At a village of the Shire, whose name I withhold to protect the innocent, there lived a little while ago one of those gentlemen who are wont to carry a sword instead of a walking-stick, and desire to be thought fierce. His "family" consisted of an elderly, slightly senile uncle and a young lad named Samwise who puttered around in the garden, ran errands, and helped with cooking. Indeed, this gentleman had other relatives, the Sackville-Baggins family, but he refused to acknowledge them, and the feeling was mutual.
You must know that this gentleman in his leisure moments (which was most of the year) gave himself up entirely to the reading of stories of great adventure and perilous quests. Above all he valued those written by his uncle Bilbo on account of his great clarity of style. For Bilbo's stories contained such expressions as "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit, who on the whole was whole-heartedly content to dwell in his wholly inhabitable hobbit-hole." These and similar passages confused the poor gentleman's mind, for he lay awake at night trying to decipher their meaning, which in truth he could never have learned even had he taken the book to the top of Taniquetel and shoved it under Manwe's nose, and said, "Pray tell me, esteemed Sulimo, what is the meaning of this phrase?" For Manwe would have sat there blinking in bewilderment, and in all probability would have ordered his eagles to drop the book and its owner into the deepest part of the Encircling Sea.
At last, having lost his wits completely, this don assigned himself an epic quest. He believed that it was necessary that he should take his uncle's ring, and, accompanied by only a few loyal companions, carry it to the Cracks of Doom in Mordor, and there cast it into the fires from whence it supposedly came. Setting this harebrained plan in motion required several months of plotting and scheming on his part. This gentleman, who was named either Freddy or Frito but had determined to call himself Don Frodo, first set about persuading his uncle to take a long vacation. With that accomplished, Frodo, at great peril to his chances of inheriting anything, crept into his uncle's room and pilfered the Ring, his uncle's old mail shirt, and Sting, his uncle's sword.
Frodo fancied this a great deed, fully in accordance with the family tradition of burglary and other misdemeanors; however, it was not so dangerous as he thought. Frodo probably could have stolen the bed his uncle slept in, and the old man wouldn't have noticed a thing.
Frodo waved to his departing uncle. "Good bye, Bilbo! Have a good time! Don't forget to write! Watch out for the S-Bs!"
That earned a smile from the old fellow. "Good bye, my dear boy. I know you shall miss me terribly-"
"-but it really is time for me to do some traveling. Good bye!" Bilbo stumped off down the road, leading a pony with all of his baggage.
The moment Bilbo turned around a corner and out of sight, Don Frodo jumped inside, slammed the door shut, and double-bolted it. "Now that I am concealed from all eyes," he said, "I shall begin preparations for my perilous journey." Dashing about like one possessed, he accumulated a giant pile of food, clothing, camping equipment, and other necessities. Then he surveyed this great store of goods. "It would seem that I shall need more than one pony; perhaps I should take Sam with me. After all, it is not fitting that anyone should attempt such a deed by himself and deprive all others of the chance of winning glory."
Don Frodo went down to his beer-cellar and roused Samwise. "Wake up, sluggard! Do you want to help save the world from the forces of evil?"
Sam sat up sleepily and stared disconsolately at an empty mug. "What's that?"
"I said, do you want to help save the world? Go forth, explore new lands, make perilous journeys, endure terrible hardships, face numerous foes, and journey to the Land of Shadow to destroy an ancient evil?"
"Hmmm . . ." Sam rubbed his eyes and thought it over. "Will the pay be any good?"
"Doubtless, we shall find troll-hoards, capture great store of weapons and other valuables from our foes, and be presented with splendid gifts by grateful rulers."
"Count me in then," said Sam. "I know which side my bread's buttered on, and I have an eye for the main chance. On the other hand, they say that curiosity killed the cat, and there's many a slip 'twixt-"
"That will be enough, Samwise. Go and get your pony, but tell no one that you are going anywhere. The Enemy seeks the Ring I carry."
"You mean old Bilbo's ring? Is it magic?"
Don Frodo looked both ways to make sure that they were alone, and then leaned closer to Sam. "It is an artifact of great and terrible power, but it is even more deadly than that. For it contains the will of Sauron, and always works to return to his hand."
Samwise was surprisingly gung-ho about this news. "Well, let's get going then. It's the job you never start as takes longest to finish." After taking another mug of beer to fortify himself for the road ahead, he hurried off.
Don Frodo and his squire sallied forth under cover of darkness, for the Sackville-Bagginses lived two doors down from Frodo, and their favorite pastime was to watch his activities to gather ammunition for malicious gossip. Nevertheless, it was with some difficulty that Frodo persuaded Samwise not to sing marching songs and shout cheery farewells to every house they passed.
"What would my old gaffer say if he could see me now?" Sam asked. After thinking about it for a while, he answered his own questions. "He'd probably say, 'Don't get too big for your britches, my lad, anddon't count your chickens before they're hatched,' as well as-"
"And undoubtably, he would have many other useful proverbs, which I will thank you not to repeat here."
Now you should not think that Don Frodo's departure passed totally unnoticed. The next morning, Meriadoc Brandybuck came 'round to talk with Frodo, with the intention of getting a free breakfast in the process. He knocked on Frodo's round green door, but no one answered. This caused him some concern since Don Frodo was usually an early riser. He immediately hurried to the house of Peregrin Took, who was a friend of both Merry and Frodo.
"Don Frodo won't answer his door," he said. "That by itself wouldn't be such a cause for concern, but Sam isn't there either. I'm afraid that good old Frodo has gone off one one of those adventures he's always talking about."
"Don't worry so much, Merry. He's a Baggins; Bagginses don't have -" Here Pippin stopped suddenly. His face fell, and he leaped out of his chair. "His uncle! Bagginses do have adventures! I'll wager that old fool has persuaded Frodo to try something-"
"No! Don't you remember? Bilbo went away last Tuesday. Whatever trouble Frodo's in, he's in it by himself."
"Not by himself, didn't you say Sam was gone as well? A Elbereth! Rosie will raise Udun if she finds out what's happened. We must bring them back, Merry, and do it at once, before they or anyone else comes to harm."
Merry paced rapidly back and forth in Pippin's dining-room. "But how are we going to do it? I think Frodo has that sword of his uncle's, and he's a bit cracked. I don't wish to die at a young age, which in my lexicon means anything less than one hundred."
"When in Camelot, do as the Camelotians do."
"You mean we should bring him back by acting silly?"
