Chapter 4: Steelbeard
Along the stream the hobbits walked, west and up towards the
slopes, deeper and deeper into Fungang. As their fear of the Orcs
dwindled they started paying attention to their surroundings, and
suddenly, simultaneously, they discovered something truly remarkable:
many of the "trees" were lamp-posts! There they stood, scattered
among the trees as though they be planted there as naturally as any
beech or birch! Some of them were lit with a flicker of gas-flame or
a cobweb-covered lightbulb. The hobbits were positively flummoxed.
As the initial surprise subsided, the ever practical Morrie started
laying plans for an import business of streetlamps into the Shire. He
mentioned this to Pipsqueak.
"Won't be profitable in itself, I think," replied Pipsqueak. "Too
many places where they *like* the dark, except for the occasional
bonfire. But as a cover for our more rewarding businesses it'd be
perfect." Morrie's regard for Pipsqueak went up considerably at this
display of first-rate criminal thinking. From about 1½ to 2 on a
scale from 0 to 100 ---
"Let's have a toast to that," said Morrie. "I need a drink
anyroad." /Sweet Eru I need a drink/. Head still throbbing, he
clambered onto a tree-root that wound into the stream and, pretending
to drink from the swirling water, had a swig, and another swig, from a
bottle that he had swiped from the dying body of Clárence. He did not
suspect that an equally-unsuspecting Pipsqueak did precisely the same
on another tree-root.
Returning to firm ground, a little unsteadily (Clárence had been a
*big* drinker), they at once fell to the topic of food. "Well, we
have our Twinkies," said Morrie. They looked at their dwindling
supplies. About fifty packages, between them. "Won't last till
tomorrow noon," commented Pipsqueak.
Just then they became aware of an orange light that had appeared
further into the wood, north and a little west. "Lookit that," said
Morrie. "Could it be a fast food joint turning on their advertising
billboard or something?"
They began to walk towards the orange light. A few steps into the
wood Pipsqueak suddenly stopped. Then he laughed. There lay a huge
suit of armour, leaning against a tree. The tie still bound around
its neck, mousy brown on closer inspection, proved it to have belonged
to an orc. Pipsqueak put the armour on, or rather, climbed into it.
Being slim and trim for a hobbit, he managed to squeeze his waist down
through the yawning neck-hole. He laughed again, his head sticking up
like an apple showing over the rim of a barrel. Morrie smiled
"What's that pin on the tie?" he asked. "Looks like a small white
hand-shaped badge or something. This belong to one of Cedríc's boys?
Get *out* of that ironmongery, we've no time to play house now!"
Pipsqueak sighed and tipped the top of the armour off with a heave and
a clatter, and they went on.
After a short hike through this strange forest of metal and wood,
they came to a small cliff. Up it went a flight of broad, well-laid
stairs, though cracked now with age and partly covered by lichen. At
the top of the stairs there was just a platform with a brown iron
fence and a rock wall, and an especially large lamp-post. It shone
with a glaring sodium light, bright even under the morning sun. The
hobbits, broad culinary tastes though they have, felt hungrier than
ever: they could not eat a lamp-post of iron and glass. Not even
they. They started climbing the stairs for a look-around.
Standing beneath the lamp-post, and somehow not daring to touch it,
they looked over the forest and the plain beyond. Three sets of
coin-operated binoculars were there, but centuries of random vandalism
had left them smashed and useless, lying on the mossy stone flags.
The pedestals, curiously, were gone. The hobbits had no coins with
which they could have used the binocs at any rate, though for Morrie
this would have presented only a small problem.
They stared for a while, but the absence of fast food joints,
restaurants, supermarkets, cattle herds (Pipsqueak declared that he
alone could eat a cow raw, if Morrie would bring it down - which he
knew that his cousin could), or any other food source soon brought
their spirits lower than ever. "/Helvites druttforpilte eplefitse,/"
Morrie swore in the obscure crime-patois he often fell into when
agitated. Pipsqueak squirmed at the mention of apple. "And I almost
liked this forest!"
"Almost liked the Forest! That's good! That's uncommonly good of
you," said a strange voice, "especially considering that uncommonly
ugly mood you seem to be in. Turn round and let me see your faces. I
almost feel like squishing you like snails in the garden, but snails
make such a yucky mess on the floor inside afterwards. I can never
scrape them entirely off my feet, those stupid slimy tubes of jello.
Turn round!" A large hand, reminding Pipsqueak of the metal skeleton
of the Terminator's hand in Terminator I, grabbed each of them by the
shoulder, and they were spun 540 degrees faster than one of
Pipsqueak's tops. Then two large arms lifted them, somewhat more
gently. Suddenly gaping down from what seemed almost high enough for
bungee-jumping did little to settle their fear. They felt a tingling
in the soles of their feet.
They found themselves looking at a most extraordinary face, if face
it was. It belonged to a tall and thin figure, easily fourteen feet,
though the legs were very short and thick. The face was at least four
times as long as it was broad, and at first glance it consisted simply
of glass, out of which the bright orange glare seared. Beneath it was
a beard like a steel brush. Whether the creature was clad in green
tights like Robin Hood or some ecological Rudolf Nureyev, or that was
just green paint, was hard to tell.
