Bagenders – The Silver Forest

Season 1, Episode 6

By Lady Alyssa and Random Dent

Disclaimer: Long and complex, so is at the end.
Rating: PG-13 (comedic violence; strife; language; gratuitous nudity)
Reviews: yes please, please or else it means we have to revise/work.
Story notes: For those of you who’ve only seen the movie Radagast is another wizard, Radagast the Brown, who likes to talk to the animals.

I sing of wizarding staff and of the wizard, who, forc’d by fate,
And haughty Legolas’s unrelenting hate,
Expell’d and exil’d, left the Semi’s shore.
Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore…

“Mr. Grey, Let go of the banister!”

Gandalf had wrapped the top half of his body around the banisters, and was swearing, but was careful not to be loud enough for Miss MacBeth to hear.

“You are only making this harder for yourself.”

“Feck off.”

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

Gandalf went quiet. Miss. MacBeth had gone onto his list of ‘creatures to avoid’. If it had been her in the Mines of Moria he would have carried on over the mountain, Saruman or no Saruman.

Miss MacBeth switched into ‘good cop’ mode. “Mr. Grey, won’t you at least say hello to Mr. Brown? He’s been terribly lonely since his last roommate died, find it in the goodness of your heart to talk to him? He’s only got the stuffed cat for company.”

Gandalf considered this, as being a godlike creature he was unsure of his biology – did he in fact have a heart? This slight confusion, and the related loosening of his grip on the banister was enough for Miss MacBeth to strike. Gandalf found both his arms wrenched from the banister and pinned behind his back, and he was frogmarched upstairs.

“Your room is at the end of the corridor.”

As they approached the room Gandalf could hear a strange sound, as if someone was attempting to play the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ on the ukulele. Miss MacBeth pushed open the door to the room. There was, in fact someone playing the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ on the ukulele. Gandalf looked at the bearded ‘musician’ in shock.

“I shall leave you two to get to know each other. You will, I trust, become friends.” The Commandant left the room.

Gandalf stretched out his arms and said “Radagast!”

“Gandalf!”

They hugged, with much butch backslapping and calling of old nicknames.

“Haven’t seen you since that nasty business with Octavian and Mark Antony,” said Gandalf. “How did Cleopatra take that business with you, and you know.”

“Oh, that! About as bad as you can. Killed herself with an asp.”

Gandalf looked horrified. “Wha-”

“Asp, you deaf old fool, with a ‘p’. You know the poisonous snake?”

Gandalf looked visibly relieved. “You kept a snake then I recall?”

“Look it was suicide. It’s not my fault if she used my snake. She asked if she could borrow it, she never said she was going to kill herself. How would you like it, being thrust into a woman’s bosom?” Gandalf started to snigger. “Alright, so you would enjoy it, but Horace was never the same again.”

Gandalf nodded towards the stuffed cat. “See you’re still useless with your pets.”

“Oh, forgot about that. Its alright Brute, he’s a friend.” The ‘stuffed’ cat relaxed and began to wash itself, deliberately ignoring Gandalf. “We’re not allowed pets you see, but Brute’s very good at playing dead. In fact, when he does kick the bucket, I probably won’t notice till he starts getting whiffy. Speaking of which Gandalf, ummm…?”

“The Smell? Good isn’t it?”

“What? It’s deliberate?”

“Of course! Annoys the hell out of the rest of the Fellowship, and its good at deterring social workers. You should have seen the look on that poncey elf’s face when I first moved in, gave me bubble bath as a present as well.”

“What did you do with it?”

“Drank it.”

“Any good?”

“Not really, it was mandarin flavour and I can’t stand mandarins.”

“Don’t suppose you could give me some tips on acquiring a Smell? I have this problem – the Silver Trees Knitting Circle. Women only and they’re out to get me.”

“Why?”

“They started it.”

“How long have I known you? Who was it that restyled Saruman’s hair into a mohican and put pink streaks in his beard while he was passed out drunk at that terrible party Galadriel had in the second age?”

“I started it. But even the Elves were pissing themselves laughing at Saruman in the morning. Galadriel never even noticed you’d shaved her eyebrows off.”

“So what did you do to the Knitting Circle?”

“They said I slandered them to Miss MacBeth. Told her about all their goings on.”

“In a Knitting Circle?”

“Just wait till you meet them.”