"No, we must contrive some sort of hare-brained legend, and cause him to think that coming back is the chivalrous thing to do, or something like that. I'll run over to the Smials and borrow some old mathoms which I think might come in handy. You see if you can find about five yards of that creepy gray fabric that Mrs. Boffin was using for spiderwebs last Halloween."
"Right." Merry and Pippin went to retrieve these useful articles, so panicked that they left their second breakfast entirely uneaten. Not that the food was wasted; the inhabitants of this portion of the Shire have a nigh-magical ability to sense unattended food, and they are not above committing a bit of B & E to get at it.
On the afternoon of the first day, as Don Frodo and Samwise walked along the road leading their noble steeds, they heard a strange sound just off to their left. It sounded roughly like this: "Moaaaaagh! Moaaaaaaaaaagh! Doooooooooom. (sound of squeaking hinges)"
"Behold!" cried Don Frodo in a mighty voice. "Thus are true knights rewarded! Even though this is but the first day of our questing, yet we have encountered a dire peril, sufficient so that I shall gain great worship and you shall be rewarded with the spoils of victory. See that you remain close behind me, ready to invoke the correct Valar on the proper occasions or heal me if I am cleft in twain. Above all, heed the words of the ancient Field Manual of Gondolin: 'When thou supportest thy master on the fielde of combat, throwe thou not bowlders or stoanes against his enemies; for it is not thy place to do so. Thou shalt drawe overmuch aggro, and be ysmitten withal.' The precise translation of 'aggro' has since been lost, but most scholars agree that 'drawing aggro' is some kind of perilous offence against chivalry, which shall earn the enmity of Orome the Hunter. Now, forward into battle!"
When the two adventurers had turned from the road and walked a short distance, they came upon a structure which to Sam's mortal eyes appeared to be a large garden shed. Don Frodo strode boldly up to the door and knocked on it. "Open in the name of Westernesse!" he shouted.
The old, splintered door swung open gradually, without the aid of any visible hands. Inside the shed there was no lamp or torch. As Frodo and his squire stepped across the threshold, a dark cloud suddenly passed across the sun, plunging the world into gloomy darkness.
Frodo stopped for a moment. "Samwise, you are about to dare such danger as no mortal has faced for nigh a thousand years. This is a barrow of ancient Cardolan, inhabited by foul wights of Angmar who were sent here to be a stain upon the glory of fallen kings. It is our duty, and indeed our privilege, to cleanse this holy mound and bring rest to its lawful occupants."
They felt their way further into the darkness, till at last they heard foul whispers all around them. Frodo drew his sword. "Now, lacho calad, drego gnaaahhh-"
A net was cast over Frodo and his squire. Dim lights flared up on their left and on their right. They were confronted by a pair of eldritch faces, illuminated from below in such a manner that their noses shone with a perilous red light. If Frodo had not been full of blood-lust, and Sam had not been terrified out of his wits, they might have recognized the faces as belonging to Merry and Pippin. But they did not.
Merry and Pippin began to chant in ominous voices.
Cold be hand and heart and bone,
And cold be sleep, under - ack,
He's getting out! Put out the lights,
You dimwit! I'm trying, but he's owww!
Watch out for that old sword he's got
I swear this was your idea.
It had been their intention to capture Frodo and hold him prisoner until he swore to forsake deeds of chivalry and lead a quiet life. But they had underestimated his resolve, and his strength both of body and of mind. Merry took a nasty puncture wound in his arm. They would not have escaped with their lives if Sam had not accidentally tripped his master, buying precious time.
Don Frodo stood victorious on his first field of battle. He made quite a nice speech, which I shall not reproduce here because its style and content should be quite familiar to those who have already read the earlier part of my narrative.
Sam interrupted him. "I can't find any treasure. Were these unusually poor barrow-wights?"
"No, if we had been able to destroy them, we would have gained much wealth. But they were impoverished in one meaning of the word, indeed the most important meaning. They were poor in valour, and it would have been little credit to us if we had defeated them. Do not be too disappointed! We shall not lack for enemies to defeat."
It is likely that Merry and Pippin did not stop running until they were back in their village. However, this setback did not shake them from their plan; now they understood that bringing back their crazed neighbor would require force as well as subtlety.
That evening, Don Frodo and Samwise approached an old forsaken inn that stood about halfway between the Shire and Rivendell. When they were perhaps a mile away, Don Frodo stopped briefly. "Samwise," he said, "you have always wanted to see elves, and tonight you shall see them. That grand and stately castle ahead of us is the stronghold of Lord Elrond Peredhel, greatest of all elven lords. We shall be safe there, if indeed we are safe anywhere in Middle-earth."
"I know I'm missing something, Don Frodo, but I can only see an old inn, and not even a very good one. Is this another one of those enchantments?"
"There is no doubt of it," Frodo explained. "My eyes can see it clearly in its true form; lordly are its battlements, and brave its pennants! However, Lord Elrond is mighty in magic and may hide it from the eyes of lesser men. Once we have entered, you shall see it as it truly is."
They quickly covered the rest of the distance, and entered the "castle's" courtyard, where an old ostler took charge of Bill and Rozinante. Sam didn't think that it looked much like a castle, even when he was inside it, but he kept these thoughts to himself. "After all," he reasoned, "maybe the magic is so strong that it even works on the inside. As long as their beer is magic too, I shall be willing to call this the grandest castle in Arnor."
The innkeeper came out to meet them. For a moment he was taken aback by their strange appearance, but he noticed the richness of Don Frodo's armor and decided that he could put up with a bit of strangeness, as long as he was able to charge double the fair price for everything. "Hello, strangers," he said. "What can I do for you?"
Don Frodo bowed deeply. "Greetings, noble lord; I am Don Frodo and this is my squire. It is an honor to see your fair castle. We require only shelter from our enemies and the elements, and perhaps a morsel of food."
"Also, we could do with some beer," Sam put in.
"Be silent, Squire Gamgee! You are standing in the presence of the greatest remaining elven-lord in Middle-Earth."
"Well, he doesn't look much like an elf."
"Your impudence knows no bounds! However, you may not be able to detect his elven heritage because he is only half-elven."
"Oh. All right. Greetings, Lord Elrond," Sam said, and bowed. "Play along," he whispered.
