Bagenders – Strider: Scoutmaster

Season 1, Episode 10

By Lady Alyssa and Random Dent

This episode is a tribute to Spike Milligan, whose sense of humour has been warping us from an early age.

Disclaimer: JRR Tolkien owns the Fellowship. Debt to ‘Father Ted’ in the characterisation of Gandalf. General situation debt to the ‘Young Ones’. Bottle, ‘yingtong’ and Molly Nasher belong to Spike Milligan. Utterances of ‘Celeriac’ and ‘Revenge’ belong to Vince of ‘Rex the Runt’. Since Shakespeare has been dead for a very long time we would like to stake our claim of having actually written Macbeth, in fact, all of his plays. We have no connection to either the Scout Association, Warhammer or Procul Harum, and no desire to, except in the case of Procul Harum.
Rating: R (comedic violence; flatmate strife; Language; gratuitous Hammond organ.)
Story notes: The Boy Scouts are for boys and the Girl Guides are for girls, except that a few years ago someone decided to go all PC and girls can now join the Scouts, but most still join the Guides. Haven’t heard of any boys trying to join the Guides…

Legolas had always found Saturday morning to be the most relaxing part of the week since Merry and Pippin never seemed to get up before one in the afternoon at weekends and Gandalf had a warm spot in his heart – or other places – for Saturday morning TV presenters; it was all the bounciness, or, more accurately, the bouncing.

Over the past few years Legolas had evolved his Saturday morning routine. Every week, using just his elven instincts he woke up at exactly 9.30 am, took a relaxing bath with no-one else banging on the door waiting to be let in, went to the paper shop to buy his copy of the Guardian and came home to make himself a cup of earl grey tea and enjoy having the entire kitchen table to spread the different parts of his newspaper out on. The fact that all of this – except for the bath of course – was accomplished while wearing a full length, Victorian, gentleman’s brocade dressing gown had ceased to cause comment in the area since he had done it every week since moving in and the joke had worn thin after about two years.

Only this week, his ritual was disturbed by Aragorn who usually took advantage of Saturdays to spend the entire day in his boxer shorts and some other random item of clothing depending on the weather. Today, most disturbingly, it was a cardigan.

“Legolas, I have something to tell you…”

“Mhm.”

“I’ve become a Scoutmaster.”

“Mhm.”

“And I’m going camping with them.”

“Mhm.”

“Next weekend.”

“Mhm.”

“Legolas? Are you listening?”

“Mhm.”

“I’m pregnant.”

“Mhm.”

“I’ve sold the house to an international terrorist organisation.”

“Mhm.”

“I’ve told Celeborn he can come live with us. Permanently.”

“You what?”

“I thought you weren’t listening. None of it’s true, well, some of it is.”

“Celeborn’s actually coming to live with us?”

“No, last I heard he was heading for the Mongolian border. The bit about becoming a Scoutmaster.”

“You what?”

“I’ve become a scoutmaster.”

Legolas raised his eyebrows so much it looked as if they were attempting to make a break for freedom from the top of his head. He had known Aragorn for thousands of years and was sure that any ‘criminal’ tendencies would have become apparent before then. He really didn’t have Aragorn down as the type who went ‘scouting for boys’.

“Why? Why have you become a scoutmaster?”

“Well, I was thinking about what Mrs Wainthrop keeps saying about how we should be more respectable, I thought that with my woodsman skills I could be really useful to the scouts, and be respectable at the same time.”

“Let me get this right. You have become a Scoutmaster in order to try and become respectable? Were there no openings for gigolos?”

“What do you mean? It’s a well respected youth organisation.”

“I’ve met Baden Powell.” Said Legolas very darkly.

“Wow! Could you come and give a talk?”

Legolas looked at him again. There followed some long and detailed explanations as to what it was he was trying to get at, followed by equally long reassurances from Aragorn that, no he wasn’t like that and no, none of the people running the local scout unit were either. Legolas was slightly reassured, until Aragorn told him that he had told Frodo about this on Wednesday and Frodo had enrolled himself as a skills instructor to teach them how to cook; however Sam had heard about that and had enrolled himself as a skills instructor to make sure Frodo got out of it alive.

Saturday afternoon was spent shopping for camping equipment. Aragorn was the only one who had been camping in the last few years, well, if you could call it camping, he just went off walking in the hills and weather sort of happened around him and his survival bag, so there were a few things they needed before venturing off into the great outdoors again. After several hours, the rest of the Fellowship began to get a little concerned, or at least Legolas did – surely it didn’t take this long to buy a few sleeping bags, rucksacks and tents.