As the hobbits squinted and looked closer, the outline of a mouth
as a crack in the glass and a pair of eyes behind it became evident.
The eyes regarded them with a glitter of suspicion, though not, to the
hobbits' minds, with any active malice.
"/Hrum, Hoom,/" murmured the creature, and then spat a gob of slime
off the edge of the cliff. "Very odd! The more haste the less speed,
that is my motto. Good for *you* that I heard your voices before I
saw you. You look like those detestable brats from the public
schools, the Orcs. But you don't sound like them, with your accents.
/Eplefitse/ indeed!" Morrie thanked his lucky stars for having
retained his syndicate sociolect even through his schooldays.
Pipsqueak had found himself transfixed by that glare, like a rabbit
illuminated at night by an approaching car. He had bared his front
teeth. Now the light subsided, and he could think again.
"Please, sir," he said, "who are you? And what are you?"
An amused look came into the eyes deep within the glass. "/Hrum/,
now," the apparition cleared its throat in answer, "I am a Ment.
/The/ Ment, you might say. Guardians of the lamp-posts in this forest.
Fungang is my name according to some. In Westron that becomes
"/Ironbeard,/" whispered Morrie to Pipsqueak.
"But what's a Ment?" asked Pipsqueak. "Where do you come from?
You look like a walking talking lamp-post to /me/." Morrie pinched
him viciously in the side, but Pipsqueak was too used to that to even
"Yes," replied the Ment, "well, hroom, my first memory is of a
singing lion that walked through this forest. Excellent baritone.
Wide range, too. That answers the /where/, I suppose. And then a
cold-eyed, tall woman who fled towards the mountains. Jadis, I
believe her name was. Queen Berúthiel to others." The Ment's voice
became dark and sullen. "*Not* related to that Galadriel at all, no
matter what silly newspapers say!"
"A singing /lion/??" gaped Morrie.
"Yes, I know it sounds absolutely ridiculous," replied the tall
streetlamp solemnly, its sodium glare oscillating slowly with inner
thought. "Perhaps I remember incorrectly. It is a long time ago, and
I was just awakened, for the first time." Then he cleared his throat
"What about /you/?" he continued. "Who are you? I have never seen
the likes of you. You look like excessively overweight midget-men.
You do not seem to fit into the old lists." The hobbits glared, but
the Ment took no notice. "But perhaps they have made new lists.
/Gabble by rote now the Gits and Rascals!
First name the four, the funny peoples:
Snobs above all, the snickering Elves;
Dwarf the dealer, deep is his wallet;
Ment the Mighty, best and blessed;
Man the mocker, master of commerce;/
Hm, hm, hm,
/Pig gives pork, prawns are tasty;
Fish are fishy, foxes tasty;
Giraffes are grand, goats are tasty;/
Hm, hm, hm. Repetitive, those old lists ---
/Cats are cuddly, cows give milk;
Rats are rodents, roaches icky;
Enormous elephant, ents are tree-like.../
Hm, hoom, it was a long list altogether. But you don't fit in it
"Good," murmured Morrie to himself. To Morrie's family, obscurity
until the knife was poised for the plunge had been a survival trait
for generations. But Pipsqueak remained true to himself:
"Why not make a new line? /Healthy hobbits, hale hole-dwellers/.
Put us just above the Elves and you have it!" Again he failed to
notice the Pinch of Morrie.
"Hm, not bad," said Steelbeard. "So you live in holes, eh? All
riiight. We'll put you in right after the Ments, perhaps. And your
Morrie remained silent. Taught and re-taught by experience, he
kept his fingers still, though twitching:
"Yes, yes, I'm Paragraph Took, Pipsqueak to most..."
"/Pip*kin* to some.../"
"...and my companion is Moribund Brandybuck. But people just call
him Morrie. Or just Moe. We live in the country of The Shire,
/Whôzat/ in Westron, it's in what used to be Arnor, Arthurdame to be
more precise (you know, there was this king with a round table, and
his wife, and...), west of Bree, but east of the Tower Hills..."
As he drew a deep breath to continue, Morrie asked hurriedly: "But
surely you must be tired of holding us up like this. How about, um,
inviting us home? You have stood here some time, I guess. You must
be, um, hungry too. Speaking of which, we are maybe a little peckish
or something ourselves..."
"Well I'm *starving*!" exclaimed Pipsqueak. "I could eat an
elephant raw, *two* of them if they were properly cooked ---"
The old Ment put the two hobbits on what passed for his shoulders,
a sort of narrow collar of iron, and strode down the stairs. Once he
reached the forest floor, he began striding westwards and up, further
and further into the woods. At first he seemed to shake violently,
and Morrie, thinking he recognised the signs, nursed some hopes of
pushing his Vala dust to Steelbeard. Then the hobbits looked down,
and saw that his short legs beat a pace faster than those of a running
Straight through the forest he strode, passing many lamp-posts on
his way. Some of these never budged. Others lit up briefly in
greeting as he passed, while a few raised their hand and said "Howdy".
