wouldn't have been in the isolation tank
"Sweet Jesus! I should have guessed! Who is Otto?"
"Yes, you should. Would the real Moribund Brandibuck have been so
confused? But let the saps think the real Morrie is in the cell. You
know my family's rep in these parts, whatever we've done to earn it.
I'm Moriarty now. Solicitor. See who I brought with me?"
"Yeah. Why d-don't you do it in the road, you two?"
Pipsqueak swung his legs across the parapet and jumped down on the
flags. "Look," he whispered.
"Stop whispering. These two love-birds are part of the plan."
"Oh are they? Well, how far have you come?"
"Two inches away from contacting Aragon. I need him to give me a
shellfish export license from Tampala Bay to the Shire."
"Oh, I wouldn't pull Aragon into it," replied Pipsqueak. "He is neck
deep in shit already and getting cold feet about it. He might try to do
the righteous thing and stop you. Just to soothe his conscience by
doing something right these days. He would guess what you want to
put into those shellfish of yours. Or Gandalf might get wind of it. He
would not stop you. He would take over. You think your family is
ruthless? They must have taken classes from Gandalf, the old
"Pipsqueak! What has gone into you? Swearing?" Morrie grinned.
The love-birds blushed. Dwarves blush by their beards stiffening, since
so little of their facial skin can be seen. Giggly's beard was like a
"I've grown, Morrie. Faens kuse i røddryppende drittfitte-"
"Point taken, if maturity is cued by adult cussing. Which it
isn't, it takes more. What's wrong with Gandalf, that we didn't know of
Pipsqueak drew his breath, and let drive.
Afterwards, as the three others stood fuming, he smiled to himself.
I am like a contagious virus against the wizard. Whenever I come
across one of those present at Aruman's death, I make them remember like
"Arwen. Do you still want to marry a king, or a queen?"
Aragon sighed. "Then you did right in ditching me. Gandalf has a
plan. I serve in it. I'm confused. I'm tired of it. All this scheming
and killing. Now he wants to restart the war between Gondor and
Mordor. That's why he wants the Ring melted down, if you'll believe it.
Arwen, that's not the price I want to pay for the throne. The price I
want Gondor and its people to pay, I mean. Shitshitshit." He
turned and left.
Softly, Arwen called after him: "How much weight have you lost? I
see you have lost some."
"Then you see with sharp eyes," replied Aragon without turning back.
"I outweigh one horse fewer than yesterday, that's all. My appetite is
gone, and I don't much miss it."
"I have thought about this. You want to be with me when I become
"You will need me when you become queen."
"Two queens in one hive is trouble. You, Arwen, cannot be the
queen's consort and not in practice be queen yourself, that is evident."
Pause. "Yes." Another pause. "We would always be fighting." One
more pause. A grin. "And you would constantly lose."
Coldly: "I might lose one fight. Then I should give an order, and
lose no more fights against you."
"So you choose between me and the rule of Gondor, and you choose
the rule? Sensible."
"Exactly. Glad we see eye to eye. The last two nights were
pleasant, but that is not enough."
"Aragon, my boy!"
"You have lost weight. That is not good."
"My knees are happy with it. So is Babar."
"Then eat Babar. You must reach a pondus worthy of a king."
"I have weight worthy of a whole platoon of kings, and you can see
it! A little more of this and I can outlard a whole division of
Coldly: "Consider it an order."
Even more coldly: "Give it to yourself. The order for food. You
But Aragon had turned and was leaving. Gandalf tried to rush past
him and face him down, but the walk around proved too far. Then he
grabbed Aragon by the shoulder to force the fat man to turn back and
face him. He might as well have tried to turn a small planet. From
beyond the bulk before him he heard Aragon's voice: "Maybe I'm a toon
too. A normal mortal could not be so fat and live." Then, in a
brighter voice: "And you have not enough eraser to be a threat to me."
"Aragon! Hey, Aragon, wait!"
Arwen was far more agile than Gandalf. She could leap onto the roof
of a bus, and often had. Twice in London. She could even leap onto
Aragon, and she did now. For a moment she sat cross-legged on his
chest. It was like sitting on the mother of all water-beds. "Stand
still!" Then she jumped down on the street and fixed him with her gaze.