The innkeeper, after deciding to charge them triple, returned their bows politely. "Your fame has come before you, Don Frodo, and any knight of your prowess is welcome here. I shall bid my servants to prepare the finest room for you. In the meantime, perhaps you would like to grace my great hall with your presence? My other guests are eager for news of foreign parts."
"I will most certainly do so, my lord." Don Frodo and his faithful squire entered the "great hall" and dined on bread and bacon. All through dinner, Frodo discoursed most intelligently on the proper methods of crop rotation in cold climates. It was a wonder to hear him; indeed, were he not wearing the armor and badges of knighthood, one could easily forget his madness. For his strange malady only affected his reason touching matters of chivalry; on all other topics, his judgement was as sound as ever.
After the meal was over, Don Frodo addressed his squire. "Samwise, what do you think of that man over by the fire? Methinks that he hath a knightly look, indeed a kingly look, about him."
"He looks rather ragged to me," Sam observed. "If I were the innkeeper, I'd want payment in advance from him."
"My dear Samwise," said Frodo, "have you not read how, through misadventures and the crookedness of unfaithful followers, great knight-errants are often reduced to a state of relative penury? Go and ask him from what kingdom he is come."
Sam got up and walked over to the ragged man's table. The man looked suspiciously at Sam, clasping the handle of his sword, but then decided that Sam posed no threat. Sam cleared his throat nervously. "That man over there, the good and renowned knight Don Frodo of Bag End, wants to know your name and why you are here. Don't take it ill, please. He's a bit crazy, but not likely to cause much harm."
The man began to juggle his knife, his fork, and three hard-boiled eggs. "I am known as Strider, and I am a traveling juggler in search of employment. Does your master seek entertainment?" Strider snatched one of the eggs out of midair with his mouth, and pretended to cram the other two into Sam's ears.
Samwise went back to Don Frodo and told him everything Strider had said, but Frodo did not believe a word of it. He went and sat down at Strider's table. "Greetings, good sir. I can tell by your bearing that you are a knight of great prowess."
"No, actually, I'm a juggler."
"While your current disguise might deceive those who are not experienced in such matters, there is no way for a true knight to hide his identity from the other members of the universal order of chivalry."
"But I really can juggle!"
"Doubtless you learned the art while held captive by the Haradrim, who are said to have much skill in juggling and feats of legerdemain. But come! I see that you wear the ring of Barahir, and your sword is a wondrous ancient blade. It is useless to deny that you are Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the lost heir to the thrones of Gondor and Arnor."
Strider sighed in frustration. "You win; I am the lost heir, and this is my mighty sword, passed down to me from my father. Unfortunately, it's broken, as you can see."
Don Frodo's face lit up with wonder. "The Shards of Narsil, holier than any saint's relics! The blade that cut the ring from the Enemy's hand! I would at once pledge my sword to your cause, were I not already engaged upon an even more perilous quest. Presently, I am-"
Sam cut in. "Are you sure you should be telling this to him? We should keep our cards close to the vest, because three can keep a secret if two of them are dead, and loose lips sink ships, and -"
"Nonsense, Squire Samwise. This man bears the relics of the house of Elendil, and cannot possibly play us false. His ragged looks count for naught."
"All right," said Sam. "You can't judge a book by its cover, and beauty is only skin deep, and not all that is gold-"
"No offence taken," Strider said hastily. "At the present, my own perilous quest isn't going anywhere, so perhaps I can help you with yours."
Don Frodo explained the tale of the Ring to Strider, who nodded at the appropriate points and said "yes!", "no!", or "how terrible!" whenever the situation seemed to require it. Finally Frodo's crazed rantings came to an end. "Here comes Lord Elrond's daughter, the Lady Arwen," Frodo said. "It is known far and wide that your affections are drawn to her, and methinks-"
"Don't be ridiculous," said Strider. "My affections are not drawn to her-" and then he stopped as the innkeeper's daughter came into the room bearing a platter of bread. She was short, very short in fact, but her eyes were dark and lively, and her smile could take hold of a man's heart in an instant.
"-they are irrevocably pledged to her," Strider finished. "Excuse me a moment." He got up and started after her down the hallway toward the kitchen.
Don Frodo was comfortably settled into one of the room's two beds, and Sam was dozing on a blanket on the floor. "Where's that Strider fellow, anyway?" Sam asked. "Time and the tide wait for no man, plough deep while sluggards sleep, early to bed and-"
"He probably tarrieth with his fair lady," said Don Frodo, "And I do not blame him. However, if he is to leave with us tomorrow, he should be well rested. Go now, and inform him that he must part himself from his present company."
Sam eventually found Strider, the innkeeper (whose name really was Elrond), and Arwen in the kitchen. Arwen was washing the last of the dishes, and Strider was drying them for her, while earnestly reciting a badly written romantic poem. She was obviously flattered by the attention, but Elrond was giving him a chilly glare of suspicion.
"Don Frodo says that if you're coming with us, you really ought to get some sleep. Only he said it grander, more formal."
Strider put down his dishtowel. "Good night, my dearest. I'm going on a perilous journey tomorrow, so I will probably never come back. But that doesn't matter, really, because I have seen true beauty, and can die happily." Sam and Strider left the room, followed by Elrond's disapproval.
That night, the innkeeper's daughter crept softly into the room Don Frodo and his retinue were occupying. She had no impure motive, but had agreed to take a walk secretly with Strider and listen to the rest of his romantic poem, since he was leaving very early in the morning. It cannot be determined with any certainty what Strider's motives were.
Anyway, he had not arrived at the appointed time, and so Arwen had come to awaken him. All might have gone well, except that it was very cold, so she wore a heavy cloak with a warm hood. Don Frodo lay awake, unable to sleep, fancying that the Ring wanted him to put it on. When saw Arwen, his fevered imagination concluded that she was actually a Nazgul. He sprang out of bed, waving Sting and crying, "To arms! The Nine are upon us!" He would have killed Arwen on the spot had his feet not become entangled in his blankets, pitching him headlong on the floor.
Arwen screamed in terror. Frodo, still struggling with his blankets, shouted, "Fear not their screeches, Samwise, but lend me your aid!" Getting to his feet, he aimed a blow at her that would have cut her in half had Strider not blocked it with one of the Shards of his sword, which may have been named Narsil, but probably was not. Frodo followed up his attack with a number of fierce blows, driving Strider across the room. Arwen maneuvered behind Frodo and tried to drop a pillowcase over his head.