As if in answer to his unspoken question, Aragorn’s landrover pulled up in the driveway. Or at least it looked like Aragorn’s landrover. Aragorn’s landrover didn’t usually have this much stuff crammed into the back or strapped to the sides. Neither did the suspension usually trail along the ground. Aragorn and Sam both got out and removed a few large carrier bags each from the back of the landrover and walked towards the door, leaving Frodo to take care of the rest.

“Isn’t that a little unfair, leaving him to carry in all those bags like that?” Said Legolas.

“What do you mean? This is ours, all that?s his.”

Frodo insisted on giving the rest of the household a demonstration of each of his new purchases. It was certainly educational – none of them had ever seen a solar powered lamp or collapsible espresso maker – and also most entertaining, especially when Frodo modelled his full body mosquito-proof suit.

“Frodo, we’re going camping in the North Yorkshire Moors. There might be midges, but there definitely aren’t enough to warrant the bio-hazard anti-midge suit.”

“Yes, but you never know. And you never know where we might go in the future, I mean, next year a week in west Scotland might be a nice trip and a bit more adventurous.”

“I take it then that your definition of ‘a bit more adventurous’ means camping in the middle of the swamp instead of on the edge of it then?”

“And isn’t the outdoor fridge a little excessive, putting stuff in buckets of cold water has worked fine for the scouting association for decades. And the first-aid kit, you’d think you were on ‘ER’ or something. Isn’t Aragorn a bit offended, he’s the designated first-aider, isn’t he.”

There was a growl from behind one of the leftover sections of the newspaper.

“Well, he hasn’t really embraced 20th century medical advances, has he?” said Frodo, against his better judgement.

The growl from behind the newspaper became more wolverine. “And how many times have I saved your life?”

“Last count 47,” said Sam. “48 if you count the time last year when he stopped you from electrocuting yourself on the hairdryer.”

“That was only because he tripped on the wire and pulled the plug out.”

“That is not the point. The point is that I saved your life and am a perfectly competent first-aider. There’s no need for you to go all ‘ER’ on me.”

“If he wis goin’ ‘ER’ on ye he’d be jumpin’ up and doon shoutin’ ‘CBC! Chem. 7!’ An’ tryin’ tae defibrillate ye wi’ the landrover’s jump leads.”

“Save us from those who watch medical dramas and think they know first aid.”

Merry, certified ‘Peak Practice’ addict, and avid watcher of anything with blood, gore, a high body count and nurses’ uniforms, objected “But I do know first aid, I usually manage to work out what’s wrong wi’em long before t’doctors on ‘Casualty’ do.”

“Yes, but most people old enough tae be allowed tae stay up late enough tae watch ‘Casualty’ manage that.”

The Fellowship adjourned to the garden, where the tent was to be Tested, much in the way that NASA tests its rockets. Frodo had invested in a state of the art tent, more intended for going to the Antarctic than the frozen, barbarous, terrible wastes above Ilkley. It was a self erecting tent, a fact that caused much amusement to certain members of the group. Frodo hurled the tent across the garden, where it put itself up in mid air, and was then caught by a stray breeze, blew over the garden fence and knocked Mrs. Wainthrop (who was definitely pruning the roses and not listening in) into her goldfish pond.

“Oops.”

*****

On Tuesday Sam decided that it was a good evening for some gardening and headed out to the shed to find his utility belt. He froze when he heard voices.

“Where’s me woggle?”

“Ah dunno, huv ye tried yer trouser poaket, it was there the last time Ah looked.”

“Ah, there’s me woggle.”

“Och no, ma backwoodsmanship’s comin’ off.”

“Give it here and pass me that safety pin.”

Sam wasn’t sure whether to knock politely or run away very, very quickly. He decided that the geraniums really needed the attention and knocked as inoffensively as possible.

“Ahem,” he coughed, hoping that they might not hear him and he could just go away again.

The sight he was greeted with on the inside of the shed was somewhat…peculiar. Merry and Pippin were both fully dressed. Fully dressed in green sweatshirts with badges sewn down the arms (but not very many), green neckties and sensible shoes for doing running about in, or more accurately, sensible shoes for putting the boot in. Sam looked at them in utter horror.

“What are you two doing?”

“What does it look like?”

“I know what it looks like, but I thought Gandalf stopped making those kinds of movies years ago.”

“We’ve joined the Scouts.”

“Why?”

“They wouldn’t let us in the Girl Guides.”