"Do you remember the death of Aruman?"
"No. Hm. No-"
"Think back on that day. Think hard."
"The day at Isengard, when Gandalf spoke with Aruman."
"I remember that day." Pause. "Sort of. That's a funny look in
your eyes. I haven't seen it since those distant days when you loved
"There is something inside that mountain of butter that I still love.
Now, if that means anything to you, remember the day at Isengard. Think
hard. I have. It pained me, and I suppose it will give you a splitting
headache as well-"
"I'll get a splitting headache, or just a split head, if I don't do
"No joking, Aragon! Just do as I say! Please!"
"Please? From you? Then this must be important indeed!"
Aragon stood still. He even ceased to wobble after a while. Then he
"There is more," said Arwen. "I have it from Pipsqueak." She
explained. Aragon drew Endurit.
"I'll trim down. The lard from me by dieting and the lard from a
certain wizard with Endurit!"
"Excellent. But first things first. I have a plan. I must leave
you for a while, east."
"I think we should simply cut Gandalf's head off. But wait. I need
to trim down before I'm physically fit for it. One reason why he wants
me to be fat, I think. I bet it's his fault. At any rate, he has many
weapons. A direct assault on him may end in disaster."
"It is not Gandalf's fault that you are so fat, nor your own. He
just took advantage of it. But pretend that you don't know these
things. Play along. I have a plan for Gandalf too." She laughed, and
for a moment her eyes shone with an oily green.
And so the plans of the forces of Good and the forces of Shady but
Basically Decent (Plus Morrie) ripened. Ariellë was contacted, and all
knowledge shared with her. With the upcoming peace-conference with
Sauron and Arwen hunting east for the Ring, the future looked bright.
Even Morrie, who knew a powerful rival when he saw one, was on the
anti-Gandalf team. Also he realized now that it was probably not Aruman
who had supplied Lotho with the machine guns that the
Sackville-Bagginses had killed Norbert and Clovis with, but Gandalf.
Yet the plots and schemes of Mesprendeur Valóma the Crafty were not
so easily defeated. Many were his contacts in the East. Many were the
flokarinos that he sent secretly east as bribes. Many were the
blackmailing letters that went the same way. He may have lost part of
his power in the City, and more of it than he realized, yet he was not
impotent - save perhaps in the biological sense. Two days later came
the message from Mordor that there would be no peace. Whether Sauron
himself sent the message or someone else did without his knowledge and
consent this chapter does not tell, though a hint will be provided. In
any event Ariellë's plan for a peace conference at the Gates of Mordor
was shattered. The Armies of the West prepared for war. Gandalf led
the War Council. It was very short:
"We shall march to the Black Gate. There we shall hold Ariellë's
peace conference. We shall make peace, and we shall make it with our
blades! Let Ariellë stay home and do her knitting! King Aragon shall
lead us." Pipsqueak also had to go, by Gandalf's order. Gandalf did
not know that Pipsqueak's reluctance was feigned: ere she left, Arwen
had told him that she had a plan for the disposal of the wizard, and he
must be present when it came to fruition.
Aragon, hearing Pipsqueak's voice, turned in surprise. He recognized
it easily, but it was not as squeaky as it had been.
"Aragon, why is this chapter called 'The Back Orifice Opens'?"
Aragon patted his sword. "We intend to hack our way through the
gate." Then he looked up, puzzled at the groans of the readers.
As the armies made ready to leave the City, Aragon tried to mount
Babar the Mûmak. But he could not. The Mûmak knelt down, but with
Aragon on its shoulders it could not rise. Nor could there be found or
swiftly constructed a scaffolding that would support Aragon as he
mounted the standing Mûmak.
"It was an ill wind that brought me this fate. Long have I been
tired of being this huge. Well can I understand my Arwen when she says
that if I don't lose a landslide of stone she will uproot a certain
grove of turnips." The others looked at him strangely at this. Then he
sighed. "I did ask the author of this chapter to do some voodoo to trim
me down fast. The dumb shite just mumbled something about having been
burned on drastic alterations in a previous chapter." Then he drew his
sword, with customary difficulty: "You shall not be sheathed again until
I can see my toes!"