As for the trees, if they were small enough and in his path, he
smashed them aside in a shower of budding leaves and scented yellowish
splinters. Morrie immediately ceased thinking of that Fungang
lamp-post import business.
Breakfast-time passed into brunch-time. Brunch-time passed into
lunch-time. Lunch-time passed into noon-meal. Noon-meal passed into
two-o'clock morsel, which passed into dinner-time and then dessert
time, and second-dinner-time and second-dessert time. Not until
supper-time did Steelbeard appear to slow down his pace. High upon
the foothills of Mt. Themattress, where the young Mentwash chattered
noisily in a stony bed (reminding the hobbits of yet another bodily
function which must be attended to), Steelbeard turned away from the
stream and ascended a steep grassy slope.
Suddenly the hobbits saw a dark opening. Tall lamp-posts stood
there, forming an aisle of lights which lit up progressively as the
Ment approached. The hobbits were impressed, until they saw the
remote control in Steelbeard's hand. He strode into the aisle, which
stood between the upward-sloping walls of a gorge. The lamp-posts
also grew progressively taller as he walked further in.
The gorge ended abruptly in a wall with a shallow cave at the
bottom. Down the face of the wall came a small stream that had
escaped from the springs of the Mentwash above. It formed a spray
like a falling bead-curtain before the mouth of the cave and filled a
basin and from there flowed in a channel along the aisle, until it
rejoined the Mentwash below the slope behind. Behind the watery
curtain there stood a stone table and a low bed. Fifteen feet long.
Next to the bed was a box of large lightbulbs, presumably for the
aisle of lamps. There was no other furniture.
"There," said Steelbeard. "I have brought you seventy thousand
Ment-strides, each of which is about one meter in your measurement.
This," pointing at the chattering channel beneath the basin, "is my
urinal. You may pass water there. Not into the collecting channels
above the basin, or I'll rip your spines out of your bodies!" The
hobbits, put on the floor, quickly availed themselves of the offer
with many an /aah/ and /about time/.
"Where do we pass hraka?" Morrie asked.
"Um, hroom, Ments never eat." (The hearts of the hobbits made a
panicky dash into their toes.) "We drink only. So we never, whatcha
call it, pass /hraka/?"
Then he strode over to the table, upon which stood several stone
jars. Three of these he filled from one of the channels that ran into
the basin, and sprinkled something into them. Immediately they began
to glow with a light like many blended neonlights, and go slightly
"gloop gloop". The largest of these he set before himself, and the
two smaller he gave to the hobbits. These jars were almost as tall as
the hobbits themselves, and they had to climb onto them and dip their
mouths into the water.
/"Whhy, Eru allmatey, thisshis --- sgoods Farmer Maggiss
secretess --- t! --- sheeeketessht mmushroomsh concocshon ooh --- I
gottagottagotta have shommme more ---"/
The drink was actually like pure spring-water, except for the
bubbles and the lightshow. But then the hobbits felt a tingling in
their feet, and the effect rose steadily through every limb, until it
reached their heads, and then Oh God! Suddenly they felt as vigorous
as they had ever done. Indeed the hobbits felt that the hair on their
heads was actually standing up, waving and curling and growing, and
then falling off. The entirely bald Steelbeard saw no problem with
this, and indeed it seemed the only adverse side-effect of the
Ment-brew. After some time, the psychedelic effect began to wear off.
One effect of the brew was to take permanent effect, though.
Forever after the two hobbits would walk with their feet two inches
above the ground. It was the last they would ever feel of stone or
short-mown grass beneath their feet, unless weighed down with a heavy
load. Even Farmer Maggot's secret mushrooms had succeeded only in
causing this effect temporarily.
"You still haven't told me what you are doing in my country," said
Steelbeard, now lying on the bed, or rather, bobbing a few inches
above it. "There's quite a lot I should like to know, about the Orcs
who were just clobbered outside my forest, about Gandalf (who owes me
a tidy sum, let me tell you, but otherwise he's quite a fine guy,
always has a large bottle in his hat), about that Aruman or whatever
his name is nowadays, and are Galadriel and Arwen as sensuous as they
say..." For a moment the two hobbits remained quiet. Then Morrie
spoke, Pipsqueak for once having the sense to bottle up.
"We come, ash you...shorry, as you know, from /Whôzat/. We left
with another hobbit and his servant..." And so Morrie continued,
until he had covered as much of the story as he felt fit to tell.
This left quite some gaping holes in his tale, but Steelbeard, though
listening intently and putting several questions, didn't push him.
"Hm, this is a bundle of news," said Steelbeard at last. "Though
you have hardly told me all that you know, not by a long shot.
Keeping a lot from me, I believe." He looked at Morrie with a
searching eye. Morrie stared back with practised blankness. "But no
doubt you are doing exactly as Gandalf would wish. Good lads!"
Pipsqueak beamed; Morrie scowled behind his face. Sam would have
busied himself making dynamite bombs in his mind, had he been there.