“Not that we didn’t try…”

“Tell the truth, why have you really joined the Scouts?” Sam looked at Merry and Pippin suspiciously. He had been pretty sure they weren’t the type to go scouting for boys either. Neither had they ever seemed like the type to help old ladies cross the road. Help old ladies under a bus, yes, especially if they were in any way like Mrs Wainthrop.

“Ok, we’ll tell you the truth. We wanted to see where Aragorn was going on Thursday evenings. We thought he’d either got a fancy woman or joined the Masons.”

“We were soooo disappointed.”

“So we thought, that looks like fun, why don’t we give it a try.”

Sam narrowed his eyes. “Come on, I know you better than that. Why did you really join the Scouts?”

“We decided that the best way to make Aragorn’s life absolute living hell, would be to join the other Scout group.”

“The other Scout group…?”

“Yes.”

“You mean the one that takes…girls…?”

“That one, yes.”

“But they’re only about twelve!”

“That’s not why we joined those Scouts, we joined them so that when we go to the joint camp this weekend we can make his life a living hell then.”

“Ah.”

“Good idea isn’t it.”

“No, it isn’t, it’s really not nice. What has Aragorn ever done to you? He’s given you somewhere to live, fed you, saved you from the militia and that angry mob…”

“Yeah, but it’s so easy. And it’s not like there’s much round here to do for fun.”

“Yeah, some of us don’t want to join the Women’s Institute.”

Pippin immediately regretted that statement. Sam grabbed him by the woggle and made a very clear threat that the hoe in his other hand could be inserted somewhere rather painful.

“Ok, ok, I take it back about the WI. And about being nasty to Aragorn. We’ll stop, but please let us go on the camp this weekend, we’ve made friends there, and they’re looking forward to spending a weekend away with their mates, and they’re only kids, you don’t want to disappoint them.”

Pippin knew exactly how to manipulate Sam. He was more broody than any woman he’d ever met, and couldn’t ever bring himself to disappoint children. Sam put him and the hoe down.

“Alright, but on the proviso that you come inside right now and come clean to Aragorn and the others.”

The gruesome twosome looked doubtful, but Sam waved the strimmer in their direction and they were persuaded. They trooped inside and presented themselves to the sitting room. Legolas and Frodo burst out laughing.

“But I thought you always went to fancy dress things as the children from that film ‘The Village of the Damned’.”

Merry and Pippin scowled at the rest of the Fellowship.

“‘Snot a fancy dress party. We joined the Scouts.”

“No you didn’t, I’d have seen you at meetings.”

“We joined the other Scout group.”

“You mean the…other Scout group.” There was a burst of dramatic music. “Gandalf, would you stop watching ‘Psycho’ when we’re trying to have a conversation.”

“Yes, yes, the one that takes girls.”

There was an appropriate scream from the TV. Everyone glared at Gandalf but he pretended not to notice.

Can we go now, we have to be there soon and we can’t be late because it’s Merry’s turn to carry in the flag at the beginning of the meeting.”

Merry and Pippin left, leaving the rest of the group to assess the damage. Legolas began. “So, Aragorn, you’re spending a weekend away… with the Hobbits. And you’re going to be sleeping in tents…with the Hobbits. You’ll be around many naked flames…with the Hobbits. So have you ever considered taking out medical insurance?”

“Hey, I resent that. You can’t put me and Sam in the same pigeon hole as Merry and Pippin.”

“No, there’d be a terrible fight if we tried that, you’re small, but you wouldn’t all fit in the same pigeon hole.”

Frodo made a face. He may have been insane, well at least some of the time, but he knew when he was being mocked.

*****

Friday evening came and Aragorn, Frodo and Sam loaded up the landrover. Merry and Pippin, or Dave and Pip, as they were known to the rest of their Scout group were going in the Scouts’ minibus to keep up the pretence of having nothing to do with Aragorn, and anyway, there wasn’t much room once all of Frodo’s stuff was put in the back.

Aragorn had supervised Merry and Pippin’s rucksack-packing, but as soon as he’d left the room they emptied them and started again. As a result the collective contents of their rucksacks were as follows:

Item 1: Kendal mintcake. Vast quantities thereof. (Merry and Pippin were not big up on modern camping skills, or any camping skills for that matter, but had seen Kendal mintcake in a lot of camping shops and decided it must have some sort of mystic powers. Pippin had suggested that perhaps like cross-channel swimmers and bacon fat that you were supposed to rub it on to keep warm.)

Item 2: Jelly babies. 23 packets thereof. (For bribery of Bottle, the brains of their little gang.)