"Until you are slim again to be able to," came the snicker from
"That too," replied Aragon. "Be careful how you tease me, mobster.
I can roll onto you. I may be too soft to crush you, though my weight
is easily mastodontic enough, but I may smother you." He smiled. He
knew that he was on the right path: even the day before, he had weighed
more than Babar. Now he did not. He reached out and down and patted
Morrie on the shoulder. A little later the Armies of the West began
their eastward march, Babar happily carrying no weight beyond his own.
The last that Pipsqueak saw of Morrie's face was eyes brimming with
uncharacteristic tears. This was some moments after Aragon had patted
his shoulder. The Mobster was clutching something beneath his tunic,
though so innocuously that only the experienced eye of his younger
cousin noticed. Pipsqueak was absolutely befuddled. He had never ever
seen his morose cousin weep before, out of courtrooms. He could guess
nothing, no parting gift of any kind, that Aragon would have given
Morrie, let alone one that could have moved him in any way whatsoever.
Line after line they went, infantry of Gondor and cavalry of
Rohan. This early on the march the moods were high, and the banter
between the two armies friendly.
"Hey, why are you wearing skirts, you women?"
"At least we're wearing something below the waistline. Some of you
They made their first night-camp some distance past Disgiliath. Some
stragglers, eager to explore the decrepit old city of the Atlanteans,
came in late and were caned. Pipsqueak recognized the canes and
"Hey", cried out Aragon in the evening murk. "Where are those two
bottles of Westfarthing Chinook I had? I know I had them before we left
the city!" Pipsqueak wondered at this for a moment, trying to put two
and two together. Then he smiled. Four! He was no longer befuddled.
It was near the end of the second day of their march from the
Cross-roads that they first met any offer of action. For a small
orc-village had been spotted by the scouts a few miles upland of the
Road. Gandalf at once gave his orders. Six hundred men separated from
the main body of the army and followed the wizard through the thickets,
east and up.
"Hey, come here, lad!" he cried to Pipsqueak. "Your training isn't
ended yet!" The hobbit reluctantly followed. From a small plastic bag
extracted from his extensive clothing Gandalf took a pinch of dust and
deftly inhaled it. Pipsqueak recognized the bag and the dust. He
still has some of the Vala dust from Charadhras? Or has the old
snorter replenished it? I wish I hadn't let the others find out about
it when Morrie found it.
The going was swifter than might be expected in a landscape like
this: jungle, or almost so. But the scouts knew their business. They
found the swiftest way, winding round knolls, wading up creeks. Twice
they detoured around patches of leafless forest and withered bushes of
some kind. "Agent Orange or something like it," Pipsqueak overheard a
soldier explain to another. "Against the coca fields. We don't want
to pass through there!" "Right. Round and up."
After an hour and a half of careful march through the uplands of
Ethelien they arrived at the village. The orcs were going about their
business, making ready for the night.
This is not what I expected, Pipsqueak thought. These are
mostly women and children. I didn't know that orcs had women and
children. Where are their weapons? I see one guy lugging around a bow
and a quiver. Why is that female caressing its imp? From talk that
he overheard he realized that some of the Gondorian soldiers were
equally baffled. Yet they surrounded the village quietly. Many of them
seemed to know their business well. Pipsqueak grew more and more
uneasy. "Lock and load," whispered Gandalf. "What, our swords?" came
"CHAAARGE!" rang Gandalf's cry. There was a great flapping noise in
the nearest trees; some leaves and feathers came drifting down. The
Gondorians poured their arrows into the village like a dark hail,
then drew their swords and ran forward, converging. Two of the
Gondorians fell with sudden shafts sticking from their chests. Some
more fell to their own men's mis-aimed arrows. But to the orcs it was
no use. The three orc-men who had weapons soon looked like sliced
hedgehogs. Then the slaughter began in earnest. When afterwards
Pipsqueak followed the men back to the Road, not one orc remained alive
behind them. But Gandalf's eyes were shining with an ecstatic light.
We shall mercifully pass the gruesome details by, save one
happenstance. One scene burned itself into Pipsqueak's memory. It was
a young orc-boy and an orc-girl, apparently in their late teens. They
stood hand in hand, staring wide-eyed at the attackers. They made no
attempt to escape or defend themselves: it was no use, and they knew.