*****

Back in the house the ownership of Gandalf’s chair was under dispute. Merry, Pippin and Sam were squeezed uncomfortably into it and locked in a battle of wills – or possibly knees. Aragorn was standing in the style of John Wayne on the side of the room, still wearing a kilt, since the after-effects of the shrinking boxer shorts would last a while yet.

“Why are you all so keen to sit in that chair?” asked Frodo.

“It’s Gandalf’s chair!” answered Pippin.

“That’s what I mean, it’s had Gandalf sitting in it.” Frodo shuddered.

“But it’s got the reclining mechanism and the best view of the telly.” To demonstrate this, Pippin started to shift the ornate brass handle backwards and forwards. “See, chairgoesup, chairgoesdown, chairgoesup, chairgoesdown, chairgoes – oops.” As the chair came back up Sam shot out from between Merry and Pippin and skidded across the room on his back, coming to a halt just underneath the kilt.

Sam screamed. Merry looked at Aragorn. “Is tha wearing owt under that kilt?”

Aragorn looked as if he was going to be sick. “The kilt’s bad enough, do you honestly think I can wear anything under it after what Gandalf did to me?”

Sam had curled up in the corner and in a twisted role-reversal situation, Frodo was trying to calm him down. Pippin looked at Sam in confusion. “It no’ like ye huvnae seen things like that before.”

“Not like that, definitely not like that,” said Sam, before returning to gibbering in Frodo’s arms, a few words such as ‘throbbing’ and ‘bruises’ could be heard.

Legolas came in from work, cheerfully swinging a plastic bag and singing in elvish.

“You do remember that me and Frodo speak elvish, don’t you?” said Aragorn.

Legolas stopped. Then started again in English. “The road goes ever on and on, taking Gandalf further away from us.”

“But that doesn’t scan, rhyme or fit with the tune.”

“I don’t care.”

“But you’re an Elf, you’re supposed to care about things like that.”

“Nope, Gandalf’s gone and that’s all I care about at the moment. Now, I have to ask your opinion on a very important matter.” Legolas emptied the contents of the bag onto the coffee table. “Which should I use first on Gandalf’s chair? Disinfectant or Febreeze?”

*****

Dinner that evening was Gandalf’s first encounter with the Knitting Circle. He and Radagast were sat opposite Dora, Nora and Flora, the unholy trinity. It was not an experience he wanted to repeat any time soon because they seemed to be conspiring against him even more than the fellowship. They whispered to each other over the teacups and gave each other Looks, and Gandalf was sure he’d seen one of them produce a hip flask from somewhere inside her expanses of undergarment (and the concept of elderly female undergarments was not something Gandalf liked to consider. Thongs, well that was another matter – except not on old ladies. Gandalf pulled the emergency cord on this train of thought, and evacuated with no thought about oncoming trains.). But worst of all they’d had photographs of their grandchildren and they’d made Gandalf and Radagast look at them. Until this point Gandalf had been unaware exactly how ugly a three month old baby could look, and how much uglier the addition of teeth would make it.

Back in their room Gandalf and Radagast formed the Provisional Popular anti-Knitting Circle Front. Gandalf was somewhat distracted by Radagast’s hat. Radagast had discarded the normal pointy hat in favour of a Davy Crockett hat. The problem was that this was less of a hat and more of an actual live racoon, which since it knew Gandalf was a friend shifted about on Radagast’s head and right now was staring at Gandalf, waiting for him to say something interesting. Or there was the possibility that was now occurring to Gandalf, that his Smell resembled that of a female racoon. He cursed his lack of attention to nature programmes because then he’d know what a horny racoon looked like.

“So you see what I’m up against.”

“I do, but what on earth do they get up to in there?”

“You do not want to know. Trust me. But tonight is the night they are going to condemn me and think up a way to punish me. Gandalf, I need a favour.”

“Anything for a fellow wizard. Well, one who hasn’t gone over to the powers of darkness, or is still speaking to me after Galadriel’s party. Which leaves just you then.”

“Excellent.” Radagast got the razor and began to shave Gandalf’s cheek.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Well, we’ve got to shave all of this off, and the rest,” he indicated Gandalf’s bushy eyebrows, “We’ll have to pluck.”

Gandalf moaned and shuffled, shaving did not come naturally to wizards and he was rather concerned about how good Radagast was at this. Had he done this before? The situation was becoming more and more suspect by the minute. Gandalf demanded an explanation.

“Isn’t it obvious? The only way to infiltrate the knitting circle is to send a woman in, and since I don’t have one handy, you’ll have to do.”

“Why can’t you do it?”