Item 3: Sandwiches. Copious amounts thereof, all wrapped in tinfoil and absolutely no egg mayonnaise. (Merry and Pippin had no faith whatsoever in Scout camp cooking, but rather misguided faith in 2-day-old sandwiches. However, since Pippin was involved it was unlikely that the sandwiches would last much longer than the 45-minute bus journey.)

Item 4: Cake.

Item 5: Waterproofs.

Item 6: Clean underwear. One set each. (No use in carrying around unnecessary weight.)

Item 6: Slingshots, ammunition and other assorted small weaponry.

Item 7: Frodo. 1, sleeping. (Packed in error and the result of much hasty unpacking a few minutes later.)

Item 8: Sam. 1, in search of missing Frodo. (Also unpacked, but with more violence.)

Item 9: Streetmap of Bad WuNrtemburg. (Thought by Merry and Pippin to be a map of the North Yorkshire Moors.)

Item 10: Lemonade bottles. (Current contents 50% vodka, 50% lemonade.)

They had an attitude to packing which would have been thought to be sensible by most Hobbits – they had taken a lot of food – but which the Scouting Association would not have approved of. Strangely, the contents of their rucksacks were rather similar to those of the rest of their Scout group. With the exception of course of Frodo and Sam, who didn’t have a rucksack so much as an entire landrover with roof box, but most of those items were probably in there somewhere.

*****

Scene: The blasted campsite. Enter one landrover.

“When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning or in rain?”

“Frodo, I think you’re getting a little overdramatic.”

“Fair is foul and foul is fair…”

“Frodo, stop it, you’re just showing off now.”

Frodo obediently shut up and continued unpacking the landrover. He seemed to have packed everything except the kitchen sink and possibly the sideboard, which in light of his current behaviour was probably going to be a problem.

“Is this a dagger I see before me, the handle toward my hand?”

“No,” said Sam, patting him on the shoulder in a friendly way. “It’s a groundsheet. You unfold it and you spread it on the ground so your sleeping bag doesn’t get wet.”

“Art thou but a groundsheet of the mind, a false creation proceeding from the heat oppresseLd brain?”

Sam decided this would be really good time to have a conversation with Aragorn regarding what they were going to do with Frodo before the rest of the Scouts turned up in the obligatory coal fired, rubber band driven mini bus to find their skills instructor gibbering up a tree.

“Aragorn, we’re going to have to do something.”

“I know, he’s gone all Macbeth again.”

“I thought he’d stopped doing that.”

“So did I, but the blasted heath scene must have brought it all back to him.”

“What are we going to do about it?”

“There’s nothing we can do, except from hiding all the sharp objects and Complete Works of Shakespeare and hope for the best.”

Frodo was unpacking the sleeping bags while declaiming “Still it cried ‘sleep no more’ to all the house; ‘Frodo hath murdered sleep; therefore Gondor shall sleep no more.'”

“You did get rid of the dress though didn’t you?”

“Yep, I know they didn’t allow women on the stage back then, but Frodo can’t pass for a decent Lady Macbeth even in pitch darkness.”

“That’s a little unfair, he was a good as Desdemona. Even Shakespeare liked him as Desdemona.”

“Yeah, but Shakespeare just thought that all tragic heroines should be really short. Except for the evil ones like Lady Macbeth.”

“Yeah, he thought they should be built like rugby players. Students of literature really miss out on a lot not knowing how warped he actually was, I mean, he wanted Pippin as Ophelia.”

“Good thing he ended up too drunk to go on stage, wasn’t it.”

“But you saw how Merry played her, he was nearly as pissed as Pippin and he didn’t know the lines, he just happened to have put on the dress.”

“People aren’t supposed to collapse on the floor laughing at tragedies. Neither are they supposed to ask for refunds because one of the actors was sick on them.”

“And the bit where he staggered back on stage after he was supposed to have died and hugged the guy playing Hamlet and said he was his best mate…”

They were startled out of their nostalgic reverie by what appeared to be the sound of a squad of broken lawnmowers attempting the world land speed record while the drivers tortured cats. There was another sound closely following behind it; that of the grand prix sewing machines Lands End to John O’Groats rally, apparently during an air raid. All this meant that two Scouting Association minibuses were approaching the field, although approaching was a relative term – they didn’t come into view for approximately quarter of an hour.

*****

Back at the house, Legolas and Gimli were enjoying a Hobbit-free environment. There was no shouting, no fighting and the sideboard was once again a safe place in which to store glassware. However something was worrying them.

“Where’s Gandalf?”

