Season 2, Episode 3
Disclaimer: JRR Tolkien owns all the characters; quote about talking to the trees is from ‘The Goon Show’; quote about psychology and extreme violence from ‘The Young Ones;’
Rating: PG-13 (supernatural activity; strife; language; stilton)
Reviews: yes please, please or else it means we have to work.<br?story notes:=”” this=”” is=”” one=”” of=”” our=”” more=”” surreal=”” offerings.=”” blame=”” random=”” dent.=””>
“Does this milk smell odd to anyone else?”
“It’s organic. It’s supposed to smell… earthy. Natural. Slightly off.”
“Merry, are you confusing ‘organic’ and ‘past its best’ again? Just because it’s got mould on it doesn’t mean that it’s organic.”
“Hey, I work in a supermarket. I know all about organic food.”
“Yes, you know that organic food goes on the green shelves next to the pasta. And it’s ‘worked in a supermarket’. You’re both on the dole again, aren’t you?”
“Ah may be on the dole, but Ah’ve had a job. Unlike some hobbits round here.”
“I may not have a job, but I’m a productive member of this household. My psychiatrist says so.”
Legolas walked into the middle of this argument, and disarmed Frodo, who had been hefting the rolling pin in a determined manner.
“Merry, Pippin, shouldn’t you be going to the jobcentre? Before, for example, I give Frodo a meat cleaver and inexplicably wander off?”
Legolas was using the Scary Elf Eyes (the facial expression deliberately never used when the psychiatric nurse was round), and Merry and Pippin decided that discretion was the better part of valour. It was likely though that ‘go to the Job Centre’ would have transformed itself into ‘go to the pub’, by the time they were half way to the door.
“Legolas, do you think this milk smells odd?”
Legolas took the milk warily. In the past he had been asked for an opinion on whether a small green lump of cottage cheese (that may or may not have been half a pint of semi-skimmed at one point) smelled off. He sniffed.
“It doesn’t quite smell off… just odd. And familiar, somehow.”
Frodo sniffed again. “Hmmmm. Damp leather?”
The milk was passed back to Legolas. “But something in the bouquet… metallic perhaps?”
“Yes, a metallic undertone, but there’s something else… woody?”
“Hmmm, only very faint. The damp leather is the main note.”
There was a pause as Frodo examined the label on the milk. “It says it’s milk. Semi skimmed, organic milk. It smells like an unwashed horse. Do you think it’s safe to drink?”
“Somehow, no. And it’ll make the tea taste of unwashed horse.”
“But… but… what about Aragorn’s thermos!”
“It’s about time he learns about proper civilised behaviour. And that means taking your tea with lemon. You’d think he only stopped being a Ranger yesterday the way he behaves sometimes.”
“Merry, Pippin and Sam all take their tea with milk.”
“Some people are beyond help.”
Aragorn took another look at his sandwiches. They’d been on the wrong end of a large amount of engine oil and he didn’t like the look of them. He sighed. He was a Ranger. He could survive on tea alone. He unscrewed his thermos, and squinted at his tea, just in case it was full of engine oil as well. Odd. It seemed to have no milk in it. He checked the handy little ‘milk and sugar’ compartment, and found it full of… lemon slices? He sipped the tea warily. No sugar!
Aragorn’s mind raced. Was Frodo trying to kill him again? No, this wasn’t Frodo’s style. There was only one type of being warped enough to drink tea with lemon. An elf. Legolas.
He cast aside the tea with disgust. He didn’t need it. He was a Ranger, in the middle of a forest. He could find food. Edible things would almost press themselves into his hands! He took up his Swiss army knife and set forth.
A few hours later, he was sat dejectedly on the forest floor. He was hungry. There was nothing to eat in the damn forest. He’d successfully identified over 14 species of fungi, all of which were poisonous. Three squirrels, two rabbits and a wood pigeon had evaded his capture. And after he’d caught the hedgehog he’d realised he had no way of cooking it, so released it. It had given him a resentful look and shuffled off.
He stared at the ground. This was it. He had lost his Ranger skills. And when a Ranger lost his skills, he was no longer himself. No longer worthy. He gave a quick glance round the forest to ensure he was alone and burst into tears.
Aragorn looked at his dinner. “Why are we having tuna pasta bake with baked beans in it?”