Samwise, who was a heavy sleeper, came to his feet and saw three figures struggling in the dark. Two of them were laying about in all directions with swords, so Sam tackled the third. "Besides," he thought, "that one's more my size." He began pounding the third figure with the saddlebag full of provisions.
Although Arwen didn't know what was going on, it was obvious that somebody was attacking her. She was a sturdy and courageous lass despite her small stature, and not one to take insults from anybody, and so she began beating Sam about the head and shoulders with the covered lantern she carried.
To complete the chaos, Elrond rushed into the room. "What are you brigands doing to my daughter?" he roared, and, seizing Samwise by the ear, began to punch him. Thus for nearly a minute Arwen pounded Sam, and Sam pounded Arwen, and the innkeeper pounded Sam, and Strider and Don Frodo fenced up and down the room in grand heroic style, nearly cutting off everyone else's heads in the process.
Suddenly Arwen's lantern broke apart over Sam's head. There was a brilliant flash, and then complete darkness. Everyone stumbled around, blind and disoriented. When the innkeeper finally managed to kindle a light, Samwise was standing in the middle of the room swinging his bag at imaginary assailants, Arwen was nowhere to be seen, Strider was apparently sound asleep in his bed, and Don Frodo was slumped over a chair. "I have been stabbed with a Morgul-blade," Frodo groaned. "Already I feel its deadly fragment working-"
"I don't care about your deadly fragment!" the innkeeper roared. "Where's my daughter?"
At that moment, Arwen stepped through the door. "I'm right here, Father," she said. "What's going on?"
"You tell me what's going on," he said truculently. "I'm certain that I heard you screaming."
Don Frodo interrupted. "We have been attacked by the Nine Ringwraiths. Doubtless, their dark presence oppressed her dreams, and she cried out in her sleep."
Yawning, Strider sat up in bed. "Put out that light, will you? We're not leaving for another hour."
"No," said Don Frodo, "we must leave immediately. If my wound is not treated soon by a cunning healer, I shall be turned into a wraith, and our war will be lost before it is fairly started."
Sam dropped his saddlebag and clutched his head in his hands. "No, dear master! Please don't turn into a wraith, whatever a wraith is. It sounds bad."
"Take courage, squire. I can resist its evil effects for a while."
Strider got up and began to investigate Don Frodo's shoulder. "You were wounded? I'm afraid that I was asleep, and missed the whole thing. I know a little of healing; I shall look at your wound and see if I may aid you."
While Strider probed the wound and Sam packed up their belongings, Elrond asked his daughter how exactly she had gotten a black eye, but he did not receive a satisfactory answer.
"I'm stumped," said Strider. "Your wound is not deep, and you have not lost much blood, but your left arm is already turning cold."
"Are your ears made of stone, Heir of Elendil? There is a fragment of a Morgul-blade embedded in my shoulder, working its way towards my heart.
"Ah, a Morgul-blade! Hmmmm . . . ah yes. I have a . . . healing cordial, prepared from the leaves of the athelas plant. It is said to have some virtue against wounds caused by evil magic." Strider handed Don Frodo a small tin flask, and Frodo drank a draught from it.
He choked violently. "Aragorn," he gasped, "has no one taught you better than to dilute athelas in cheap whiskey?"
"I didn't have any elven miruvoir, so I thought that whiskey would work in a pinch."
"Beggars can't be choosers," Sam observed.
"You have my thanks," said Frodo. "That will slow down its progress. Now let us find a healer."
"I know of a few good healers in Rivendell. It's rather far from here, but we should be able to make it."
"Imladris! The great elven city! Bless you, Aragorn, that is exactly the place we must go."
After paying the innkeeper's exorbitant bill, they set out for Rivendell. And if the reader wonders how exactly Don Frodo was stabbed, he should remember that there were only two swords in the room, and Don Frodo did not stab himself.
"Rivendell at last!" Strider said. "Cheer up, Don Frodo. We'll have you patched up in a jiffy, if only I can find my old friend Gandalf."
Don Frodo's face was lined with pain, and his whole left arm and shoulder were cold to the touch. "To the palace, at once! For that is the common gathering-place of all the great and wise healers of Imladris."
"Errr . . . well . . . actually, Gandalf is not currently on very good terms with the lord of the city, and is staying here secretly at a small inn near the riverside. That's just as well; if the people knew that such a famous knight as yourself were here, we'd be mobbed."
Samwise did not think that this was going the way it should. "Just what sort of person is this Gandalf, anyway? He doesn't sound entirely respectable. I won't walk into a trap with my eyes shut, because I wasn't born yesterday."
Strider led Rozinante through the city gate. "Don't be alarmed. Gandalf lives in a somewhat run-down part of the city, but you won't find a better healer anywhere in Rivendell." They turned left and splashed down a muddy alleyway, then turned right onto an even more disreputable crevice between the grimy buildings. Stopping at an unremarkable door, Strider knocked twice slowly, than three times quickly, than twice slowly again. Someone unlocked the door from the inside. "Welcome to the Drunken Merchant," Strider said, and opened the door.
Someone wishing to give the inn the benefit of the doubt might have called it "rustic" and said that it smelled of beer fumes and pipeweed. Sam was less inclined to be charitable, though, and said, "That's is as good a place to get killed as any I ever saw. I'm not going in there."
Strider pulled Frodo into the common room. "Well, if you'd like, you could stay out there in that alley alone."
"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and curiosity killed the cat, and bad company corrupts good morals," said Sam, "but I wouldn't last ten minutes in that alley." He followed Frodo and Strider.
Strider led Don Frodo and Sam to a dimly lit back-room, where a fierce-looking assembly of soldiers and other rough characters were playing a game of beggar-thy-neighbor. Or rather, they had been playing cards, but were now involved in a vehement quarrel. At the precise moment the three travelers entered the room, a tall wizard in impressive but shabby robes was shouting, "Curse your suspicious nature, Gimli! Do you really think I would stoop to the mean and petty expedient of hiding aces in my sleeves?"
"YES!" roared a short bearded soldier, "and I'll see what else you have in there!" Pinning the wizard's arm to the table, Gimli reached up his voluminous sleeve, but withdrew his hand as quickly as he put it in. Now a ferret dangled by its teeth from Gimli's finger.
"I keep ferrets in that sleeve," Gandalf said placidly. "and I've got something even worse in my other sleeve."
"You're bluffing," replied a tall and slender archer. Faster than the eye could follow, the archer extracted a handful of playing cards, money, knives, dice, and pipeweed pipes from Gandalf's other sleeve.
