3. I Hate Camping
Chapter 3: I Hate Camping
The window let in a breeze of the absolute most perfect temperature. Every day had just the right amount of mildness. No drippy nostrils or frozen toes did I wake up to. If this was the outcome of global warming, bring it on! I was lying in my cushy basket by the window of Frodo's room, eating a sack of these Elvish pastries, which had the texture of moist sugarcookies, but they tasted somewhere between vanilla, ginger, and coconut, except much, much better. I had been given a constant diet of fish the past few weeks by the most generous Elves. But let me tell you, fish for breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner gets old. And even Frodo must have been tired of the smell, so he insisted that I get a variety and the greatest of what the Elven cooks had to offer.
A lot and nothing had happened between now and the Council. To recap, Sam had not been seen since. Elrond sent out searchers, and Aragorn, Gandalf and the Hobbits (excluding Frodo) fretted and woed, and still nothing was found of the poor fellow. Both Merry and Pippin were annoyed they had not gotten into the Council, yet when they heard of Sam's disappearance, they forgot to be distraught about their exclusion and began to prod Frodo, one such incidence being just an hour ago, before Frodo left the room to do whatever.
"I still don't believe it, cousin, I don't." Merry shook his head.
"What has gotten into you, Frodo!" Pippin exclaimed. Merry nudged him; obviously he wanted them to be more subtle.
"It's simple as day and night." Frodo picked at his nails, his tone as airy as though he were talking with a nosy four-year-old. "I was meant to bear the Ring to Mordor. I have to go."
"No, not that!" Pippin blocked Merry's next nudge.
"What we mean, is, have you missed Sam at all?"
"Well, Sam Gamgee, the old Gaffer's son, who came with us from Hobbiton, you know…"
"Stop talking so loud! Odi's trying to nap."
I hadn't been.
Merry and Pippin frowned as Frodo bent down and uncomfortably lifted me under my forelegs. They put their heads together and whispered rapidly, until the retreating Frodo snapped: "And don't talk about me behind my back." They left very soon after.
Anyway, no one had taken Frodo's idea of taking me along seriously. Nor had most taken seriously Frodo's role as Ring-bearer. But Frodo's challenge "Try and take it!" was impossible to meet, so they had no choice. Then Elrond wanted to send one of his people, an Elf-dude named Ronald (near enough), as the Ninth Walker (Sam being presumed dead and all) but Frodo threw a fit consisting of breaking the Master of Rivendell's collection of Gondolin artifacts. Thus I became the official ninth Fellowship-thingy.
Back on the windowsill, I delicately crunched into my nineteenth pastry, when from the window popped a terrible visage: a beast of tangled and matted fur, crooked snout and bad breath. I yipped and choked on my pastry. I tensed my muscles to dive… Wait, the bad breath… it was only Gandalf. Why can't he use doors like normal people?
The wizard's beard parted with a grin. "Why, hello, Odi. Wonderful day?"
I bared my teeth.
"I was hoping, yes, I was hoping for a word…"
Just then Frodo stumped into the room, burdened down with four or five more sacks of pastries, which he dropped one by one as he spotted the wizard in the window.
Gandalf made motions to produce a wily explanation. Not quick enough, though. Frodo's brows curled and his mouth twisted into a sneer. "Out! Out! Out! Trouble us no more!" The hobbit nabbed me, spilled my pastries, and Gandalf retreated so swiftly that he toppled backwards and disappeared into the shrubbery.
Gandalf, I noted (and could hardly not considering the odor that emanated from his orifice), ever tried to find me alone. He seemed to lie in wait where ever I might go, jumping from trees, statuaries, and washtubs. But whatever his reason to do so, he was ever foiled, for Frodo now hovered – truly hovered from my floor-kissing perspective – over me day and night. Most irritating. How's a beastie to use the otter-box? Seriously.
I admit, though, my curiosity was perked. Why ever Gandalf wanted to talk with me, a pampered pet by all appearances, I did not know. I really half-hoped to hear what he wanted so badly to say. Did he realize that beyond my otter skin, which any French trader would sell his maman for, that there was the munificent me? And perhaps I was lonely for some real talk, not Frodo's babble, but real conversation. Inside this body, with this weasel-like jaw, English was not doable. Well, no. They weren't speaking English. It was funny I could understand them in their Common Tongue whatsit. Funny – and I did not understand the full implications of this fact till much, much later.
Am I jumping ahead? There wasn't much to-do about leaving on the Quest. Frodo packed his stuff, evaded his uncle, and left with the others. The end.
And it really sucked, this Questing. It was night when we walked. It was flippin' cold, December air and in mountainous country, no less. The wind that scurried from the mountains stiffened my muscles into boards. All the mollycoddling of Rivendell had weakened my weather immunity to null.
Walking, walking, walking, walking 'long, Walking forever. Always walking. Lalalala. Walk with drama by ROCK. Not that I was walking, not really, well… I was perched on Frodo. Yet that was exhausting. Just you try it.
We finally made our first camp at the crack of dawn. I watched my breath freeze and shatter. The two younger hobbits were doing, I believe, my-toes-are-very-cold dances. Boromir was slapping life back into his frosted face. Despite the arctic conditions, Gandalf wouldn't let us build a fire, the jerk. Like it would just be funny if the Ringwraiths found our frozen bodies lying a day out of Rivendell and just plucked the Ring from Frodo's blue, iced…
Something light and green sat down near me. All cold melted from my limbs. Simply sparkling in starlight was the Elf, humming to himself, smiling about nothing. What a lovable scatter-brain.