“Something’s wrong with the fridge. Everything you put in it smells… off.”
“Has Gimli had a look at it?”
“Yes, but he wasn’t happy that I’d woken him up. He says there’s no reason for the smell.”
“This hasn’t explained the tuna with baked beans…”
Frodo sighed. “Gandalf took all the labels off the tins. I had been hoping for chopped tomatoes.”
Aragorn looked over at Legolas, who was pointedly eating dry muesli and crunching it in a slightly menacing way. Legolas caught Aragorn’s look, and proffered the muesli. Aragorn had a moment of doubt and then decided to stick with tuna a la beans.
Dinner over, Merry and Pippin decided to investigate the fridge. They opened the door. The inside of the fridge was empty, and sparkling white, as Frodo had tried to clean away the smell. They sniffed.
“Sort of earthy.”
“Manky more like. Unwashed.”
“Smells damp as well. Unwashed and damp.”
“Well, I washed it, and then I dried it afterwards, even down all the little drain bits.”
Merry took a deep breath in. “Y’know, with a bit of pipeweed smoke, this’d smell just like Aragorn used to.”
Aragorn strode over and stuck his head into the fridge. “I never used to smell like that.”
There was a muttered comment from Legolas, who was standing on the other side of the room with one hand under his nose. “You couldn’t smell yourself.”
“I was rugged. Rugged smells a bit. No-one used to bathe that often back then anyway.”
“Some of us bathed more than once a year.”
“Yes, Pippin, you bathed more than once a year because you were swimming in the river every day so you could ogle the women. You were probably the cleanest hobbit in the Shire in Summer.”
Aragorn, however, had gone off on his own little despairing tangent. “You never respected me back then. Arwen didn’t respect me. None of the other kings respected me, and I was King of Gondor and Arnor!”
A distant comment came through from the sitting room. “Yes, Arnor, the ‘buy one get one free’ kingdom.”
If Aragorn had been any less butch his lower lip would have been wobbling, but as it was he just look slightly constipated.
“Wonder how he managed to sneak up on people when he was a Ranger. I mean, you’ve got to be able to smell him coming.”
Aragorn turned on his heel and strode out of the back door.
“Was it something we said?”
Legolas considered telling Pippin that yes, it was, but decided better of it. He picked him up by his shirt collar and shoved him into the fridge instead.
Aragorn was perched atop the ten foot tall apple tree with his back to the house like a depressed, hairy Christmas tree fairy.
“Aragorn? Are you going to come down now?” There was silence from the tree, so Legolas tried again. “It’s 9 o’clock in the evening and it’s getting dark. Someone has phoned from each of the houses on either side of us to ask if we know there’s a strange man in our garden and if we want them to phone the police. You’re going to miss that documentary on Siberian forests…”
“Don’t like forests.”
“I hate forests and they hate me.”
“Aragorn, has something happened at work?”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“Nothing. Nothing happens when I try to do Ranger things. I’ve lost all my skills. I’m useless and too old to get another job and I’m going to end up stacking shelves with Merry and Pippin and I’ll spend too much time indoors and get a beer gut and I’ll never have sex ever again and…”
Halfway through Aragorn’s confused and depressive rant, Legolas had climbed into the tree beside him and was patting him ineffectually on the shoulder. It was so much easier with Elves, they just sang for a while and forgot, but humans always seemed to brood, and brooding led to crying and someone, usually him, ending up with a damp shoulder. He decided this had to stop.
“Aragorn, stop being so silly. You haven’t lost your Ranger skills, it’s like riding a bike, you just have to practice. Now, we’re going to go indoors, make a cup of tea and watch that documentary and then you’re going to have an early night.”
Aragorn looked at his boots. “Yes, Elrond.” There was a confused pause. “Sorry, it’s the autopilot.”
“Merry? Pippin? Have you been cooking in your sleep again?”
Everyone at the breakfast table looked at the ceiling.
“No, there’s no salad cream on the ceiling.”
“Then where’s this soup come from?”
Frodo was holding a large bowl of soup.
“What flavour soup?”
“Chicken and mushroom.”
“Nothing to do with me, then.”
“Has the smell gone out of the fridge yet?”
“Then I think we’ve found something to have for breakfast.”
