Popularity Isn't Everything!

After several dull, uneventful months stuck inside my Hobbit Hole, Viragoiel, the half Elf / half Lemming Champion, my daughter Petula, the world's most frequently lost Hunter, and myself, the famed Minstrel Callia, have finally found the key to the front door, and emerged to find that much has happened in Middle Earth in our absence!

The Dwarves have begun reclaiming Moria. Ancient weapons of untold power have been uncovered. Aliens have been found in the deepest depths. And, most recently, the Elves of Lothlorien have opened their borders.

The final point proved to be too big a draw to resist for Viragoiel, and as soon as Petula managed to lead us from one side of Moria to the other, ie a few weeks and several suits of armour later, we emerged once more into the daylight to go and take a look at her long lost relatives.

Eventually, after several detours through Orc camps and cries of 'It must be round here somwhere!', we find our way to a small Elf camp just outside Lothlorien, where we set about introducing ourselves to the locals, and trying to wangle a free tour. This goes down about as well as Sauron turning up at a Jewellers Guild convention with a few helpful suggestions.

'We don't just let anyone in, you know!' snaps one Elf, looking snootily down his nose, and indeed his chin and most of his chest, at me. 'Only those that have proved their worth!'

'Still,' he continues, the least friendly grin I've seen since the fabled Warg Petting Zoo fiasco spreading across his face, 'I might just have a task within your abilities.' The grin broadened. 'See those piles of Orc poo down by the river... well, here's your shovel and bucket!'

I study the proffered items, suddenly a lot less keen on making new friends than I had been, then take them with a shrug. It's not like it would be the first time: a Dwarf joined the Kinship recently, and three guesses who always ends up having to take him walkies.

My companions follow suit, and eyes already beginning to water we set off in the least desirable direction imaginable.

'If you trip over any dead Orcs while you're down there,' another Elf shouts after us, 'be sure to bring me back the arrows. The bloodier the better!' The sounds of Elvish mirth follow us as we disappear down the riverbank.

The work isn't exactly pleasant, which combined with lightheadedness from the fumes pouring off the piles, probably explains my lack of caution when Viragioel, true to form, quickly becomes bored.

'Look,' she begins, in that same, familiar tone that always sounds so reasonable, but invariably ends in us having to mortgage the Kinship Hall to pay the repair bill. There's a brief pause as she gags yet again, then she carries on, her voice distorted by the sadly ineffectual Lembas we'd all tried stuffing up our noses. 'Obviously they want to keep undesirables out, but they'll welcome a fellow Elf with open arms!' She cocks her head to the side, obviously considering, before cheerfully adding 'I'll even vouch for you!'

And so we set off for the border, smelling so bad the guards could have shot us in the dark. Unfortunately, it was broad daylight.

Coming round in the Circle of Shame, I reach up and pluck the arrow from my hat, noticing as I do the inscription: 'If found, please return to Celeguien's Slightly Used Arrow Emporium.' Well, waste not, want not! One down, four more to collect.

Mind you, it's suspiciously blood-free. I look over at the usual suspect in our recent relocation, still out cold and using Petula as a pillow. An Elf is just an Orc that's had a bath at some point in the last couple of Ages, right? I give her a poke, thus authenticating the arrow.

'Ow!' mumbles Viragoiel, slowly coming round and rubbing the affected part. With returning conciousness came memory, and tagging along behind, bringing up the rear as it were, was affronted dignity. 'They shot me!'

'Yes,' I replied, innocently tucking the arrow into my backpack. 'And right in the backside, too!'

With Plan B as shot as the rest of us, we grudgingly return to Plan A, and buckets in hand we trudge back towards the river bank. We had to trudge, the horse and ponies refused to come within twenty yards of us.

A short but pungent while later, buckets full to the brim, we head back to see the Elf. He doesn't seem as delighted as one might have hoped. 'Why on Middle Earth would I want to keep that!' he cries, pushing us away with the end of his staff. 'Go and burn it or something!'