"That's my pipe," said a richly dressed noble sitting at the other end of the table. "Two weeks it's been gone, and I thought I'd lost it. Apparently not."
Just as knives were being drawn, Strider interrupted. "Greetings, old friends."
Gandalf seized the interruption as a chance to escape an unpleasant situation. "Ah, Strider! You cannot imagine how pleased I am to see you!"
"Actually, I think I can. If you could spare your attention for a moment, this gallant knight-errant has a deadly wound that needs healing. A fragment of a Morgul-blade is embedded in his shoulder." Strider winked and pointed significantly to Don Frodo's mithril vest.
"Ah," said Gandalf. "Give me a few moments to summon my power, and I shall see if I can accomplish anything." Frodo, who was quite weak and pale, sat in an empty chair, and Gandalf began waving his hands impressively over Frodo's injured shoulder, saying a few words which certainly sounded like a Sindarin spell, but may have meant something quite frivolous. When he finished his incantation, a twisted bit of metal appeared between his fingers. Gandalf made a few more gestures behind Don Frodo's back, causing Sam to put more bits of metal in Gandalf's other hand.
Don Frodo sighed and relaxed. "I think I shall live. Now Aragorn, while we are here, you should see if you can find a smith of great prowess who can re-forge your sword."
"Well . . . I'm afraid that's a bit of a problem. I would have had it done long ago, except I can't pay for it."
"They would not dream of charging the Heir of Elendil. In fact, most of them would deem it a privilege beyond compare to be permitted to re-forge the Shards of Narsil."
Strider, who was nothing if not a good improviser, had an objection ready. "Under ordinary circumstances, perhaps. But currently I could not risk revealing my identity, lest I draw unwanted attention to your quest." He leaned closer to Don Frodo, and, in a voice barely above a whisper, said, "The Enemy may have spies even in this great city. We are safe nowhere!"
"Quite right," Frodo said. "It is no wonder that the Enemy has hunted you fruitlessly for so many years; you have learned to be greatly cautious. Here, take this silver and find a blind blacksmith; pay him well to re-forge the Sword without knowing what it is."
"A blind blacksmith! I am amazed! Why didn't I think of that? I shall return as soon as the task is completed." Strider walked over to the wall, worked a hidden lever, and crawled out through a secret tunnel that appeared as if by magic.
After Strider left, Don Frodo addressed the other guests. "Shall we introduce ourselves? I am Don Frodo of the Shire, and that is my valiant squire, Samwise Gamgee, sleeping in the corner."
The well-dressed noble stood and bowed. "Greetings, sir knight. I am Sir Boromir of Gondor, Heir to the Steward and First Captain of the Citadel Guard. With me are Gimli the Dwarf, from the Lonely Mountain, and Legolas Thranduilion, the elf-prince of Mirkwood." The "elf" and "dwarf" shot furious glares at Boromir, but he was unaffected. And in all truthfulness, Gimli was very short, and Legolas wore his hair over his ears. Don Frodo, needless to say, felt himself greatly honored to meet them all.
Gandalf stood up and bowed. "Hello, I am Gandalf the Great, Wizard of the White Council and magic-user par excellence."
About an hour later, Strider tumbled in through the secret tunnel. "Look out!" he said breathlessly. "The innkeeper has betrayed us, and the police have the building surrounded!"
Sam jumped up. "Let's go out the tunnel!"
"No!" said Strider. "They have that surrounded too."
"Oh, help, Don Frodo! They have us surrounded! We cannot get out!"
Don Frodo strove to comprehend the situation with what remained of his wits.. "Why should that be a cause for concern?"
Strider "explained" in great haste. "Of late, the evil wizard Saruman has gained great influence with the lord of the city. He hates Gandalf and anyone who supports him. No doubt he has learned that we are here, and desires to take all of his enemies in one blow. If he knows what you carry, he will be doubly eager to take us, for he desires it for himself."
"I see. Even if he does not know about the object which I shall not mention aloud, we cannot abandon Gandalf in his time of need."
Someone knocked on the room's door, very loudly. "Open, in the name of the king!"
"Base cravens!" shouted Don Frodo. "Recreant mmphf-"
"Quiet!" said Strider. "They come with great force, and we shall need to take them by surprise."
"It pains me to take your advice. I would fain meet these cowards in open battle."
"Yes, well, in my years of being fruitlessly hunted, I have learned that when the Enemy seems to offer open battle, it is only a trick. Remember Earnur of Gondor?"
Gandalf opened the door. "Greetings, good sirs," he said, and bowed. "I don't suppose you would like to buy an umbrella?"
"No, and I know perfectly well that you are Gandalf Greyhame, alias Stormcrow, alias Gandolphio the Magnificent, alias Tim the Enchanter. We will arrest you just as soon as we can figure out what to call your . . . ahem! imaginative crimes." The guard captain pushed him aside aside and strode into the room, followed by an even dozen of his deputies.
"Just thought I'd ask," Gandalf said meekly. He tucked his hands into his sleeves and waited politely.
The guard captain drew himself up and began to read an arrest warrant. "Lord Boromir of Gondor, you are hereby under arrest on charges of murder, armed robbery, felonious assault, arson, extortion, and conspiracy to abduct a princess of the realm. In addition, the Kingdom of Gondor has begun extradition procedures. You will- I say, is that Legolas over there?"
"Yes," said Don Frodo, just as Legolas said, "No." The captain grinned in triumph. "I've got one for you too! Frank Smithfield Cavendish Wilson-Baker, alias Legolas of Mirkwood, alias The Deadly Shadow, alias Fredregar the Horse-Tamer, alias James Wright- (the captain stopped for breath) you-are-hereby-under-arrest on charges of counterfeiting, fraud, forgery, practicing medicine without a license, breaking and entering, poaching on the Royal Game Preserve, arson, impersonating a minister of the Holy Church, and conspiracy to abduct a UNNKH!"
Legolas pulled his bow out from under the table and fitted another arrow to the string. "Anyone else?" he asked. There was two seconds of hushed silence, broken only by the dead captain crashing to the floor, then Don Frodo drew Sting and fell upon the officers of the law. A vicious armed brawl began in the cramped confines of the dining room. Strider put his newly re-forged sword to good use fighting side-by-side with Don Frodo, while Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli hemmed in the police on the other side. Gandalf slammed the door shut, locked it, wedged the handle of a fork into the key hole, and then whipped a short single-edged sword out of the back of his robe. "Not only am I a wizard," he roared, "I'm a ninja, too! Fear the wrath of the Ninja Wizard!"