“But you don’t know where it’s come from. It could be poisoned. Gandalf could have made it.”
There was a collective shudder from everyone except Merry and Pippin.
“All the more for us then.” Merry put the soup in the microwave and retrieved two spoons.
Legolas eyed the soup suspiciously. “There aren’t any clues as to where it came from? No ‘leave this alone it’s mine you thieving bastards’ note?”
“No, but there was this post-it on the outside of the fridge though.” Frodo handed the post-it to Legolas.
“‘You’re not eating properly, learn to look after yourself. There’s some soup in the fridge, eat it.'” Legolas paused. “So, someone has broken into the house overnight to tell one of us that we aren’t eating properly and leave some soup. Who on earth does something like that?”
Pippin looked up from the bowl of soup. “My mum used to do that just after I left home. I’d wake up in the morning and find a chicken on the dresser. One time it wasn’t dead, but then she’d been ill and was a bit confused.”
As usual, the Fellowship ignored Pippin and Aragorn got up from the table to put the milk in the fridge now that it was supposedly safe. There was a merest hint of a whisper
“What did you call me?” Aragorn turned round to face the others.
“One of you just called me a Dunadan gobshite.”
“We never insult people quietly, there’s no point if they can’t hear you. And anyway, that’s a really unoriginal insult, if it was me, I’d have called you a -” Legolas’ hand was clamped over Merry’s mouth before anyone got to hear what he would have called Aragorn.
While the rest of the Fellowship were at work or ‘the job centre’, otherwise known as ‘The Flying Swan’, Frodo found three more notes on the fridge door. The first read ‘Have you been keeping up your elvish? You should be keeping up your elvish. Get out more. Meet a nice girl. Or boy, I’m open minded. You would tell me if you were, wouldn’t you? You should eat more. Bilbo.’
This confused Frodo. It sounded like Bilbo, the handwriting was like Bilbo’s, but Bilbo was dead. Really very dead. Frodo had been to his funeral just to make sure. He decided that not thinking about it was best. He’d ask Sam later if the post-it was real.
The second post-it read ‘Gandalf! I hate you. I hope you know that. Isildur.’ The final one read ‘Greetings from the Halls of Mandos. Eowyn sends her love, and asks to be remembered to Aragorn and says she’s sorry to hear about the divorce. I hope you are all faring well, Faramir’.
Frodo decided to go and have a little lie down.
The rest of the Fellowship had arrived home, and the notes were undergoing deep scrutiny. Legolas was on handwriting analysis, Gimli was examining the ink, Aragorn was hanging over Legolas’ shoulder making unhelpful comments, the hobbits were eating and Gandalf was pinning abusive notes to Isildur onto the fridge.
Merry decided that hobbits could not live by crisps alone, and went over to the fridge to look for more solid food. He opened the door.
“Bastard throne stealer!”
Merry took a step backwards. “The fridge just swore at me!”
“Sorry, thought you were Aragorn.”
“S’Ok.” replied Merry on auto-pilot.
“Merry, stop talking to it. Don’t encourage it.”
Merry was pointing at the fridge now, and mumbling. The rest of the Fellowship were looking at the fridge, wondering what it was going to say next.
“Och, must be some kind of fault. I’ll have a look at it.”
The fridge door swung shut firmly.
“I don’t think it wants to be fixed.”
“Someone should open it. Find out what’s going on.”
All eyes turned to Aragorn.
“What? Why me?”
“It’s you it has problems with. Perhaps that’s why it smelled funny before.”
“But it’s not my fault the fridge doesn’t like me, I’m not a bad person, it’s not my fault I’m a Numenorian, I was born that way.”
The fridge door swung open. “Bloody Numenorians! Think they’re so high and mighty and noble! Bastards!” The door swung shut again.
“I think we have established that you need to negotiate with the fridge. Otherwise we’ll have to buy a new one.”
Aragorn patted the top of the fridge in a vaguely reassuring manner. “There, there. I’m sure we can work out our differences.”
As if in answer the fridge door swung open with some force, knocking Aragorn off his feet. The handle had slammed into his stomach, winding him, so he lay on the floor, alternately gasping and cursing. The fridge laughed heartily.
Realisation dawned on Legolas. “Boromir! You’ve possessed our fridge.”