“They know me too well. You’ll look completely different without the beard and they’ll assume you’re just another new resident; they come and go here like nobody’s business. My old roommate, died as soon as look at me…”

Gandalf resigned himself and allowed Radagast to finish shaving him. With a flourish, Radagast produced a mirror.

“It’s not me,” moaned Gandalf. “It’s Dale Winton!”

Radagast produced a dress from one of the drawers in his bedside table.

“I’m not wearing that! Green’s for elves, the smug bastards, and anyway, it clashes with my eyes.”

Radagast produced a second, yellow dress.

“You don’t have anything in white or grey?”

Radagast shook his head.

“I’ll go with the yellow then.”

Radagast also produced a pre-filled bra to go with the dress. At this, Gandalf felt moved to comment.

“Radagast…?”

“What?”

“Where’d you get that?”

“Well, maybe elves don’t get those urges, but you know we sometimes do?”

“Radagast, I’ve known you all my life, you were the one stood next to me in the choir kicking my ankles, I know when you’re lying.”

“Alright, you know how we have to keep on moving round and changing our identities to stop people finding out we’re immortal? Well, I decided to find out what life’s like for a woman.”

“So what is it like?”

“Terrible, I kept getting catcalled by these GI’s, and at my age too.”

“You spent the second world war as a woman?”

“Yes, there’s a picture of me in a history book somewhere being lovable and cockney on the London Underground during the Blitz. Oh, and we’ve got to do your hair too.”

“My hair.”

“Yes, I would give you the blue rinse and perm, but there’s no time, so we’ll just have to go for the Ena Sharples look.” Radagast produced a set of rollers and a hairnet.

When the look was completed, Radagast handed over the knitting bag. “Now Gandalf, this is your knitting bag, look after it. It looks like an ordinary knitting bag, but it contains the largest amount of alcohol outside the nearest branch of Odbins. See here how the knitting lifts up to reveal three bottles of gin and one of vodka.”

Gandalf reached out to touch one of the balls of wool.

“Don’t touch that one!”

“Why not?”

“It’s my hamster, and he’s rather excitable.”

Radagast removed the offending rodent and pushed Gandalf gently towards the door. When Gandalf seemed unwilling to comply he pushed him more forcefully towards the door, where he assumed the starfish position, attempting to hold onto the doorframe with his hands and feet. “I’m not going unless you promise me one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“You’ll come and rescue me if I get into trouble.”

“What? You want me to watch what they get up to again?”

“Hang on, what is it that they do in there anyway?”

“Never mind. They’re going to start soon, and alright, I’ll watch and I promise to come and rescue you if it gets out of hand.”

*****

Meanwhile, back at the semi, the fellowship were sitting peacefully watching a documentary, which unlike the ones Gandalf watched didn’t have a title like ‘Streetwalker: My Life as a Prostitute’ or ‘When Boob Jobs Explode’. Legolas, out of sheer joie de vivre had put his hair into two plaits and was being called Heidi by the rest of the fellowship, who he was studiously ignoring. Merry and Pippin had retained control of the chair by cunningly forming a coalition, but were both shifting uncomfortably because neither of them had enough faith in the other’s loyalty to go to the bathroom. Sam had calmed down, but was still unable to make eye contact with Aragorn.

With much trepidation, Gandalf approached the Chamber of the Knitting Circle and knocked on the door. A dread voice answered “‘Ello!”

Gandalf stuck his head round the door. “I’m here to join the Knitting Circle.”

“Come on in then. What’s your name?”

Gandalf panicked and began to search through his limited vocabulary of female names. “My name’s, um, Buffy, yes, hello everyone, I’m Buffy.”

“You must first be initiated into the Knitting Circle, Buffy.” Nora, the leader, motioned to her acolytes, Dora and Flora and they pulled a poster out from behind one of the chairs and proceeded to stick it on the wall. “This, is Sean Bean. We of the Knitting Circle worship he who is called Sean Bean.”

The rest of the Knitting Circle joined in the refrain, half sung as if in church. “Richard Sharpe.”

“And what do we say unto Richard Sharpe, sisters?”

“Get them off,” they intoned.

“And what do we say unto those of the Crochet Society next door who worship the false god Horatio Hornblower?”

“Ioan Gruffudd’s a poof.” This last response was given with somewhat less decorum, but much more vehemence.