With the aid of such mighty allies, the puissant Don Frodo charged into battle. He slew one of the policemen, but then he was grappled by a tall and stocky opponent and was lost from the sight of his friends. After the others were slain, Boromir found Don Frodo on the floor, with his assailant trying to beat out Frodo's brains (such as he had) using Sting's pommel. Boromir helpfully cut the policeman's throat.
Don Frodo was in dire straits. He had taken several heavy blows to the the face, and as a result had lost five and a half teeth. Blood ran out of his mouth. "Alas that I neglected to prepare the precious balsam of Mablung Heavyhanded before I left the Shire," he moaned, "for that healing substance has the power to instantly close all wounds and restore lost body parts such as legs and heads. Elrond told me the recipe; three times he used it on the slopes of Orodruin, when Gil-galad suffered dire hurt in his combat against Sauron. If I but had the ingredients near to hand, I could heal myself swiftly and carry on with my quest."
Gandalf got into the spirit of things. "If you be not forbidden to utter the secret, tell us what you need and we shall do our best to supply it." Don Frodo listed off various rare and magical ingredients, and his friends brought them to him, or else the best substitute they could find. When Don Frodo drank the balsam, he was violently ill, but soon felt better. He leaned on Sting and addressed the others. "Friends and allies, it has been a privilege to - I say, what are you doing?"
"Spoils of war," said Strider, hastily collecting the silverware and dropping it into his pack. "Gimli! Have you got the candlesticks?"
Gimli gloomily stared at the empty beer-pitcher. "Already checked them. They're just pewter, over wooden cores. Who drank the last of the beer?" Gandalf quietly informed him that it had gone into Don Frodo's balsam.
"Oy!" shouted Boromir. "Don't touch those curtains or you'll pull back a bloody stump! I've got my dibs on them."
Legolas glared belligerently at Boromir. "Unlike you, some of us can't presently afford to buy new clothes. What would you do with curtains, anyway?"
"I have a lady friend who likes green, so hand them over and no one gets hurt."
Gandalf was systematically looting the corpses and cramming their clothing, weapons, badges, and personal belongings into a bag that should have been far too small to hold them all. For while most of his reputation was based on trickery and illusion, Gandalf could do a bit of magic when he was sufficiently motivated.
The door-knob rattled ominously. "Have you finished those robbers off yet?" the innkeeper asked. By way of an answer, Gandalf dipped one of the police-badges in blood and pushed it under the door. After he recovered from a slight choking fit, the innkeeper shouted, "Break the door down, lads!" and there was a rush of feet followed by a mighty crash, and the door shook on its hinges.
Don Frodo drew himself up into a fighting stance. "You shall fall, just like-" and suddenly he was being dragged towards the tunnel entrance by Gimli and Boromir.
Gandalf was holding the trap-door open. "Let's get the Udun out of here, you blithering idiot!" Frodo, still raving madly in his bloodthirsty manner, was jammed through into the tunnel, followed by Gimli, Boromir, Strider, and Sam. As the door to their private room shattered, Legolas turned and put an arrow into the first man who entered the room, and then slipped through the trap-door.
Just as Gandalf turned to enter the tunnel, the innkeeper stuck his arm around the doorframe and hurled a heavy stone jar. "Behind you!" Strider shouted, but Gandalf never saw it coming. It struck him a heavy blow on the back of his head, and he collapsed to the floor, dazed. With the last of his strength, he pushed his loot bag towards Legolas. "Run, for the love of-"
Legolas needed no urging. He seized the bag and slammed the trap-door shut, leaving the party in darkness. They heard an angry pounding on the trap door, followed by the innkeeper's cursing. "Bad luck to you, you ragged fellowship of beggars and thieves!"
The beggars and thieves were crammed into a narrow space, not eager to move ahead without knowing the terrain. A thin, choking cloud of dirt filled the air after someone, possibly Boromir, struck his head violently against the flimsy boards of the low ceiling. Everyone blundered around, treading on each other's toes until they were half-blinded by a sudden flare of light.
Samwise was huddled around a lit match he held. "Can I go home now?" he asked quietly.
"No," said Don Frodo. "I know that you miss your home and your garden, but there is great honor to be won here! We are indeed blessed to suffer such dangers and afflictions, for they merely serve as a test of our resolve, and shall redound to our credit when this tale is told in the great mead-halls on a chilly winter's eve many years hence."
"But discretion is the better part of valor," Sam observed. "And more to the point, bad company corrupts good morals, and it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and-"
Strider took charge. "Well, we can't go back, and we can't stay here all night."
"That's right," Gimli observed, "we can't stay here all night!"
"In that case, I suggest we go forward. Remember, the other end is guarded by at least four men, but now that I have seen Don Frodo's valor and skill with my own eyes, I think we can handle them. Once we're out, I suggest we make for Lothlorien, unless any of you have a better idea."
"I was about to suggest that myself," Legolas said. "We need to lie low for a while."
"What is this realm of which you speak?" asked Don Frodo. "The name hath an elvish sound to it, but I have never heard it before."
"Small wonder," said Strider, "for it is a carefully guarded secret. It is . . . the last great realm of the Elves, in which is preserved a memory and a shadow of the great power that they used to have." He looked inquiringly at Legolas, who secretly gave him a thumbs-up signal. "Yes, as I said, great realm of the Elves. It is a good place to hide."
"Ah, you must mean Laurelindorinan, the Forest of the Singing Gold! Long have I dreamed of walking those sacred forests, of seeing the soaring mallorn trees of Caras Galadhon, of . . ." Frodo went on like this for several minutes, extemporaneously inventing the history, customs, and scenic destinations of this location. Indeed he praised it so highly that its permanent residents might not have recognized what in the world he was talking about. Meanwhile, the company advanced at a quick bent-over shuffle down the tunnel, mentally calculating how long it would take for the alarm to be sounded.
Legolas tugged Strider's elbow, signalling him to drop behind the rest of the group. He whispered in Strider's ear. "Now what? He's in for a rude surprise when we get there; it will not live up to his expectations at all."
"You do not know this man as I do. Lorelindinoreanan will live up to his expectations, whether it wants to or not. When our ingenuity fails, his marvelous imagination will fill in the gaps. Ah, good, it seems Boromir is taking notes. Since we have been to Lothlorien before, we would do well to know as much about it as we can."