“Och, I don’t know and I don’t care.”

“Yes, but whenever Gandalf runs away he always leaves at least two windows and the front door open for burglars and takes a few items of value to sell. The front door is shut and the video machine’s still here, so therefore, Gandalf is still in the house. Do you really want Gandalf somewhere in the house when you don’t know exactly where?”

[Upstairs in the loft Gandalf was wedged between a beam and an old chest of drawers with one arm outstretched. Several weeks ago he had succeeded in finding Aragorn’s ‘other’ secret stash of drink and was taking this opportunity to completely deplete his supplies. A soft keening noise emitted from his lips, the one discernible word in it being ‘drink’, but it his lament was quiet enough that neither of the other occupants of the house could here it because if they found him, he didn’t think he could ever live it down.]

Some time later, Legolas and Gimli had searched the house and found nothing.

“Och, why don’t we just give in? He’s not anywhere nasty or unexpected and we’re fairly sure he’s in neither of our bedrooms or the bathroom.”

“No, I don’t trust him, he might just be moving around to trick us.”

“Yes, but there’s nothing we can do, we just have to stay on our guard. Pity no one ever invented weapons that glow blue when there’s a wizard around.”

“Alright then. You go get the Warhammer out of the cupboard and I’ll set up the Hammond organ.”

Legolas and Gimli loved it when they got the occasional weekend to themselves. They’d never understood why, but for some reason the rest of the Fellowship had this terrible aversion to war games and Hammond organ music. Oh well, it was their loss.

*****

When they arrived the Scouts cheerily – or with at least not too much swearing from Merry and Pippin’s Scout group – started putting up the tents. The putting up of Scout tents is a mystic art, because they never saw the point of such sensible things as those new fangled dome tents that go up in 10 minutes and are waterproof.

20 minutes later the side of the field with Aragorn Scouts looked like a well drilled army campsite, while the side of the field with Merry and Pippin’s Scouts looked like an earthquake in a draper’s shop. That is with the exception of Merry and Pippin’s tent because while the rest of the Scout group had been putting up their tent, Merry, Pippin, Bottle, Nev, Daz and Spanner had all gone behind the nearest drystone wall for a quick cigarette while the Scoutmasters weren’t looking. Merry and Pippin didn’t usually smoke – well, not since people had stopped growing pipeweed, they didn’t like this new-fangled tobacco stuff, it didn’t give you the munchies at all – but this was Scout Camp and certain conventions had to be respected.

A face appeared over the other side of the wall.

“I think smoking’s a really bad idea you know. It’s really bad for you and it’s not big or clever, remember when we had that talk about it last month?”

The owner of the face, and indeed the incredibly piercing voice was Kylie. Every Scout group’s worst nightmare, a twelve-year-old feminist, who has joined the Scouts to make a political point and really isn’t all that interested in Scouting and wouldn’t dare go anywhere near a Guide group because they’d rip her to pieces in five minutes flat.

Five members of the patrol took a long draw on their cigarettes and Bottle sucked really hard on his jelly baby, making a strange slurping noise.

Kylie by this point was incensed. “I’ll tell the Scoutmasters.”

“Ooh, ooh, Ah’m so frightened ah might just wet maself.”

She turned on her heel and walked away. Merry looked thoughtful for a minute, then addressed Bottle.

“Bottle…?”

“Yes Captain?”

“There’s another quarter of jelly babies for you if you sabotage Kylie’s tent for us.”

“Ooh, I like this game! With this quarter of jelly babies I can really impress Molly Nasher.”

“Yes Bottle, I’m sure you could. But first, go sabotage the tent.”

“How, my captain?”

“Just the usual Kendal mintcake, branch and shoelace job should do it.”

“Yes my Captain.”

Bottle attempted to sneak off after Kylie as quietly as his boots – bought two sizes too big so he could grow into him – and cardboard knees would allow.

Back on Aragorn’s side of the field everything was in perfect order. The tents were up, nearly all of Frodo’s luggage had been unloaded and Frodo had been coaxed out of Lady Macbeth mode enough to cook dinner, although he had started the instructions for dinner with the words ‘eye of newt and toe of frog’, but Sam had taken him for a little walk before he made a second and much more successful attempt.