"By paint and glass, but this is a strange business: up sprout an
unknown people, though they may not sprout very tall; and the
forgotten Nazdaq Riders rise up to pursue them, and Gandalf takes them
out scouting, and El Rond fills them with margarita until it comes out
of their ears, and Galadriel shows them her favours, both of them (is
she *really* such a babe as they say?), and Arwen accompanies them (is
she *really* such a leather-and-lash victrix as I've heard?), and Orcs
try to initiate them, and Sauron and Aruman both hunt them with legal
forms: indeed they seem to be caught up in the Mother of all legal
hassles. I hope they weather it!"
"No legal hassles are too complicated to solve with a few Bywater
Grins," replied Morrie, with a calm assurance based on experience and
generations of family history. "But what about yourself? What's your
relationship with Aruman?"
"Hocch, not too good, not too good," was Steelbeard's reply. "He
began his career as one of the Good Guys, you know. Always a flask in
the hat. Together with Gandalf he was the best damn wizard that ever
came out of Roke since Sparrowhawk, whose true name was Ged. Used to
be Archmage too. Some jolly booze-ups we had, Aruman, Gandy and
myself. But he has been tight-fisted with his spirits lately. And he
has started a school for boys down at Isengard, if you'll believe it.
Well, you do, of course. His pupils are all Orcs: always up to
mischief. Wandering around in the outskirts of my forest! Full of
pranks, too. They'd cut down a tree and leave it to rot as soon as
look at it. No harm in that, of course, but they do the same to the
lamp-posts! Pull them down with ropes, carry them off to be remelted
in the forges of Isengard. That's what they need the trees for.
Smashing the glass with slingshots, just for fun. Sniffing the gas
from the gas-lamps ---
I think I know what he is up to. He is plotting to become a
Corporation, or the manager of one. He has some kind of arms-for-weed
trade with some obscure rat-country up north ---" the hobbits scowled
"--- and he is using those detestable pupils as cheap labour, bloody
scabs. And he's up to worse. It is the mark of evil things that came
in the Great Darkness that they cannot abide grassy lawns, especially
during the sunlit hours: they positively blossom with allergies, but
Aruman's pupils can endure them even if they hate them. I wonder what
he has done. Are they Celebrity Journalists he has ruined with his
bribes, or has he blended the races of Corporate Lawyers and
Literature Critics? That would be, well, an amusing prank come to
think of it.
I have to put a stop to this! I have been idle too long! Sod that
bastard!" Morrie beamed.
Steelbeard raised himself from his bed with a jerk, stood up, and
thumped his hand on the table. It broke in two with a loud /crack/
and a clatter of stone jars. The two vessels that the hobbits had
drunk from trembled and sent up two jets of flame, which scorched the
ceiling and then caused them to rocket out of the cave, much to the
consternation of the hobbits. Steelbeard took no notice.
"I will stop it!" he boomed. "You'll be welcome to hang around
here until I come back." The hobbits, who knew that even the best
mushroom liquor could not make up for lack of solid food, politely
offered to come along rather, if he would have them; Morrie thought of
possible rich looting in the ruins of Isengard.
"Suit yourselves, midgets," shrugged Steelbeard. "But whatever you
hope to accomplish is beyond me."
The next morning the hobbits woke to find a cool sun shining into
the Ment-house. Steelbeard was not to be seen, and that was a
blessing: his sodium glare had kept them awake most of the night. As
they were done washing themselves in the basin and just about to start
searching for whatever powder Steelbeard had put into those jars the
day before, they heard him returning.
"Hoo boy! Good morning, Morrie and Pipsqueak!" he said to them.
"You sleep long!" "Not as long as you think," murmured Morrie with a
yawn. "I have been many hundred Ment-strides already," Steelbeard
continued. "Now we will have a drink, and go to Mentmoot."
He poured them out two stone bowls of water, and sprinkled
something into them. Immediately the lightshow (difficult to see now,
in the morning sun) and the "gloop gloop" started; but they were
different colours from the evening before, and the water less
psychedelic and more sustaining, more food-like so to say. The
hobbits were reminded of the brownies made from old "Belladonna"
Took's famous recipe, which had earned her her nickname. While they
drank, Steelbeard stood impatiently tapping his toes.
"Where is Mentmoot," Pipsqueak ventured to ask.
"Hoo, hocch? Mentmoot? It's not a place, it's a gathering of
Ments. Just wait until you see the blended light of half a hundred
agitated Ments --- though it doesn't often happen nowadays. But I
have managed to twist a fair number of arms this morning. We shall
meet in the place where we have always met: Darndingle Men call it. I
know precisely why: they always go 'darn darn darn' and cover their
eyes on those rare occurrences when they come across a Mentmoot
there." He chuckled. "It is away south from here. We must be there
"Um, you wouldn't happen to have some sun-glasses fit for us?"
Steelbeard made no reply. He lifted them up onto his shoulders and
at once set off. At the entrance to the court he kicked one of the
spent and sooty jars aside and turned right. At once he started
humming to himself. Or so it seemed for quite a while to the hobbits.
They caught no proper words, but rather things like "/Boom doom boom
doom crack boodoom rumboom boom/". Then they noticed the large drum
he was carrying, beating on it with his large hands as he walked; and
of course the occasional crack of a young tree being splintered out of
the Ment's way.