Well, there was no Galdor. No Círdan. No Maedhros. Legolas was the next best thing.
I had avoided him in Rivendell. In all my dreams it just didn't work out between us. Either he was too busy killing things or I was too busy being killed. But now, you never know, this dream may be different. And he was an animal lover, right?
I scooted close and cleared my throat. Nothing. I lifted my tail and let it drop with a neat thud. His humming faltered. He looked somewhat bewildered, scanning around, then looked down: my level.
"Hello," said he, wondrously, marvelously. "See how the sun has painted the sky? Her strokes are very fine this morning."
He pointed to the east, where the mountains created a jagged black frame for the glowing violet. He prattled on about sunrises, sunsets, blablabla… I sighed, I fidgeted. Was this jealousy I felt? Really, who cared about dumb old Anor. At last I chirped do shut up about her and talk about your silly wood-elf fascination with wildlife. He must have got the gist of it because shut up is what he did.
"You are a strange beast," he said softly. "You hear and understand."
Now you're catching on!
"I wonder much what was said by Boromir at the Council, that the red otter will be a herald of doom."
Yeah, yeah. Now, what about Us?
He said nothing. He stretched out his agile fingers, closer, closer to my head… Hey, just get this straight. I ain't that kind of girl. I didn't want to kiss him. I just wanted to marry him. Right. So, his hand was getting closer and closer…
The perfect hand retracted. I was snatched off my paws. "Odi! I thought you had been taken!" Frodo almost sounded teary. I managed a final peep at the Elf, almost glowing pink now in the sunrise. His right fingers twitched as though he did not know what had just happened. Let's just say I had a strong feeling of dislike for the Baggins at that moment.
Monotony was life for the next few days. I was doomed to rot on Frodo's shoulder, to watch the frost-bitten hills slip by. When I wasn't being jarred atop the trotting hobbit, I was on the cold, cruel ground, without a roof or a quilt or a warm coffee mug. I never got within a cubit of Legolas alone, or within two cubits of Gandalf, who was still trying in his visibly clandestine ways to catch me for "a word." Aragorn, wouldn't you know, was dull. He stayed in the back, offering Ranger's advice here and there. Gimli had little liking for little furry animals, it seemed, though he might have been a second cousin of one. Anyway, I didn't much fancy being mistaken for the ground under his boots, so I made no attempt to get cuddly. Merry and Pippin always had a hard look for me. Whenever our gazes grazed, their faces dropped into frowns.
And yes, Bill had come with us anyhow, since Sam had not taken him to Limbo. I believed Merry and Pippin looked at this as some sort of charm that would lure out the gardener. Between Bill and me there was a mutual understanding from muteness – it was not friendship, exactly. The shared experience was just comforting.
Well, the monotony broke after a few days, when we got down to a lower pack of food on Bill. Merry was digging around in it and gave such a yelp that all of us rushed toward him, believing the pony had eaten off his ear or something.
We found a wide-eyed Merry waving around a handful of colorfully wrapped eatables. "These are all cakes!"
Pippin's eyes lit up, and he and Merry took a sampling. But our strong men, wanting more protein, sifted through the next pack. More Elvish sweets. They poured out the next. Still more bright wrappings. Feverishly, they spilled out sacks and sacks of pastries, till not a bag was left. There was not a single adventurer's staple of bread or sausage or cheese.
Everyone looked at Frodo. They may as well stared at an Ent for all the reaction they got. Needless to say, I was keeping really low.
Sensible Gimli rumbled: "We cannot survive on this!"
All eyes went to Gandalf, who wearily bowed his head. "But we cannot turn back. If we return to Rivendell, we shall not leave it again. The Quest will be forfeited."
Thus devoid of real nourishment, did we go on and on and on. Our bowel movements were irregular. The mountains remained steady on our side, and after many long monologues as to why, Gandalf steered us toward them, forcing us up steeper and steeper hills. I had dreaded this. Why did the action! parts have to start so soon? Stupid Caradhras. So far I had been a passive enough companion. But now I would have to take charge.
Don't get me wrong. I love mountains! The Alps of Bavaria, the Appalachians of Virginia… oh, yes, they're nice to climb, but still, I HATED heights. Don't I always fall from mountains in dreams? (And this was a dream). So, of course, I'd fall off that ledge on Caradhras. That made me want to vomit.
It was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make. On one paw I'd get to hear Legolas speak his legendary Caradhras lines, which I recite here: "An OTTER for swimming, but for running swiftly over grass or snow – an Elf" followed by that glorious smirk, spreading over his wonderful face.
If music be the food of love, then play on! I pinched my tail. Well, on the other paw, I'd avoid the whole mess of nightmarish blizzards, deadly cold, and paranormal avalanches that we would suffer through for no reason anyway. With a deep exhalation, I made my choice.
I peeped behind me. Boromir was following close. Perfect. Bracing myself, I flew straight off Frodo's shoulder, right into the Gondorian's face. He cussed something pretty and slapped me off. I clung to his shirt with my claws and inched my way to his back. One smack of my tail and I had his shield's strap undone. I clung on with all four paws as the shield hit the dirt, sliding with escalating momentum downhill.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.