The fridge blew a raspberry through one of the salad drawers.
“Right, you get out of there this minute.”
“Not my fault.”
“Whose fault is it then?”
“Everyone else came and left a note, but I got trapped. Don’t know why.”
Light dawned on Merry. “That’s what the fridge smelled like! Like Boromir!”
“Yes, well done, everyone else managed to come to that conclusion a few minutes ago.”
The fridge took offence. “Are you saying that I smell?”
“No, no, no, not that you smell, more that you… ummmm…”
Frodo came to the rescue, “have a distinctive perfume.”
“Are you accusing me of wearing perfume?”
Aragorn had managed to get up. “Why did you hit me? I thought we had sorted all of this out the last time that you appeared.”
“We didn’t sort anything out. We just got absolutely wankered. And holding a grudge is much more fun. There’s not much to do in the afterlife, and plotting ways to hurt you gives me a hobby.”
“Oh.” Aragorn looked hurt.
Frodo tried to rescue the situation a bit. “It’s nice to have a hobby.”
Over the next few days many methods were tried to remove Boromir from the fridge. Bell, book and candle (or alarm clock, copy of the Grauniad and glow-in-the-dark t-shirt) failed. ‘Get thee behind me Boromir’ just confused everyone. Invocations to the Valar received a message saying “The Valar can’t come to the psychic link right now, but if you’d leave a message after the celestial choir, we’ll get right back to you.” The Valar did not ring back. Gandalf had actually for once done some magic, which had succeeded in giving Boromir a celestial migraine and covering the outside of the fridge in green slime, much to Frodo’s disgust.
So they’d given in. The fridge was left open during meals, so that Boromir wouldn’t feel left out. Frodo had had a long chat with Boromir, to ‘finish working out some Issues’. But generally, life continued on as normal. Well, the Fellowship’s definition of ‘normal’, anyway.
Dinner had ceased to be ‘mystery tin’ and returned to ‘cordon bleu with extra suet’. Aragorn’s mental state had not improved much.
“And then there was the other squirrel-”
“Aragorn, I don’t think that they have a vendetta against you. Really.”
Sam chipped in. “Yeah, when I’m trying to do my gardening they get everywhere. It’s just what squirrels do.”
“But I can talk to the animals.”
“You’re confusing ‘Ranger’ and ‘Dr. Dolittle’ again.”
“I’m not, really I could talk to them.”
“Do they talk back?”
“Well, no, but-”
“Then you don’t need to talk to a psychiatrist just yet.”
“I’m the one with mental problems. Me. Don’t start muscling in.” Frodo had that worrying glint in his eye.
“You don’t need a psychiatrist, you need a vet.” said the fridge.
There was a pause.
“That wiz a crap attempt at an insult. Ah mean, ‘You don’t need a psychiatrist, you need a life’ would have been at least relevant.”
Merry sang, “I talk to the trees, that’s why they put me away…”
“That, you see, that wiz an insult. Ok, it wasn’t original, but it was a quote used in an appropriate context. You cannae just wade in with comment about vets, thought has to go into it. Ah’ve spent years perfecting mah insults.”
“Thank you Professor Took of the Insultology Department.”
“You see that? Combined both a pertinent comment and a heavy dose of sarcasm.” He smacked Merry in the face. “Bastard!”
“But there is always room for a good old traditional expletive. I think we can stop now.” Legolas aimed his comment at the flailing mass of arms and legs that was Merry and Pippin.
Aragorn leapt up. “By Jove, I think I’ve got it!”
“Got what? Dutch elm disease?”
“No, no, how to get Boromir out of the fridge. Old Cordwangler’s Extra Blue Fantastically Mature!”
“What? You don’t mean… the Dread Stilton of Doom?”
There was a gasp from the room. Merry and Pippin stopped fighting and stood up.
“Not the Dread Stilton of Doom! You know what happened last time!”
“What did happen last time?”
“I don’t know. I was hiding, but I heard the noises.”
“But what do you hope to achieve?”
“Well, if we put a half pound-”
“A whole half pound? Are you insane?”
“Ok, if we put a quarter pound of Cordwangler’s into the fridge, if there’s anyway for him to get out he’ll take it. If not, then they’ll fight to the death.”
There was an aggrieved yell from the fridge. “Don’t I get a say in this?”