"Hey you!" cried Gandalf to one of the Gondorians. "Grease those
two, you moron!"
"No... no..." mumbled the soldier. Pipsqueak saw that he was weeping
soundlessly. There was a broad smear of blood near the point of his long
sword. An orc-child lay some feet behind him, neck almost severed. The
child's dead hand was still clutching a small stone.
"Aah, spineless swine!" cried Gandalf. He strode three long steps
and pushed the soldier violently to the ground. Then he pointed his
hand at the orc-pair. Zap. Zap. The girl fell dead, then the boy,
each with a smouldering hole in the chest: Pipsqueak was off fried bacon
for months. Gandalf started flinging his evil lightnings at the
orc-children. Zap Zap Zap. "Get the goblin-imps too!" he cried in a
great voice, insane and happy. "That race cannot be redeemed! Arbeit
macht frei! Nits make lice!"
As the party returned to the main body of the army, there were many
howls of protest: not all the soldiers of Gondor and Rohan enjoyed
the sight of orc-heads on the tips of the spears of some of the
returning men. Some of these heads had belonged to orc-children.
As Pipsqueak tried to fall asleep, he overheard the celebration of
that minority of the Gondorian soldiers who had enjoyed their little
evening out. They were drinking heavily, and boasting.
I was at Srebrenica. This was better. We got them all this time.
Gandy's not like that wimp Mladic.
Hey, I was at Tuol Sleng. That was better. We got thousands. Had
time to play, too.
Can't beat Auschwitz, you amateurs!
Heh heh, does what I did in Rwanda count?
Urg, we wuz too drunked up at Sand Creek. Good thing I wuz sober
You aren't so sober now, are ye?
Heh heh heh.
Heh heh heh heh.
...Calley, you amateur...
...wading in gore...
...what, can'tcha bend your knee?
...heh heh heh heh...
...more than threescore stubborn monks hewn down on the shore...
...you are old, Viking...
...ten captured Chinese soldiers each of us, to kill as we
The night that followed, and the night after that, were the blackest
and most painful thus far in Pipsqueak's short life. These
conversations that he overheard did not improve matters.
The night after the massacre at the orc-village Pipsqueak had a
strange dream. He dreamt that he fell awake. He could remember no
details. All that he remembered when he awoke from his dream was having
been awake, and that he hadn't enjoyed it.
Upon the sixth day from Minas Tirith they came at last to the end
of the living lands. Only parking lots and malls stretched before them,
league upon ugly league. At this horror some of the host were unmanned,
already sick to the hearts with the massacre of the orc-village.
Aragon looked at them, and there was pity and understanding in his
eyes. These were young men from Rohan, from Westfold far away, or
husbandmen from Lotstarch. They were not made for the slaughter that
Gandalf had led them into. Nor was he, for that matter. He quailed at
the thought of looking Arwen in the eyes.
"Go!" said Aragon. "But keep what honour you may, and do not run!
March instead quietly back to Minas Tirith, and prepare your
reports. There will be investigations following this campaign."
"Hah!" cried Gandalf. "Wimps! No guts for a little bloodshed in a
noble cause! Good riddance to maggots! Yaaah!"
Slowly the reduced army marched northwards towards the gate. Or
slowly may not be the proper word: Pipsqueak felt as if wading through
treacle. He could walk ten painful steps forwards and advance only a
few inches. The soldiers around him apparently experienced the same, by
the talk that he overheard.
The army made their last camp on the march, north and a little west
of the Black Gate. No enemies were to be seen, yet fear lay heavy on
most of the soldiers. The treacle became thicker.
Suddenly Pipsqueak realized that he was no longer in the camp. He
stood much closer to the Black Gate, together with Gandalf, Aragon,
Giggly, Lego-lass, Eonard, Dr. Imrahil, Armadillo and a few others whom
he could not name because the lazy author of this chapter could not be
bothered to look them up. Without needing to be told, he knew that a
parley was about to be held. A man, richly dressed, appeared on the
wall that arched above the gate. Presenting his left side briefly to
the delegates of the West, he showed them his empty scabbard in token of
peace. The device of his shield was the text "Mouth of Tauron". Then
he spoke. His voice was melodious.