During a pause in the Ment's drumming, Pipsqueak said: "I found a
suit of Orc-armour just before we met you, down by the river. It
seemed to have belonged to one of Aruman's boys, you know, Cedríc's
crowd. Do you know what it was doing there?' Steelbeard made no
reply, but immediately resumed drumming. Morrie was not too deep in
thought to notice this.
They had been going for a long while - Pipsqueak had tried to keep
count of the "ment-strides", but had lost count before ten - when
Steelbeard began to slacken his heron's pace. Suddenly he stopped,
and raising his hands to his mouth let out a great call. *Hoom hoom!*
The hobbits went ringing deaf for several minutes, and failed to hear
the answering calls in the distance.
At once he resumed walking, now and then sending out another
horn-call; the hobbits covered their ears each time. As their hearing
returned, they noticed the answering hollers, progressively louder and
nearer. In this way they came at last to what looked like an
impenetrable wall of dark evergreen trees, trees of a kind that the
hobbits did not recognize, which didn't rule out a lot of tree-kinds:
they branched out right from the roots, and were densely clad in dark
glossy leaves like thornless holly, and they bore many stiff upright
flower-spikes with large shining olive-coloured buds.
Most of the trees in this hedge were of one size and height, but
some of them were younger and smaller. Steelbeard strode straight
ahead, smashing through the hedge without slackening his pace and
ignoring the opening not far to his left. Fortunately he had the
forethought of lifting the hobbits up above his head; otherwise they
would have been horribly scratched or even impaled on the
flower-spikes. Once inside the hedge the hobbits found themselves on
the lip of a bowl-shaped dingle in the land. Already a number of
Ments were standing in the bottom (/"Hey, Steelbeard, why cantcher
leave the bloody 'edge undamaged just for once?"/), and an equal
number were striding down the slope, having come through openings in
the north, east and west.
As they drew near the hobbits gazed at the Ments. They had
expected to see a number of creatures as much like Steelbeard as one
hobbit is like another; and they were very much surprised to see
nothing of the kind. The Ments were as different from each other as
one lamp-post is from another (duh!): some small, quaint, with little
gas-lights in them and made of brass, some large lamps like the ones
lining roads, on aluminium poles, some like bill-boards with a host of
many-coloured little lightbulbs and cheery, well-illuminated
exhortations to eat at Durin's Last Stand (Over 140 Served), some like
wooden telephone poles with lamps affixed to them, some (the tallest
Ments) like the floodlights illuminating sports fields. These stood
and moved like something out of Jurassic Park, and Pipsqueak giggled
in a way that would have done Giggly the Dverg honour. Yet as they
came close, the hobbits saw that they were of the same kind as
Steelbeard, and all had the same eyes (ie. the same /kind/ of eyes,
not sharing a single pair between them or something): not all so old
and so deep, but with the same slow, steady, thoughtful expression
(almost zombie-like, until one saw the awareness within those wells),
and their voices were much like his.
And yes, they lit up with a light strong and bright enough almost
to flash-cook the hobbits, who would have gone blind had they not
covered their eyes with their arms. Steelbeard put them down and
presented them, cowering two inches above the turf, to the other
Ments, and then they took their leave as fast as they could. A few
seconds later they sat panting shoulder-deep in a little pool in the
stream that ran into the dingle, removing their scorched outer
"Oh Eru, not only have we gone bald as palantíri (whatever they
are; it's Gandalf's expression), but it looks like we have got a
flash-tan now to make us look like, um, some of those minorities ---"
"Yes," replied Morrie. "I didn't know what the Ments could do to
Isengard. I believe it is encircled by a ring of stone, like a tall
castle-wall. But those Ments look like they could *melt* their way
through. I wish I could take some of them home to melt some of those
SoB's," meaning the Sackville-Bagginses.
The hobbits went in search of berries and fruits, realizing after a
few hours that fruits and berries, ripe or unripe, are not plentiful
in early spring. Then Pipsqueak set some snares for rabbits instead,
having saved the ropes that the Orcs had tied them with, and splitting
them lengthwise into strings fit for a rabbit's neck. Having a dozen
Twinkies while they waited, they listened to the conclave in the
dingle behind the hedge. Steelbeard's horn-calls and drum had made
them expect a similar music from the Ments; but instead they found
themselves listening to violins and their larger cousins, to guitars
(electric and unplugged), flutes, several percussion sets, various
brass instruments, and at least two pianos and an organ. The music of
the Mentmoot was rather pleasant to the ears, and happily not as loud
as the Ment-light was bright.
Possibly the rabbits of Themattress thought the same, for an hour
later the hobbits had three coneys (and the traps set again), and a
bright fire ready to roast them. Morrie's several concealed daggers
were ample to skin and prepare them, and his regard for Pipsqueak
increased to at least 4 on that scale from 0 to 100. As they caught
two more coneys while eating the other three, to 4½ or so. He even
began to feel pleased that he had failed to lose his squeaky-voiced
cousin in Moira.