The blinds on the windows were drawn down, each one bearing upon it an icon of mighty benefactor Richard Sharpe and Nora turned to ‘Buffy’ saying, “To be initiated into the Knitting Circle you must repeat after me: I will not stray from the true path of Sharpe to that of Hornblower. I will keep to the Word of Sean Bean, the Word that is Sheffield United. I will not be tempted by crochet or sherry, but stay loyal to knitting and gin.”

Gandalf managed to repeat all of this, impressively, without cracking up.

“And now place your hand upon the signed photograph.”

Gandalf reached out his hand and placed one finger on the edge of the photograph, they seemed to mistake his utter terror for reverence and looked pleased with it. Then the first bottle of gin was opened, Nora took a drink and passed it to Dora and Flora who daintily wiped the top with embroidered handkerchiefs before taking a gulp, then it was passed round the rest of the congregation who did likewise. Next, Nora produced a plate of battenburg cake, sliced it, took a piece and passed it round.

“And now, Dora, Flora, bring forth the video.”

As Dora and Flora brought forth the video, Gandalf was introduced to the rest of the group. Most of them came under the heading of filthy-minded, hard-drinking, old ladies, except for the identical twins Cora and Clarice, who worried him. They didn’t seem to have any kind of separate identity, and this was from someone who usually lived in the same house as Merry and Pippin.

“We like his trousers.” said one of them.

“Do we?” asked the other.

“Yes, we do.”

“We want trousers,” they chorused.

“I thought we wanted power?”

“Yes, power and trousers.”

“Because if we had,” said one.

“Power,” they said together

“Then we would have,” said the other one.

“Trousers.” This word was also spoken in unison.

After the video Nora stood up. “And now we come to the most important part of our meeting, apart from Richard of course.” Gandalf glanced at one of the pictures concealed in the blinds. He was pretty sure that Sean Bean didn’t pose for that sort of magazine, and definitely not with those sorts of implements. “What are we going to do about Mr Brown?”

The old ladies started booing and shouting comments like ‘rip ‘is nadgers off’ and ‘make ‘im eat ‘is liver with baked beans’.

One of the old ladies who had been introduced to Gandalf as Adelaide rose from her big comfy chair to give a speech for the prosecution. “Ladies, Radagast is a slanderer.” They cheered. “An uncouth oath-breaker and that hat he wears all the time really smells. He is in league with Miss MacBeth in her attempts to squeeze the life out of us and stop us in our devotions to the one they call Richard.” The old ladies all made the sign of the holy trousers, cupping their hands, putting them side by side and raising them upwards. “Why only last week after our meeting she frisked me for drink.” There were cries of ‘no!’. “It was only by the swift actions of Cora and Clarice, confusing her as to which of them was which that I managed to get away with my litre bottle of gin intact.” They cheered again. “And he has informed her of the posters, yesterday my personal favourite was confiscated as an affront to taste and decency! Ladies, I rest my case.”

There were more cheers and cries of ‘rip ‘is nadgers off’ from one of the more enthusiastic members of the group.

“So,” said Nora. “This is what he has done, the question now, is what we should do to him. Who else, apart from Maureen, is in favour of ripping his nadgers off?”

This was not going well and Radagast was not going to be impressed. Gandalf decided that since he was in the costume he might as well have a go at conducting a defence. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of ‘Quincy’ and Channel 5 Soft Porn, he stood up and cleared his throat.

“Sister Buffy has a suggestion,” said Nora. The rest of the room went quiet.

“Well, not exactly. I’m not surprised that you feel this way about Radagast, personally I can’t stand him. But there’s no need to go for such drastic action. Maybe he’s found out about a few of our tricks, but aren’t there thousands more he doesn’t know?” There were nods of agreement. “When I was first married and my husband went out to work every day the gas man came round to read the meter and I offered him a cup of tea and one thing lead to another. Then when my husband came home early, I just shouted down the stairs to him to take some money out the biscuit tin and go to the chip shop to get his tea and not disturb me because I had ‘women’s trouble’.” The old ladies shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. “And as for the Richard Sharpe thing, have none of you ever tried stalking him to find his home address. I’ve got a restraining order you know.” Gandalf beamed with pride.

The insult to their beloved Sharpe was the last straw for the members of the Knitting Circle. “Are you just going to sit here and listen to this old baggage defame us and Richard?” shrieked Adelaide, lunging at Gandalf with a knitting needle. It could all have gone very badly for him, if Mr. Penfold had not come in.

“It has come to my attention – ” began Mr. Penfold, then he looked up at the pictures on the inside of the blinds. “Oh, that’s a nice one, it’s new isn’t it? Where did you get it? Anyway, it has come to my attention that you have been infiltrated by a man.”