Since both groups were in theory camping together, Merry and Pippin’s group had been forced to abandon their tents for the time being to join in with the first cooking activity, which would count towards a badge if they managed to make something which could be successfully extracted from the bottom of the pot and wasn’t actually fatal if eaten. This had also allowed them to join forces with the seventh member of their group, Tony, their heavy. Rumour had it that Tony was really a girl and called Antonia, a rumour backed up by the fact that she wasn’t allowed to share a tent with any of the others and had been seen using the ladies toilet on the campsite. However, anyone who voiced such rumours in Tony’s earshot were usually knocked into the middle of next week. Merry and Pippin had immediately recognised Tony’s potential, as, around the age of 12 or 13, girls tend to be bigger and stronger than boys and very much capable of knocking anyone else in the Scout group into next week.

The meal which Frodo had planned for them to cook was a little different from the usual Scout group cooking, in that it was posh (Sam and Aragorn hadn’t been able to prise the spice rack out of Frodo’s fingers as they wedged him into the back of the landrover), but also similar because the end result was almost entirely inedible. Well, what Merry and Pippin’s group ended up with was inedible (apparently spaghetti carbonara really wasn’t supposed to be that colour), Aragorn’s group had something that they could eat at least, and Frodo and Sam, who were cooking for all of the Scoutmasters, turned out something worth at least one Michelin star. Not even Pippin could eat what his group cooked, and it wasn’t from lack of trying, or at least from lack of Merry’s trying.

*****

Legolas was in the process of playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on the Hammond organ. Why he was attempting to do this is another matter entirely and one which we will not be going into in any great detail. He had long since given up on paying any attention to the comments coming from next door as they were all along the lines of ‘shut up with the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ music’. He had decided that they couldn’t possibly be addressed to him because he wasn’t playing songs from ‘Phantom of the Opera’; all musicals went against the Elvish sensibilities about song.

There was a clatter from the other side of the living room. Gimli had taken out his own personal video collection – which, before you get any ideas is nothing like Gandalf’s personal video collection – and was watching his Gene Kelly films and trying to copy the dance routines. He had nearly memorised the one with the chair and the newspaper, but his legs weren’t really following the clearly labelled instructions given out by his brain.

Up in the loft soft cries of ‘drink! drink?’ could still be heard.

*****

“Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here and fill me from the crown to toe top full of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood, stop up th’acess and passage to remorse…”

Sam gently put his hands on Frodo’s shoulders and pushed him so that he sat down again. “I don’t think that was quite what we had in mind when we said we were going to tell ghost stories.”

“Be thou a spirit of health or a goblin damned…?”

“Frodo, just let someone else tell a story.”

Kylie however, was trying not to gibber. “I don’t see why we have to tell ghost stories. I don’t believe them. The dead can’t come back, it’s a scientific fact.”

The members of the Fellowship who were present exchanged looks, and Merry grinned wickedly. “Let me tell you about the Dead Men of Dunharrow…”

*****

Half an hour later Kylie had locked herself in the campsite toilet with two torches and the lights on, saying that if someone would just bring her sleeping bag she’d be fine there for the night.

Pippin was reaching a crisis point. He’d eaten all the sandwiches and the cake on the journey there, and had been deprived of dinner. He’d made repeated, desperate attempts to eat it, but his body had rejected it as ‘poisonous, possibly radioactive’, and he’d been utterly unable to swallow one bite. He was now shaking with sugar withdrawal symptoms and had lost all power of rational thought.

“Rational, rational, rations, rations, food, food, tapestry, cyclone, special offer, food…”

He went away from the campfire back to their tent, looking for food.

“Celeriac?”

He ransacked the rucksacks, and found a large amount of Kendal Mintcake and jelly babies. He made an experimental attempt to eat the mintcake.

“Revenge!”

This did not go down well.

*****

“Where’s Pip gone?” Merry had noticed a lack Scottish swearing at the campfire. They were getting to the alternative words for ‘ging gang goollie’, and Pippin was a most enthusiastic singer of this.

“Went back to our tent looking for summat to eat.” Supplied Daz.

Merry froze. “But, but there’s jelly babies in there!”

“Yeah, and?”

“He’ll eat the green ones!”

“And?”

But Merry was running at full tilt across the campsite towards his tent. He dived in thgough the door to see Pippin crouched in the corner of the tent, Gollum-like, with empty packets of jelly babies around him. He raised a handful of them to his mouth as Merry leapt towards him.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” (in approved bodyguard fashion).

Merry hit a tent pole and the whole tent collapsed on them. In the tangled mess of hobbits and canvas a noise started, high pitched and very, very fast.

“yingtongyingtongyingtongyingtongyingtongiddleeyepo…”

This was accompanied by frenzied movement while still wrapped in the tent canvas. Merry had never seen him this bad before, and crawled out of the tent to get help.