"Well? Why do you disturb us further? Will you give us no peace by
night or day?" Its tone was that of a kindly heart aggrieved by
"But come now," the voice continued. "Some of you at least we know
by name. Gandalf we know too well to have much hope that he seeketh
counsel here, nor forgiveness. But thou, Aragon, lord of the Rangers of
the North, art declared by thy well-worn travel clothes, and more by the
noble countenance of thy forefathers. Though thy waistline surprises
us. Why hast thou not come before, and as a friend? Much have we
desired to see thee, especially now, to save thee from the unwise and
evil counsels that beset thee! Is it yet too late? Despite the
injuries that have been done to our country - in which, alas! thou hast
had some part - still my lord would save thee, and hope to keep thee
from the ruin which draws closer. Indeed he is among the few, though
not the only one, who has resorted from scheming and insults to
Aragon opened his mouth as if to speak, but said nothing. He looked
deep into the eyes of the Mouth standing above him, and then to Gandalf
at his side; and he seemed to hesitate. There was a silence.
It was Gandalf who broke it suddenly. "The words of this messenger
stand on their heads. But in the language of Mordor, help means ruin
and culture means glitz and clichès, that much is clear."
"Peace!" said the Mouth. "I do not yet speak to thee, traitor to
both sides. Pray allow me first to speak to the Ranger, whom my lord
has hopes for.
"What hast thou to say, Ranger of the North? Wilt thou have peace
with my lord, and all the aid that his knowledge, founded in long years,
can bring? Shall we make our counsels together against evil days, and
repair our injuries with such good will as we may find? Shall we have
peace, thou and we? It is ours to command."
"I will have peace," Aragon answered at last, thickly and with an
effort. All the Gondorians present cried out gladly, till Gandalf
lifted his hand. "Yes, the King will have peace," he said, "he will
have peace, when you and your master and all your works have perished."
Suddenly Aragon noticed a very large bottle of ink eraser in the
wizard's hand, though only he realized its significance. As the
flabbergasted man on the wall above turned his gaze upon him, he only
looked down and nodded mutely.
--- Pipsqueak's mind worked slowly and labouriously. The treacle
seemed to have reached his brain, impeding no longer only his physical
progress. He had a strong sense of deja vu, but he couldn't place
"You are a liar, Mouth of Sauron!" continued Gandalf. "You speak of
peace. You hold out your hand to us, and I for one see only a finger on
the claw of Mordor. Cold and cruel! What will you say of your armies
besieging Minas Tirith, and the incendiary bombs showering the city?
When your master hangs from a gibbet for the sport of his own crows will
Gondor have peace with Mordor!"
The Mouth looked puzzled. "Our armies besieging the City of
Gondor? We know of that attack, but apart from those renegade
Nazdaq thou mayst be certain that Mordor had nothing to do with it.
Tanks and automatic weapons were used in that attack, weren't they?
Mordor has very few such weapons, and thou knowest this."
"Yeah, right. And where did those armies come from then?" sneered
"Tell thou us," replied the Mouth. "Yet we have our suspicions. The
Turquoise Wizards that thou broughtest east, Attila and Pinafore, are
still active. Running guns, among other things. And we know that the
Nazdaq had dealings with them."
Aragon looked up. Gandalf moved the bottle of eraser menacingly.
"Liar," he said simply. "We will listen no more to your lies."
With that he calmly reached into his bag ---
--- Pipsqueak's sense of deja vu increased sharply ---
--- and produced a whip of many thongs. Lashing them skywards, he
caught the Mouth of Sauron around the knees. Then he pulled, and the
Mouth fell, crashing on the stone flags before his own master's gates.
As the gaudily dressed man died, Gandalf casually threw a smoke
grenade at him. The smoke covered him completely. At the same time, a
great cry of rage rose behind the wall. Then a breeze wafted the smoke
towards the west. The edge of the smoke cloud covered the delegation of
the West briefly, and Pipsqueak distinctly felt a fresh and pleasant
fragrance that he did not associate with Gandalf's smoke grenades. It
could have been the Mouth's perfume. Then they had to retreat rapidly
from the gates, as the host of Mordor poured out to avenge the Mouth of
Sauron and the indignity of murdering their envoy at a parley.