As they were belching after the fifth rabbit and picking their
teeth with their finger-nails, they heard the orchestra in the dingle
becoming quiet. Then they saw Steelbeard striding towards them in
that gait which never failed to amuse them; and with him came another
"Hm, hroom, hocch, here I am again," said Steelbeard. "Are you
getting weary, or feeling impatient, hmm, eh, eh, eh, nudge, nudge,
knowwhatImean? Well, I am afraid that you must keep your spirits up a
while more. Here's some of my secret powder to help you to do that.
Just a single grain of it in a cupful of water seems enough for
*you*." He handed them a little plastic bag each with some
many-coloured powder in them. The hobbits beamed as if they were
"Also I have brought you a companion. We have still much to
discuss, but Bregalad here says that he has already made up his mind
and needs not remain at the Moot. Hm, he is the nearest thing among
us to a hasty Ment. You ought to get on together. Good-bye."
Steelbeard turned and left them.
Bregalad stood a while surveying the hobbits solemnly, or so it
seemed to them, until they saw his feet a few inches above the turf.
He was a tall Ment, and seemed to be one of the younger ones. His
face was a single white lamp upon an aluminium pole. He held a large
cello-case in his hand.
As his feet reached the turf again, he began slowly to focus on the
hobbits. Then he spoke. "Ha hmm, my frien's, less go --- go --- for
a walk. Home." He paused for a few minutes, and then, starting to
walk, spoke more clearly.
"My name is Bregalad, that is Quickbeam in your language. That's
just a nickname, of course. I have been called that ever since I said
yes to and elder Ment more than a week before he finished his
question. Also I drink quickly, and sober up before most of them
begin to levitate. Speaking of which, you seem to be high enough
right now." Morrie quickly explained how they had remained a few
inches above the ground even after the concoction had otherwise worn
off. "And mighty useful too if it lasts," commented Pipsqueak, "next
time he bolts through the forest with a posse of Sackville-Bagginses
trying to track him!"
Quickbeam's Ment-house was nearby. It consisted only of a few
lamp-posts surrounding a well in a bank. His cello-case he stored in
the vault. After depositing it, Quickbeam filled a large bottle with
water and added some dust from the bag that Pipsqueak had received,
and the rest of that day they spent very pleasantly, passing the
bottle between them as they walked through the landscape laughing.
For Quickbeam laughed a lot. But then again, so did the hobbits,
floating serenely hand in hand with Quickbeam above the grass. They
laughed at every gust of wind, they laughed when they saw a flower;
they rolled with laughter at the sight of an early fly. The hobbits
even forgot to catch more rabbits and eat. But Quickbeam laughed the
And whenever he passed a tall lamp-post like himself, he raised his
arms and laughed warmly at it. And these lamp-posts invariably shone
forth, raising their right hand and saying "Howdy".
At nightfall he brought them back to his house, and they spent a
few hours sitting behind the desks like tellers without any money to
count (to Morrie's disappointment), listening to the music from the
nearby Darndingle, and also to Quickbeam's stories, for they had
emptied the bottle and refrained from refilling it. From Quickbeam
they learnt that he belonged to Bignarc's people, and his country had
been ravaged. That seemed to the hobbits quite enough to explain his
"hastiness", at least in the matter of Orcs.
"There were streetlamps there, tall streetlamps that took root when
I was young, on the old ground where an ancient aluminium plant stood
millennia ago. They lit up the forest with their light, and
boyscouts, and the rescue workers coming to save them, were glad of
their light. But then the boyscouts began carrying their own torches,
and the Forest Service was disbanded, leaving the boyscouts to starve
and die and rot. And then Orcs came with ropes, and some came with
bulldozers, and they uprooted and overturned the streetlamps, and they
carried them to Isengard, to be turned into badges and dinner-plates,
pots and, well, new lamps of Aruman's fashioning. And I walked the
dead pastures, and I called their beautiful names, but they answered
not, and they were gone. They were gone. They lay dead in Isengard.
/O Tarasilë, Celeb-Aglar, Ivunaurië
O streetlamp tall, I heard your call, so beautiful a sound
I saw your bright and lovely light, it round around me wound
Lamp-post slender, movements tender, joy before my eyes
O Lofty Shine, a light so fine, a mind so kind and wise
Silver Glory, how your story ended in despair
O Alu-Flame of lasting fame, you are no longer here
O Tarasilë, Celeb-Aglar, Ivunaurië/"
So lamenting in many tongues the fall of aluminium-wrought
lamp-posts whom he had loved, Quickbeam sang himself to sleep. The
two hobbits stifled a few yawns and dozed off rather quickly too.
The next day they spent in Quickbeam's house, or near it, for it
had gotten colder. Pipsqueak set a few snares, and caught a few
rabbits, though fewer than the day before. He and Morrie ate the last
of their Twinkies, and those and three coneys were far from enough to
sate their hunger properly; but a pinch of Steelbeard's dust in a few
bottles of water kept their spirits up despite this. And all day the
music came from the Mentmoot, sometimes hardly audible, at other times
rising to a great and quickening chorus.