*****

Nev, Daz, and Bottle approached Aragorn.

“Scuse me.”

“Yes?”

“‘S your nephew. Said Pip was in trouble.”

“What have they done now?”

“Said something about eating jelly babies.”

Aragorn seized Nev by the collar. “You let Pippin eat jelly babies? You let PIPPIN EAT JELLY BABIES?”

Nev looked rather taken aback.

“Yeah?”

The other Scout leaders looked in confusion at Aragorn, except for Sam and Frodo who knew what was going on and were looking for some rope. Aragorn sprang into kingship mode. He was not going to tackle a jelly baby enhanced Pippin without backup.

“Scouuuuuuuuuuuuts fall in!”

His scout group materialised, precision drilled, a five-foot tall legion of Gondor. The other scout group looked at them disinterestedly. At this point Merry staggered in, dishevelled, bloodied and missing his woggle.

“Pippin… jelly babies… Tent… don’t go near, too dangerous…” then he collapsed.

Aragorn went into proper, pre-battle Henry V mode. “Scouts. Pip is out there, under the influence of Jelly babies. He is dangerous to himself and others. We will hunt him down… for his own safety of course. Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard favoured rage!”

The scouts looked like they could probably take on the SAS and win.

“Scouts – search pattern beta 4!”

The scouts fanned out and blended into the darkness. Cries of ‘YINGTONG’ could be heard from various parts of the field, but surely moving too fast for any mortal creature. Then a soft birdcall rang out, repeated across the field. The scouts had found him, and they closed in. They had him cornered by the toilet block (from within which could be heard the sound of Kylie having terrified hysterics). Aragorn appeared carrying a large coil of rope.

“Once more unto the breach dear friends, or we’ll stop up the gap with our Scout Association dead!”

This seemed a little extreme, especially since as far as fighting was concerned Aragorn’s scout group favoured the battle cry ‘today is a good day for someone else to die.’ They leapt for Pippin, and due to their warrior and knot tying training managed to totally avoid injury, whilst securing Pippin.

Since no-one seemed to be about to pay him any attention for his Oscar winning performance, Merry staggered back to his tent, glad to be alive, and so hungry he could eat the Kendal mintcake. However, when he got there a terrible sight awaited him. Spanner, asleep amid the wreckage of his entire supply of Kendal mintcake. Merry gave a desperate prayer to any handy deities that mintcake in such large quantities had no adverse effects for humans. Anyway, this left him but one option. He was going to have to eat Spanner.

Fortunately for Spanner Frodo appeared, muttering something about the milk of human kindness, and handed Merry a double-decker spaghetti carbonara sandwich.

*****

Legolas and Gimli were investigating the art of construction. To be more accurate they had got the Lego out; not the small scale, easy stuff Merry and Pippin occasionally attempted to construct obscene tableaux out of, but the technical Lego. The stuff that moved and had immensely complex hydraulics and microcomputers involved. The current project was an intelligent AT-AT walker, and both of them were peering at dismantled parts wondering what had gone wrong since on its first test run in the garden it had attempted to kill Mrs. Wainthrop’s cat. The cat was only slightly charred, but what was worrying Legolas and Gimli was the fact that they hadn’t built any weapons into the thing.

*****

Aragorn had gently carried Pippin into the First Aid tent. Then there were a couple of muffled thumps and the gibbering stopped. Then, with due sense of relief he went to bed.

The next morning dawned. The scouts arose, looking much the worse for wear having not slept at all. Pippin was released, with a severe post-jelly baby hangover. Kylie was extricated from the bathroom, by Tony judo kicking the door down and hurling her out. Breakfast occurred, and the campsite was ‘tidied’. Morning activities were commenced, mainly basketwork and macrameL. Much to the others’ surprise no-one was injured in these activities, and Merry and Pippin were unsuccessful in spelling filthy words in raffia. Lunch occurred. Frodo had been convinced that feeding Merry and Pippin was the best way to avoid genocide, and so had switched to the tried and tested method of ‘frying stuff’.

The afternoon activity was canoeing. Unfortunately this had been arranged before Aragorn had known the hobbits were coming along and it was too late to change it. More worryingly, to get up to the full compliment of supervisors both Sam and Frodo had to come along.

“Sam, you’re supposed to be supervising!”

“I am.”

“Binoculars don’t count!”

“There needs to be someone on the bank to go for help when something goes wrong. So I’m not going in the water.”

“We’re not even asking you to go in the water, just get closer than a hundred yards away!”