Blades flashed brightly in a bloody melee. Shafts fell like fletched
sleet. Pikes pumped like pistons, drawing water that was red. Gandalf
strode foremost in the army of the West, lightning after lightning
lashing out from his right hand. Pipsqueak, who had often wondered at
this power of the wizard, looked closer. He had rockets before. But
what's a bloody Star Wars prop doing in this world?
In the front line of the army of the West now stood Pipsqueak, and he
didn't like it. He was no coward, not now, but he saw men falling on
both sides, and to his mind came images of widows and orphans. He must
put a stop to this madness.
He drew his trusty old flintlock pistol. He did not know whence it
suddenly came; it was there, perfectly naturally. He could not remember
using it before, but he could remember that he had used it before.
Pointing it skyward, he discharged it. Bang! There was no recoil,
and very little gunsmoke, but he accepted this as perfectly natural.
"Stoooop!" he cried. The nearest men glanced briefly at him. That
Pipsqueak reached hurriedly for more powder, wadding and a new ball.
Then: What am I doing? If this is a dream, I have total control. I
can do anything I want. If I want to make it so that I have already
reloaded my flintlock, it will be loaded. Without bothering to reload
the old museum piece, he fixed its barrel between his ankles and drew
the hammer back with some difficulty. Pointing it skyward again, he
fired. Bang! "Stoooop!"
The nearest men glanced briefly at him. He put the pistol back in
his belt, whence it disappeared without making its disappearance
noticed. Perhaps a ruse would help.
"This is Mom talking to you! You boys stop this ruckus this instant,
or you'll be grounded for a year! You're in serious trouble already,
The men of the opposing armies did not hear.
An arrow, one of the thousands raining from both sides, came straight
towards Pipsqueak's face. It parted the hair on his helmetless head as
he ducked, swiftly as the orc-chieftain in Moria in the original text.
He gave up. Let them fight, if they want to fight. When does Arwen's
plan turn up?
Then the storyline changed abruptly again. Some of the readers
pricked up their ears at that, before remembering that this is a written
text; most shook their heads sighing.
The cry rang out in many voices: "Dragons are coming, dragons are
coming!" The two armies stopped dead, both the living and those who
were already bleeding quietly on the tarmac. The soldiers gaped up at
the sky, where dozens of huge shapes sped down towards them, mighty
serpents with wings, black or brown contrails. Only Gandalf remained
oblivious of them. Zap, zap, zap went the blaster in his hand.
Easterlings and Southrons continued to fall. Then Pipsqueak saw two
dragons whom he thought that he recognized.
Orm Embar and Yevaud!
Pipsqueak's mind was made up. The slaughter must be stopped, and now
he knew how to stop it. He did not know what a flight of dragons of
Earthsea were doing in Muddle-earth, but he had an idea of how to make
use of these two. He had never thought that being a Le Guin fan would
come of use.
Were these Arwen's plan? She had noticed him reading the Earthsea
books in Minas Tirith and had nodded approvingly.
He cried their Names. His voice was little and the noise in the sky
was grown great, but the dragons of Earthsea have keen ears. They can
hear the grass grow, and they can hear it on the next island on a stormy
day, or so it is said. With an air of surprised reluctance the pair
arrested their rushing swoop towards the thousands of men on the ground.
Pipsqueak cried to them again, remembering not to look into their oily
"Orm Embar and Yevaud! Rid me of that wizard, then of yourselves!"
He pointed. At once the two dragons turned their attention to Gandalf.
These were not dragons of Muddle-earth, like Smaug and Ancalagon that
were no more. A dragon of Earthsea must obey one command from one who
speaks his true name; but the first part of this command was one that
pleased them. Dragons of many western writers enjoy toying with
flatlanders, these absurd and amusing little bipeds that cannot fly. Le
Guin's dragons of Earthsea are not among the exceptions.
Pipsqueak knew these things well. "You too, Kalessin! No
man-baiting today!" Perhaps the dragons thought him more than a nervous
hobbit with big front teeth. In their experience it was mages who had
powers such as being able to hover two inches above the ground.