The old ladies gasped.

“I heard from a very reliable source that Mr Brown shaved his new roommate and dressed him up as a woman and sent him here to spy on you.”

All eyes in the room suddenly focused on Gandalf.

“Strip him. Tie him down. Hurt him.” Chorused Cora and Clarice.

Maureen pounced on Gandalf and started trying to tear the dress away with her bare hands. Gandalf alternated between screaming for help and shouting detailed threats in Elvish as to what he would do to Radagast if he didn’t rescue him. Just as the dress began to come away from Gandalf’s shoulders Radagast burst in through the window, like an elderly 007 dressed as a monk, carrying Gandalf’s robes and hat under one arm and shouting “hut, hut, hut!”

But Radagast was outnumbered and Dora and Flora tied him to a chair as Gandalf was stripped. Gandalf was fully stripped by the horde of slathering women, baying for blood, or maybe something else, but he didn’t want to think about that. If push came to shove he could hold his breath until he passed out; in fact, just in case, he was going to do that right now…

*****

Gandalf awoke in a familiar place, although the smell of disinfectant was new, and the faces staring at him seemed familiar. However as he became more conscious he realised that these were not in any way friendly faces. Homicidal would be a better description.

“Go on. We want to know. When exactly did the Sean Bean fixation start?” said Aragorn.

“Wha-?”

“The letter from Miss. MacBeth, which was sellotaped to your chest, when they threw you out of the back of the nursing home laundry van, wearing only your hat to protect your modesty, goes into some detail.”

“What details?”

“Details of how exactly you managed to remain in the retirement home for less than 24 hours before being thrown out, and blacklisted by every old people’s home from here to Istanbul. Of how Miss. MacBeth found you passed out through alcohol in the ladies only Knitting Circle, surrounded by what she calls ‘inappropriate’ pictures of Sean Bean, naked apart from curlers and a hairnet. The Knitting Circle were beside themselves, some of them had to be sedated.”

Legolas was shaking with anger. “Why? Why all of that? Why couldn’t you just go on a killing spree like a normal person and get put into prison!”

“So, how do you like Sean Bean’s musket technique?” said Merry nastily. He’d been getting to like the chair.

“At least he can hit the right target.”

Merry was restrained from thumping Gandalf by the other hobbits. “Sick, twisted musket lover!”

“At least wizards can see over the bar to order a drink.”

Frodo intervened to calm the situation down. “Look, it looks like we’re stuck together for the moment, no use bickering.”

Gandalf, who had mysteriously acquired a new staff pinned Frodo to the ceiling. “Let me down, I’ve got jam on the boil and it’ll go all solid if I’m not careful.” Gandalf let him down again and he went into the kitchen, followed by Sam.

“Frodo?”

“Yes?”

“Um, why exactly are you a member of the Women’s Institute?”

“Why not? No-one round here knows what gender name Frodo is, and they share round good recipes, and its nice to get out and have a cup of tea and a chat. I get so lonely when all of you are out at work, and then you come home and all you want to do is talk about your jobs, and well, its nice to talk to people like me.”

“Like you?”

“Not that way, I mean housewives.”

Sam stared at Frodo. He really, really didn’t know what to follow up that statement with. He gave up. “Jam smells nice.”

Back in the sitting room behind the sofa, Pippin turned to Merry.

“We want our chair back.”

“Do we?”

“We do.”

They chorused: “We want our chair back.”

Disclaimers: JRR Tolkien owns all the characters used here: have just borrowed them, will be returned in almost working order. Debt to ‘Father Ted’ in the characterisation of Gandalf. General situation debt to the ‘Young Ones’. The beginning of the story is a misquote of the beginning of Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’. Most of the story in the Retirement home is based on a very funny play by Aristophanes called Thesmophoriaszusae, which is translated into English either as ‘The Women of the Thesmophoria’, or ‘The Poet and the Women’, and it’s filthy – we’ve really only used the clean bits. Lady Cora and Lady Clarice are residents of Gormenghast and belong to Mervyn Peake – will be sent back by return of post at great personal expense. Terry Pratchett is now so deeply embedded into our consciousness we only realised ‘The Smell’ and ‘hut hut hut’ were Discworld references when it was pointed out to us…

The authors would like to emphasise that the views expressed by the Knitting Circle about Ioan Gruffudd and Hornblower are not their own, and that they do not question his personal life in any way.
We like men in tight trousers.
Do we?
We do.