Legolas sighed. "Why are we humoring this crazy old don, anyway?"
"Economics 101: he has money, we don't."
"Correct as always, King Aragorn." Legolas gave Strider an exaggerated bow, from the bent position, although he happened to be facing away from him at the time. Not long after these two rejoined the others, they reached a wooden door that marked the other end of the tunnel.
Boromir began to organize the others. "All right, everyone, you know the drill. Well, most of you do. Strider, Legolas, and Don Frodo take the left, I'll take the right with Gimli and Sam."
Don Frodo interrupted him. "I'm afraid I don't know the drill, Lord Boromir. Are we to each choose a man and challenge him to single combat, or are you planning to challenge them all by yourself, or-"
"No. We hit them hard and fast, and hopefully we kill most of them before they have a chance to resist."
"The churlish nature of that stratagem leaves me well-nigh speechless! If you do carry on with that base enterprise, you may certainly expect me to change my allegiance and fight on their side, as knights-errant are wont to do when they perceive let go of my arms you mmph girrm fllll . . .!"
"Thank you, Legolas. Sam, you can untie him once we've dealt with the guards." Gimli kicked down the door, and the intrepid warriors stormed out into the dim evening. There was a series of groans and loud clanging noises, followed by running footsteps. Legolas' bow twanged softly, and the footsteps stopped. Strider stuck his head back through the door.
"All right, it's clear. Hurry up, we do not have much time."
When Sam removed the gag from Don Frodo's mouth, Frodo began to lament his fate. "Treachery and fear of treachery! It is clear that the Curse of Mandos still works among the Elves of Middle-earth. For why else would they use their enchanted elven rope to bind the limbs of the greatest knight alive? No other cords could restrain me, even though they were made of steel, but against the magic of the Eldar I am powerless."
"I don't know about Mandos, Don Frodo, but I'm about ready to do some cursing of my own right now. We left Bill and Rozinante in that inn's stable."
"Take courage, squire Samwise. Within a matter of a few days, we shall certainly defeat at least one knight-errant and his squire, and their horses will be our lawful plunder."
Without horses, it was a long run to Lothlorien. Don Frodo's armor was somewhat burdensome to him, even though it was made of some lightweight metal, and Sam had an enormous pack which kept slipping out of its rightful place high on his back. Frodo asked Legolas if he was willing to share some of his lembas with the rest of the party, but Legolas had the presence of mind to say, "Alas, I left it at the inn," rather than "Lembas? What in Arda are you talking about?"
Deep into the forest they journeyed, keeping a close watch for pursuit. No beaten path marked their way, but Strider seemed familiar with the territory and led them through the trees at top speed. They were not watching the land ahead of them very closely, so it came as a bit of a surprise when several green-clad persons appeared out of nowhere and menaced the party with crossbows. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" their leader asked.
Boromir stepped forward. "I'm Boromir of Gondor, and these are-"
"Ah, yes, now I recognize you. The three of you are more than welcome, and so is Strider, but what about the other two?"
"I can vouch for them."
The leading crossbowman, Haldir by name, held a hurried consultation with his subordinates. After a little while, he turned back to the travelers. "They may come, but they must be blindfolded."
Don Frodo hastily began to protest. "I shall excuse your discourtesy, for it is apparent that you do not know who I am. I am Don Frodo of the Shire, also known as the Knight of the Barrow-wights, whose deeds are sung wherever chivalry holds sway. I am pledged to-"
"I don't care if you're Dain, King-Under-the-Mountain. Anyone who is not a member of the Association must be blindfolded until they are within the compound; it's the rules."
"Though I am well versed in all manner of lore," Frodo said, "I have not heard of this association."
Strider jumped into the breach. "It is . . . a new device of Celeborn's, in which he records the names of all those who are permitted to enter his guarded realm. While you have indeed begun to make a name for yourself, news travels slowly, and it often requires many years for those within Lothlorien to hear tidings from the outside world." While Strider distracted Frodo in this manner, Legolas and Boromir explained things to Haldir, who was initially skeptical, but was eventually won over by tales of Don Frodo's riches.
Into the forest they went, on a path which was well-known to their guides but invisible to all newcomers. "Do not stray from the path," Haldir warned them.
"Why?" asked Sam. "Because we'll get lost, and spend the rest of eternity wandering ceaselessly in an enchanted forest, unable to stop, unable to rest, until eventually we forget even our own names?"
Haldir looked at him a bit oddly. "No . . . whatever gave you that idea? If you wander off the trail, you'll-" A scream of anguish rang out in the woods, coming from just behind the traveling party. Haldir continued. "You'll fall into a pit trap with poisoned spikes in the bottom."
"That's good enough for me," said Sam hastily.
"Curiosity killed the cat," Legolas observed, causing Strider to repeatedly draw his finger across his own throat. "No proverbs!" Strider growled under his breath when Sam's attention left the two of them.
Soon they approached a large leaf-strewn pond, hidden in the heart of the tangled forest. Around the edge of the pond there was a collection of low, rugged wooden buildings that seemed to merge into the trees. The camp was inhabited by perhaps thirty or forty persons, who were as low and rugged as the buildings, although they were not made of wood. An experienced eye (and there were many of these in the ragged Fellowship) would have recognized the location as a sort of brigand's retreat, where men could hide out for a few months when they had gotten on the wrong side of the law.
But Don Frodo perceived Lothlorien in an entirely different manner. In his eyes it was transformed into the most beautiful elven forest imaginable, and its inhabitants became Elven-lords of great age and perilous wisdom. The only outward change this wrought in his appearance was that he was unusually silent. Samwise and Strider, perhaps, recognized Frodo's mood and predicted trouble later, but the rest were simply grateful that he had finally shut up.
Haldir showed them to a small grassy area by the shore. "Pray remain here whilst I go and introduce ye to the lord and lady of this place." He had quite obviously gotten into the spirit of the occasion.
"You have my thanks," Don Frodo said. "But since they are apparently unfamiliar with my name and reputation, I ask that you would correct their ignorance. You may tell them that I was originally known as Don Frodo of the Shire, but am now called the Knight of the Barrow-wights after I vanquished legions of those foul creatures with no aid other than my squire. And be sure to add that my deeds are sung of throughout the whole length and breadth of Middle-earth, or will be soon, which is the same thing, and that I am universally regarded as the most valiant and mighty knight-errant to follow this sacred calling since Gil-galad fell upon the slopes of Orodruin. Though my current mission requires secrecy, even in this the most trustworthy of strongholds, yet I-"
"Thou hast had a long and tiring journey, Wight-knight, and my lord and lady would be most displeased if they heard that thou didst strain thine ailing faculties even further in recitation of thy self-evident prowess. I shall go to them at once." Haldir beat a hasty retreat before Frodo could continue.