The second night passed, and still the Ments kept awake and
discussing. Then the third day of the Moot dawned. Pipsqueak set his
snares, but rabbits were warier now, and they had to share one, and a
small one at that. It was Pipsqueak who had the snares, but Morrie
had the knives and the absolute lack of scruples, and so he had the
largest share: Pipsqueak was left gnawing half a foreleg and another
As the day wore on, the sound from the dingle grew more and more
quiet. Quickbeam listened intently, but did not respond to
Pipsqueak's queries. Near sunset the Moot suddenly grew absolutely
quiet. A few minutes passed in dead silence, and then suddenly came a
great ringing shout from many voices: /Hoom raah, room haah, glug
glug, hand over that bottle, haah hoom, soomma summaroom!/ With that
more than fifty Ments came striding up from the dingle, without
bending a blade of the grass which grew a few inches below their big
feet. Then the Ments struck a marching tune. Quickbeam said nothing,
but hurried in to fetch his cello.
/We come, we come with mighty fun: ta-runda runda runda run!/
The Ments came near to Quickbeam's house, singing louder and
louder. They had all their instruments with them, and they were
playing them. How the Ment with the organ managed to play it while
marching cannot be described; you must just trust the narrator on
/We come with fiddle, horn and drum: ta-rûna rûna rûna rum!/
Quickbeam picked up the hobbits and strode from his house.
Before long he met the column of Ments, two abreast, Steelbeard at
their head, laughing and vigorously beating his drum. Quickbeam
quickly swung into the line beside Steelbeard, pushing the Ment
already there aside. He put the hobbits onto Steelbeard's shoulders
and started playing his cello, smaller to his hands than a violin to a
"Hoom, hom! Here we come with a boom, here we come at last!"
called Steelbeard, nearly rupturing the eardrums of the hobbits
perched next to his mouth. "Come with the Moot! Are *we* gonna kick
some serious ass! Off to Isengard!"
"To Isengard!" the Ments slurred in many voices.
/To Isengard! The Iron-hard is ringed and barred by wizard's might
We do not care: let him beware: he'll get his share: we'll take our
The man who marred, be he on guard: he will be tarred and feathered
When we come there we'll get in gear: he will feel fear and look a
We Ments are best: our final jest shall be a fest of splintered
With voice of doom and rolling boom, and hocch and hoom and
So they sang, increasingly steadily as the concoction wore off on
their march southwards. The hobbits stuffed their ears with
pocket-lint and used Twinkie-wrappers thoughtfully saved for the
The Ments, even when they ceased hovering and walked directly on
the ground, marched with great speed. From the dingle they descended
into a deep fold of the land, breaking aside any of the few trees that
might be standing in the way. Now they walked in silence, except for
the occasional crack of living wood, spilling the rising sap of early
spring in fragrant showers. As they ascended the long slope,
Pipsqueak looked back. In the failing daylight he at first thought
that he must be seeing things, but the many points of light could not
long be mistaken: the fifty-odd Ments from the Moot had grown to
thousands of lamp-posts striding, each of them shining with one or
more bright points of light. There were many colours, though
predominantly white or whitish yellow. They looked like a marching
city at night. Aruman must surely see that as soon as they reached
the top of the incline, unless they put out their lights!
Then the hobbits sighed with relief. Just as they were about to
pour over the top of the last ridge before Nan Curunír, the Ments and
the lamp-posts, one by one as they came within direct sight of the
great stone ring and the tower within it, turned off their lights.
Now they stood in the early darkness of night on the high slopes above
the Wizard's Vale.
"Night lies over Isengard," said Steelbeard, and passed round a
bottle that went "gloop gloop".
A few comments: Morrie's swearing is not actual Norwegian swearing,
but almost, like a text on an advertising billboard reported from the
USA that included the word "fughdat". I will not translate it, but
anyone who feel competent to do so (Öjevind is fairly skilled at
swearing, and he speaks almost the same language as I), feel free.
I have mentioned a suit of Orc-armour found in the Forest. That
armour is *not* to be referred to in any chapter before that of O.
Sharp without first checking with him. Since he has the official web
site, it is fairly silly, I think, to ignore that ban.
I have changed the name "Fangorn" into "Fungang", because -orn
refers to "tree", while -ang means "iron". I emailed Tribimat and
asked his permission to change that name, since he has used "Fangorn"
twice in his chapter, but he has not responded, and the Cabal (praise
be to them) agreed that unless he vetoed, that change would be
Hope yer've enjoyed this chapter, a little.
Jon Lennart Beck.
Tough act to follow.
Pray for me.
> Tough act to follow.
Oh yes, you're next, aren't you? Well, I didn't mean to make it
that long, I just kept on writing until I felt finished.
> Here come at long final awaited etc. last, the next chapter in "The
>Lords of the Ring" or whatever.
> I have used *bold* and /italics/ a lot.
> Chapter 4: Steelbeard
> /Gabble by rote now the Gits and Rascals!
> First name the four, the funny peoples:
> Snobs above all, the snickering Elves;
> Dwarf the dealer, deep is his wallet;
> Ment the Mighty, best and blessed;
> Man the mocker, master of commerce;/
> Hm, hm, hm,
> /Pig gives pork, prawns are tasty;
> Fish are fishy, foxes tasty;
> Giraffes are grand, goats are tasty;/
> Hm, hm, hm. Repetitive, those old lists ---
> /Cats are cuddly, cows give milk;
> Rats are rodents, roaches icky;
> Enormous elephant, ents are tree-like.../
> "There," said Steelbeard. "I have brought you seventy thousand
>Ment-strides, each of which is about one meter in your measurement.