Kalessin did not seem to obey, though, merely hovering back and
watching: amused, perhaps. Kalessin is always amused, I think, even in
anger. It must be nice.
It was then that Pipsqueak wondered how he was able to command
dragons who spoke (or bothered to speak) only the Old Speech of
Earthsea, when he spoke in Westron of Muddle-earth. Author's
prerogative, perhaps. There are inconsistencies enough in this dream.
Now get back to the main action, Pipkin!
Zap, zap went the mad wizard's blaster. Argh, argh went the
Easterlings and the Southrons, one by one by one. Then the wizard went
squawk as Orm Embar grabbed him with the claws of his powerful
forelegs. Although Gandalf was nearly six feet tall and after his
tussle with Forlong was grown nearly as wide across the waist, the
dragon had no trouble tossing the terminally surprised ball of lard high
into the air. The blaster separated from his hand and took its own
trajectory through the lower atmosphere of Muddle-earth, until it was
destroyed in a blinding flash by a jet of pale blue flame from
Kalessin's mouth. There were shock diamonds in that jet, and the dragon
sailed half his (or was it her?) own length up and backwards, trailing
yellow smoke. Gandalf reached the top of his arc. His mouth grew round
and his eyes wide open, but he had stopped squawking.
Then Yevaud's mighty tail swung round, thicker near the middle than a
man is tall yet faster than a whiplash. Yellow smoke streamed thick
from his nostrils. Dragons of Earthsea may yield one mastery to one who
speaks their true names, but they will choose the manner so as to best
serve (or amuse) themselves.
Pipsqueak saw that he had accomplished more than he had purposed. As
one the dragons abandoned their play. With the ancient yet vigorous
Kalessin in the lead they pursued instead the rapidly receding wizard
towards the flaming Mt. Viagra in the far distance. A baseball cap, to
Pipsqueak like a large tent, landed on a broken patch of tarmac some
distance from him before dissolving back into nothingness.
The flight of the dragons, both the arrival and the departure, caused
some panic in both armies. Aragon did not panic, but Babar did. Rising
on his hind legs, he trumpeted with fear, and Aragon fell to the ground.
At that impact, the ground shook. Shopping malls slid and fell, roofs
caving in. A great smoke rose. Pipsqueak rejoiced at this sight. The
collapse of the two Towers of the Teeth, however, caused him a great
unease, though he did not know why.
Aragon got back on his feet. Each of his footsteps was a small
aftershock. "That was a bad fall, Pipsqueak," he said. "Imagine how
bad it would have been but a week or two ago."
The sun shone suddenly warm and brightly, though it had not been
overcast before. Pipsqueak found himself knee-deep in a basin of warm
and pleasant water. It had apparently once been a fountain near the
gardening section of an ancient shopping-mall that was still standing,
though the last paying customer must have left through the now broken
automatic sliding doors when Methusalah wore nappies, or earlier.
Pipsqueak's trousers might be drenched, but he felt as if wearing only
bathing trunks, and he was: quite an unusual attire for hobbits. This
made him feel rather bashful before the eyes of so many, but otherwise
he was happier than he could remember ever having been. There was a
hush. No sword was raised, though many were unsheathed; no shaft was
speeding, though many were on the bowstrings. At this point Pipsqueak
noticed that his pistol was gone. It did not worry him.
The two armies stood panting. Then a Southron king strode forward,
tall and broad-shouldered. He was coal black, dreadlocks inlaid with
gold thread reaching almost to his waist. His right arm was missing;
only a scorched stump stood out from the shoulder. He was bleeding from
many small cuts on the left side of his body. He raised his remaining
hand in a gesture of peace, and stopped a few paces before Aragon. He
cast a swift glance at Pipsqueak and smiled a little.
Aragon was grown slimmer. He sheathed his sword. It needed no
wiping first: there was no blood on it.
Then the Southron spoke. "Now that that meddlesome menace Inkánush
is gone, can we be friends, man? Can we have a little peace again?"
The sun continued to shine without malice.
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Be sure to read Ursula K. LeGuin's epic new novel Copyright Infringement Lawyers of Earthsea, which is expected to be released any minute now.