Boromir sat upon a backpack and pondered something for a while. Finally he asked Don Frodo, "You said 'since Gil-galad fell', yet while I am no great student of history, or myth, whichever that story is – still, I have heard it said that of the two warriors who faced Sauron, Elendil was the greater."
Don Frodo sprang to his feet in a towering rage. "No mere human could surpass an Elven-lord in arms and warfare, not even those who received the Gift of the Valar for their services in the War of Wrath. Gil-galad was the mightiest warrior of the Second Age, and all who say otherwise tell a lie! I stand ready to prove this fact bodily at any time, armed or unarmed, with lance, axe, mace, or sword, or all of them at once."
Boromir was in a difficult situation, and things might have gone ill for him had not the ever-resourceful Strider jumped into the breach again. "It is a common confusion," said Strider, "occasioned by an incorrect translation of the fourth volume of Elendil of Numenor. Elendil was indeed the 'greatest', as the book says, but only in the sense that he was larger and taller than Gil-galad. The original Sindarin word is not generally used to mean 'more powerful or valiant'. Would you agree, Legolas?"
"Oh, yes! Definitely."
Don Frodo resumed his place on the lawn. "I shall not quibble over obscure Elven translations. The fact remains that Gil-galad was unexcelled in his day; not even I can equal him in feats of arms, although that may be through lack of opportunity." Frodo then spent the next ten minutes bemoaning the general lack of Dark Lords, ancient evils, and corrupted kingdoms for brave knights-errant to defeat.
His monologue was mercifully brought to an end by the return of Haldir. "The Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood shall see you now."
Haldir had carefully explained to his "lord and lady" about the peculiar madness of their visitor, and they had come to the conclusion that this would be an excellent opportunity to have some fun at Don Frodo's expense. While he and his companions waited for their audience, Lord Celeborn had prepared a strange apparatus. It consisted of a small square table with a hole in the middle of it; a large glass bowl was slid into the hole so that it hung part way through. The addition of some slightly cloudy water rendered it into a halfway decent magic mirror.
Haldir brought the travelers before his lord and lady. Lady Galadriel stood to greet them. "Hail and well met! It has come to our attention that one of you is the bearer of a marvellous destiny. Don Frodo, step forward, if indeed you would learn much of the times and fates of Middle-earth. Look into the Mirror of Galadriel, and much may be revealed to you."
Now the table was covered with a cloth, so that a man could be hidden underneath. This man was equipped with several candles and a variety of small figures, which he used to make interesting shapes and shadows on the bottom of the bowl. Frodo stared at it as if entranced, trying to puzzle out its meaning. Suddenly an unmistakable image appeared; a large Eye, rimmed with shadow but lit throughout with a burning flame. Don Frodo lurched forward and locked gazes with this Eye, his body convulsing as if he were grappling with an unseen opponent.
The citizens of Lothlorien had much difficulty controlling their laughter at this strange and novel sight, but Strider was not so amused. He had much more experience with Don Frodo's peculiar madness, and he began to think that the joke had been carried too far. Suddenly his suspicions were confirmed. Don Frodo broke free from his trance and drew Sting from its scabbard. He held it aloft, and the blade glinted dangerously as if with the glare of distant lightning. "Felagund is avenged!" he cried. The panicked puppeteer had just enough time to roll out from under the table before Frodo plunged Sting down through the bottom of the bowl, shattering the illusion of the Eye and spraying enchanted water all over Celeborn and his Lady.
"We are not amused," said Galadriel. "What in the name of Azog's underclothes do you think you just did?"
Don Frodo looked around him in obvious confusion and disbelief. "What? Can you possibly have missed it?"
"Missed what?" asked Sam.
"Ah, the devices of the Enemy are subtle indeed, to conceal such peril from your eyes. Know that I have dueled in song with the Dark Lord from afar these last twenty minutes, in the same way as Finrod in the old lay. And I was nearly overwhelmed, for while much of his power has been spent by now, he still has a formidable mastery of the dark arts. His dire chants nearly struck fear into my own heart. Had he won, he would have perceived in an instant all our counsel and plans. Yet I persevered, and by the grace of Elbereth I was granted victory."
Celeborn was not impressed. "You, sir, are an idiot. A mindless, raving fool who has read so many worthless books of chivalry that you have come to believe they are true. It would be better if all such books were consigned to outhouses, where at least they would be of some use."
Don Frodo was speechless with rage, and shook from head to foot with the force of his emotion. Barely controlling himself, he dipped the tip of one finger into a pool of water trapped in a mirror fragment, and then he pressed a drop of water into the palm of Celeborn's hand. "This in your face, knave," he said through clenched teeth.
Celeborn looked at his hand, puzzled. "Is this some sort of a joke?"
"No!" Frodo roared. "It is a custom which has grown up in this civilized age to replace a far older and more practical challenge to personal battle, which I shall now demonstrate because of the thickness of your skull and the slowness of your mind." He picked up the largest piece of mirror, scooped up several gallons of pond water in it, and advanced upon Lord Celeborn.
Strider knew an emergency when he saw one. "I am sure that your contest of will and cunning has left you in a most exhausted state, and it would not be a fair contest if you engaged Lord Celeborn without resting first."
"I tarry not for any weariness, so great is my wrath!"
Strider stepped in front of him, which took a good deal of bravery. "At least take some refreshment before the battle. Legolas, give him a bit of miruvoir." Strider made several exaggerated gestures when Frodo's attention left him.
Legolas looked puzzled at first, then comprehension dawned on his face and he took a small vial out of an inner pocket of his coat. "Here, take a mouthful of this. The next thing you know, you'll feel as if you've had a long night's sleep."
Don Frodo did as he was instructed, and paused a few seconds to let it take effect. A dreamy look came into his eyes, and his mouth dropped open slowly. "I see . . . white shores," he murmured. "All is turning to silver glass . . ." He slumped to the ground. "The singing . . . it's so beautiful . . ." Sam and Strider carried the sleeping hero away and put him to bed under a wide oak tree.