'NO!' he yells, as we head for the nearest fire, the one with the rather appetising smell of lamb soup rising from the cauldron on top. 'Burn it somewhere far, far away!'

'And don't come back for a couple of hours, at least!' he adds, wrinkling his nose at the still lingering stench.

Luckily, fires aren't exactly in short supply around here, and in what seems a nice touch, Petula suggests one of the Orc camps. Most of them seem to be otherwise occupied with guests right now, so it's a simple matter to wander in while no-one's looking, and dump the lot on the biggest fire, right in the middle.

That done, we decide to take a quick look, a quick but *careful* look, at the borders of Lothlorien. Cautiously, staying by the river in a decidedly 'we're not encroaching, honest' kind of way, we try to find out just what the fabled lands of the Elf Queen have to offer.

Trees, apparently.

Yup, lots and lots of trees. Quite pretty trees, mind. Tall, sturdy trunks; delicate, golden leaves; a ladder leading up that one.

A ladder? Intrigued, I point it out.

'Of course,' Viragoiel exclaims, clapping her hands excitedly. 'The Elves of Lorien live up in the trees!'

'Come on,' she calls over her shoulder, already on the move. 'It's right on the edge, it's bound to be ok.'

With her usual childlike optimism, and complete lack of any sense of danger, the Elf skips over and waits at the bottom of the ladder. When she remains unpunctured for a while, Petula and I grudgingly follow.

Foolishly, I look up. It's a very long way. Even worse, from the other end, it's a very long way down! The other two are already vanishing amongst the leaves, however, so with little choice and a grip that could bend steel, I clamber after them.

By the time I arrive, Viragoiel has already got us some work. 'This is more like it!', she crows. 'Kill some orcs, nick their stuff, and burn the place down.' And with that she's gone again, hurtling down the ladder using only every third rung. With a sigh, I follow, Much, much more slowly.

In their element now, my two companions hack, slash and plink their way from one end of Dimril Dale to the other, and back again, while I accompany them with an old favourite, Ludvig van Took's fourth symphony, for Theorbo, Crossbow, and Assorted Pointy Sharp Things.

The only slight drawback seems to be finding the elusive Orc Waylayers the Elves want rid of, what with what seems to be the entire population of Eriador out hunting them, but a couple more laps turn up enough, and soon we're done.

Ticking off the last thing on the list, we head back up the ladder to recieve our rewards for a Job Well Done. As the Elves hand it over, Petula cheerfully asks 'So, do you like us now?'

'Not really,' came the rather unexpected reply.

'Oh. Well, perhaps we could kill a few more Orcs for you?' she suggests, hopefully.

'Nah,' shrugs the Elf. 'I'm knocking off for me tea now. It's Lamb Soup tonight! Come back in a couple of hours.'

And that was that. With rather less enthusiasm than before, Viragoiel and Petula sulk their way down the ladder, and then stand about waiting for me to arrive.

I take too long.

It's always the same. If I leave them alone for a moment, if I'm not there to supervise their every move, they start Thinking For Themselves, and that is never, ever, ever a good thing.

This time, I've given Viragoiel time to look about.

'Look!' she cries, just as I finally find terra firma once more. 'There's another ladder going up into that tree, further into the woods!'

Before I can protest, she's grabbed us both by an arm, and is dragging us full pelt towards it.

Deeper into Lothlorien.

Thwip thwip thwip thwip thwip thwip.

Callia

Links
Back to the Callia and Co main page.

Find out how I play three characters at once.

Read the story Dear Evil Devs, A Thank You!

Read the story Events, and How They Unfold

Read the story Uberocity Killed The Elf... Twice!

Read the story Callia and Co Explore Angmar

Read the story Oooo, What's In Here?

Read the story You Only Had To Remember One Thing!

Read the story Popularity Isn't Everything!

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