Sam was dragged to the edge of the water. The scouts were levered into the open canoes, Merry and Pippin having ‘bagsied’ going with Tony since she was the strongest, so they would have to do least work. Their canoe began to power downstream at great speed with Tony paddling and Merry, Pippin and Daz making Indian calls and rude gestures at the other canoes.

There were still a few lifejackets left after all the Scouts had got into their canoes, so Sam decided it would probably be a good idea to get his hands on one if he had to be within 10 metres of water. It was tricky stuff, you never knew where you were with water, it could move on it’s own if you put it on a slope, you know. Sam was the most regular caller to the National Floodline, because you could never be too careful. Unfortunately, putting the lifejacket over his head put him off his guard for a second and he was unable to fight back when Aragorn grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and pulled him into a canoe muttering something about how they needed a third person to balance it out.

Sam found himself midstream in a very old, very battered canoe. He panicked. He screamed and started trying simultaneously to get out and to lie down and hug the bottom of the boat in case he fell over the side. The two other occupants of the canoe, Aragorn and one of the other Scoutmasters turned round to see what all the fuss was about, but this amount of movement proved too much for the canoe. It capsized.

Sam automatically began to panic even more and thrashed his arms and legs around so that all the water splashed up in his face. Then his feet hit something; it was the bottom of the river. A second later Aragorn grabbed him and dragged him out of the water.

From a boat somewhere downstream a thin cry of “He’s fallen in the water” could be heard.

That was it. Sam was cold, wet and humiliated. He was fairly sure that he had heard the other Hobbits laughing at him and they were going to pay for that later. He wanted to go home. Not only that, but he never wanted to have any contact with the Scouting Association ever again.

*****

Back in the house Gimli was setting up a rematch of the Battle of Helm’s deep with a bookcase, stepladder and a complex set of ramps made out of cardboard for the next Warhammer game, while Legolas, head thrown back, was really getting into the spirit of playing ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’.

Gimli became aware of a presence in the room. He turned round.

“Legolas.”

“Sixteen vestal virgins, who were leaving for the coast…”

“Legolas!”

“Might just as well have been closed…”

“Legolas. Aragorn and the Hobbits are home.”

Legolas stopped abruptly. Damn all these stupid mortals, he was catching embarrassment from them. But he was an Elf and Elves didn’t do embarrassment. He tried again for smug and just about managed to pull it off. It wasn’t like anyone else in the house knew how to play the Hammond organ.

“I thought you weren’t supposed to be coming back until tomorrow?”

“We weren’t, but our plans for the weekend also included us having tents.”

“Tents?”

“There was a mysterious accident. They all caught fire while we were canoeing. But luckily for us, Sam and Frodo were around to put the fires out. Shame neither of them actually saw who did it. In a campsite in the middle of nowhere. With no one around for miles except them.”

“How could we have been expected to see anything? Sam was getting changed out of his wet clothes after he fell in the water and I was in the quartermaster’s tent making him a nice cup of tea.”

“Yes, the quartermaster’s tent was the only one that didn’t catch fire, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, that was lucky, wasn’t it?”

Aragorn gave up. “However the fire may have started,” Aragorn looked meaningfully at Sam, “it has been made very clear that none of us are welcome at any Scouting Association event ever again. We’re not even allowed to come within a twenty foot radius of any Scout hut anywhere in the country.”

Legolas shrugged. This was his weekend and now that proper Elvish smugness had set in he wasn’t going to let the return of Aragorn and the Hobbits prevent him from doing whatever he wanted until Sunday evening. He returned to his Hammond organ with great enthusiasm.

“Um…Legolas?”

“What?”

“I think Rachmaninov meant that for the piano…”

*****

Three days later…

Aragorn had had a long and difficult day at the forestry commission and had come in covered with mud up to his waist, so had sensibly decided to go for a nice relaxing bath. Complete with model boats and submarines. He was trying to re-enact highlights from the Battle of the Atlantic and giving a running commentary in English and German.

“Alaaaaaaaaarm! Wasserbombe!” Aragorn threw a soluble aspirin at his submarine for dramatic effect. “Charges detonated sir. Switch to ASDIC.” He began to imitate the noises of early sonar equipment.

“Prepare for second attack.”

One floor above, Gandalf was the closest he’d been yet to actually reaching the beer, whilst still to all intents and purposes trapped in the loft. If he just moved his staff like this…and shifted his weight to the edge of the beam like so…

There was a crash. With much speed, but a complete and utter lack of grace Gandalf came through the ceiling and landed next to the bath, beer in hand.

“Scheisskopf!”