“NO!” said the Fellowship as one.
A tall dark man, swathed in black, his face hidden by a deep hood, strode into the Cheesemongers.
“I’d like a quarter pound of Old Cordwangler’s, please.”
The boy behind the counter paled, and the shop went silent. All eyes were on the stranger. At the other end of the room a cheese knife clattered to the floor. “I’ll-I’ll h-h-have to g-get Mr. George.”
“You do that then.”
A short neat man with glasses came through from the back. “Do I hear the name of Cordwangler’s being used in vain?”
The dark man nodded a greeting.
“My apologies, Mr. Aragorn, I didn’t know it was you.”
The boy looked confused. “But, but it’s Cordwangler’s, and you said-”
“Lad, I’ve seen him eat it with pickle.”
There was a collective gasp from the room.
One of the other customers spoke up. “With pickle? That’s not possible, the human frame cannot…” He tailed off as Aragorn turned to look at him. He swallowed. “Sorry.”
“Come through to the back room.”
The other occupants of the shop clustered round the door to the back room, jostling each other to get a better look.
A heavy table, covered in scorch marks, sat in the centre of the room. On top of it was a thick glass bell jar, firmly bolted to the table. Through the translucent green of the glass could be seen… the cheese. Chained down, it occasionally hurled itself ineffectually at the glass.
Mr. George handed a spanner to the lad. “Release the bolts.”
He tentatively approached the table. The cheese, sensing his fear, redoubled its efforts on the glass. Mr. George held the top of the bell jar firmly as the bolts were released.
“Now, lad, when I lift the glass you slide the cheese board under it.”
The jar was lifted. The cheese leapt, and as it did the cheese board was slid under it. Now the lad held it down while Mr. George took hold of the diamond edged cheese wire. He looked up at Aragorn. “A quarter pound was it?” has asked, conversationally as the lad wrestled the squirming cheese.
Aragorn bore the cheese (safely ensconced in a reinforced box) into the kitchen. The rest of the Fellowship looked at it in barely disguised terror, which Aragorn mistook for awe.
“You got it then?”
“Yes. Boromir… open the fridge.”
“Not bloody likely. I know what you’ve got in there.”
The Fellowship formed a huddle around Gandalf’s chair. “Gentlemen, this calls for a very special blend of psychology and extreme violence.” Gandalf cleared his throat. “What’s this? An enormous chocolate cake made with fresh cream that needs to be refrigerated…”
Legolas tapped Gandalf on the shoulder. “This is Boromir, not a Hobbit. You remember Boromir, don’t you?” he whispered.
Gandalf tried again. “And what’s this? Fifteen pints of Sam’s home brew and a big bottle of that stuff he distils from potatoes in the shed?”
The fridge door flew open and banged against the wall. All of the Fellowship except Aragorn grabbed the door handle to keep it open while Aragorn leapt into the fridge and chained the stilton down in the pen they kept for such occasions.
Then they slammed the fridge door shut and leaned against it. And waited…
Inside the fridge the cheese could smell prey, and prey its own size. Something in the unique aroma of the stilton had reacted with Boromir’s equally strong personality to cause him to incarnate in a three and a half inch high form. A three and a half inch high form which was now reaching for its very small sword in defence from the predator currently stalking it.
Boromir edged round the side of the fridge. “Nice… cheese. Good cheese. You don’t want to hurt me, do you?”
It growled in response and shuffled closer.
As the bars of the cheese pen began to buckle, Boromir started losing confidence in its structural soundness. That did it. He took the shield off his back and drew his sword. This would be a fight to the death. Men of Gondor didn’t lie down and accept defeat in the face of dairy products.
So as the cheese burst out of its pen Boromir was ready.
In the kitchen the Fellowship could hear a knocking from inside the fridge.
“Poor Boromir. I’m sure he fought bravely.”
“We’ll have to give him a proper burial if there’s anything left to bury.”
The knocking from inside the fridge became more insistent.
Their heads bowed, the Fellowship backed away from the fridge.
The fridge door opened explosively, disgustedly spitting out a tall, hairy, unwashed man armed with a sword dripping with runny blue stilton.
“I defeated it! I defeated it and claimed its powers! Gondor is victorious once more!”
“Oh dear, not again.”
To be continued…