>This," pointing at the chattering channel beneath the basin, "is my
>urinal. You may pass water there. Not into the collecting channels
>above the basin, or I'll rip your spines out of your bodies!"
> The drink was actually like pure spring-water, except for the
>bubbles and the lightshow. But then the hobbits felt a tingling in
>their feet, and the effect rose steadily through every limb, until it
>reached their heads, and then Oh God! Suddenly they felt as vigorous
>as they had ever done. Indeed the hobbits felt that the hair on their
>heads was actually standing up, waving and curling and growing, and
>then falling off. The entirely bald Steelbeard saw no problem with
>this, and indeed it seemed the only adverse side-effect of the
This is my favourite passage.
> I think I know what he is up to. He is plotting to become a
>Corporation, or the manager of one. He has some kind of arms-for-weed
>trade with some obscure rat-country up north ---" the hobbits scowled
>"--- and he is using those detestable pupils as cheap labour, bloody
>scabs. And he's up to worse. It is the mark of evil things that came
>in the Great Darkness that they cannot abide grassy lawns, especially
>during the sunlit hours: they positively blossom with allergies, but
>Aruman's pupils can endure them even if they hate them. I wonder what
>he has done. Are they Celebrity Journalists he has ruined with his
>bribes, or has he blended the races of Corporate Lawyers and
>Literature Critics? That would be, well, an amusing prank come to
>think of it.
To me it sounds nightmarish. (:o
> For Quickbeam laughed a lot. But then again, so did the hobbits,
>floating serenely hand in hand with Quickbeam above the grass. They
>laughed at every gust of wind, they laughed when they saw a flower;
>they rolled with laughter at the sight of an early fly. The hobbits
>even forgot to catch more rabbits and eat. But Quickbeam laughed the
> And whenever he passed a tall lamp-post like himself, he raised his
>arms and laughed warmly at it. And these lamp-posts invariably shone
>forth, raising their right hand and saying "Howdy".
Aahh - shades of Woodstock!
> The Ments, even when they ceased hovering and walked directly on
>the ground, marched with great speed. From the dingle they descended
>into a deep fold of the land, breaking aside any of the few trees that
>might be standing in the way. Now they walked in silence, except for
>the occasional crack of living wood, spilling the rising sap of early
>spring in fragrant showers. As they ascended the long slope,
>Pipsqueak looked back. In the failing daylight he at first thought
>that he must be seeing things, but the many points of light could not
>long be mistaken: the fifty-odd Ments from the Moot had grown to
>thousands of lamp-posts striding, each of them shining with one or
>more bright points of light. There were many colours, though
>predominantly white or whitish yellow. They looked like a marching
>city at night. Aruman must surely see that as soon as they reached
>the top of the incline, unless they put out their lights!
> Then the hobbits sighed with relief. Just as they were about to
>pour over the top of the last ridge before Nan Curunír, the Ments and
>the lamp-posts, one by one as they came within direct sight of the
>great stone ring and the tower within it, turned off their lights.
>Now they stood in the early darkness of night on the high slopes above
>the Wizard's Vale.
> "Night lies over Isengard," said Steelbeard, and passed round a
>bottle that went "gloop gloop".
My God! What a climax.
Well done, Jon.
> Aahh - shades of Woodstock!
Well, I was never there.
> Well done, Jon.
Yes, well, I had to submit it fast, and get the train back on the
This is hilarious. "That would be a black evil!" (A black-tuxedoed
evil at any rate.) Perhaps Wormtongue can be the postmodern
deconstructionist corporate slimeball. Can't imagine what that would do
to his dialogue.
"Satan fell by the force of gravity." -- G.K. Chesterton
Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.
Exactly what one should be doing. I just plan to have a bit of.....
:::even eviler smirk:::
>This is hilarious. "That would be a black evil!" (A black-tuxedoed
>evil at any rate.) Perhaps Wormtongue can be the postmodern
>deconstructionist corporate slimeball. Can't imagine what that would do
>to his dialogue.
Hey! That'äs a neat tip for the person who writes "The King of the Golden
> > Oh yes, you're next, aren't you? Well, I didn't mean to make it
> >that long, I just kept on writing until I felt finished.
> Exactly what one should be doing. I just plan to have a bit of.....
'S what I did. Best way. If you write for your own amusement,
then if the critics (the other people on the NGs) don't like it, at
least there is one who did ---
> :::even eviler smirk:::
Evil? Will it be tildy? But that isn't evil, not per se. Will it
be violent? Will it thrash some professions?
Tilde? Oh no, I'm a very very clean girl.
Violent? No, not overly so.
Profession-thrashing? You mean satire, do you not? There will be some, but
mostly it will just be....
:::long stream of maniacal laughter:::
It seems I am having way too much fun with the :::actions:::. I'll have to look
Well, give me until next Wednesday and you've got yourself a new chapter.
And well worth the wait it was!