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Estelyn Telcontar 03-23-2020 12:55 PM

An Unexpected Vir(tu)al Party
Estelyn unlocked the door to the Barrow Downs' ballroom - long had it been since this hospitable hall had seen guests. Though the air in the hallway outside was reasonably fresh, making obvious that there had been a degree of coming and going amongst the Wights, it was musty in the festive area. She sneezed delicately as the dust tickled her nose, glad that no one was nearby to look at her apprehensively, fearing a serious illness.

She opened all of the windows to let in the spring sunshine, then set to dusting and sweeping the hall determinedly. She moved some tables alongside the walls and dragged in several rocking chairs from the geezers' clubroom, draping some of the quilts she had recently sewn over the arm rests and placing cushions on the seats. Some festive garlands and vases of fresh spring flowers added a touch of cheerfulness to the formerly gloomy room.

Then she sat down to write invitations to the dear friends that had once filled these rooms. It would be wonderful to see many of them again! Would the invitations reach them, or had they moved on to other places of which she did not know?

Finally she changed from her everyday garb to a favourite festive dress - red, with a white blouse, and adorned with embroidery. Her hand brushed over the white tree that meandered around the neckline and she smiled, remembering the poem that went with the garment: Seven stars, and seven stones, and one white tree.

Of late her thoughts had been more occupied with the Ring poem, and that reminded her - hurriedly she placed a small table with a washing basin, soap dish, and towels beside the door to the ballroom. Now everything was prepared, and the guests could come. She smiled in anticipation.

Thinlómien 03-23-2020 01:44 PM

Thinlómien peeked in from the door, sniffed and sneezed. "Don't worry, I'm not sick! It's just dusty in here. Or maybe it's me who's dusty, I haven't been here for ages. Excuse me."

Shooting Esty an apologetic glance, she busied herself with washing her hands with the lovely flowery scented soap that had been set up.

"Now, can I help with anything, or is everything done? I suppose we'll wait for a few more visitors to appear before raising a toast?"

She thought she could already hear werewolves howling in the distance. She shuddered, wondering if the hard times would lure them out. Perhaps it would be diverting.

Legate of Amon Lanc 03-23-2020 02:07 PM

"Oh my, what a fancy setup," said a voice from the door. "This certainly needs more guests, I hope there will be many of us to raise a toast!"

It was Legate, who had soundlessly ambled in through the neigbourghing corridor. As often, his attire, however aimed for festive occasion, was rather simple, one could easily mistake him for a second aide to the second captain of some backup group of border-guards from Lórien, or something along these lines. But such a misunderstanding was likely to last only until he spoke.

Halfway through washing his hands, Legate had already managed to loudly praise the room's setup, raise his hope that the sunny weather was going to last as it offered also a beautiful view out of the windows, and compliment the present Wights' attire. For good measure, he added a few simple rhymes and riddles that he promptly answered himself, not considering them enough of a challenge to offer for serious contest. When he had finished his washing ritual, he realised that not very much of the soap was left.

"Oh my, I am so sorry," he said apologetically. "But here, careful as I am, I have been, sort of, counting on such a possibility... here's a backup solid block of a pine-scented soap from Mirkwood. Don't ask me how they make it. Or, if you wish, do. I could tell you..."

Thenamir 03-23-2020 02:21 PM

The Grouch Arrives
True to form, Thenamir walked into the room in his grimy denim coveralls, toting his tool box and wondering what-in-the-underworld was so broken that his presence was required right away. "Fear! Fire! Foes! Where's the problem?? Thenamir is here to save the day." said he, more of sarcasm than enthusiasm. He moved thru the room of dust with nary a sneeze or a blink as though it was his natural environment...which, of course, it was.

He set his barrow tools down by the door moved towards a familiar face. "Esty! Long time, eh? I see that my Merisu :Merisu: is still fluttering her eyelashes just like I left her. So where's the trouble? And what can I do to help? Maybe I could set up a couple of exhaust fans to blow some of this dust out so you lovely ladies can work without coughs and sneezes."

Estelyn Telcontar 03-23-2020 02:33 PM

"How wonderful to see both of you!" Esty greeted Lommy and Legate. "The soap is a very timely gift - we are using so much of it at the moment. I do hope that some of our guests will bring some food - I have provided something to drink. Please do take a glass and fill it - we can toast now and with later guests as well."

"Thenamir! If you think it is still dusty in here you should have seen it before I cleaned up! Please have something to soothe your dry throat. For once, you don't have to do anything, just enjoy yourself!"

Inziladun 03-23-2020 03:49 PM

Inziladun made his way inside the door, approving the tasteful decor. Blue jeans, a button-up shirt, and black Under Armor shoes were the attire. He'd never been one for finery.

He'd heard of this soirée when it was held before, of course, but had somehow missed it. Nearing the Barrow-Downs 20th anniversary, though, this time it was certainly not to be sneezed at (;)).

Seeing some Downers had already arrived, he delightedly greeted his old WW comrades/bitter enemies Legate and Lommy.

And Esty! Long time indeed! And....could it be? Thenamir? How marvelous!

"Well!" he said. "What's on tap?"

mark12_30 03-23-2020 06:37 PM

Sounds of rummaging and a bit of clanking and clacking were interspersed with muttering. mark12_30 rummages deep in a closet. “The brown cloak or the blue? Green trousers or brown trousers? weskit or an embroidered red vest?” Stepping back with a snort, mark12_30 sputters, “Character first. THEN costume.” A little pause, and then...”Lindo.”

Lindo, now grey at the temples and a little less spry, approached the great door with some trepidation. Reaching just above eye-level for the man-sized handle, he wrestled with it for several moments; then with both hands, gave it a hard tug. The door flew open and the hobbit flew backward with it. “Ow,” came a clear tenor voice muffled by the hand that held his nose.

“Oh, dear, “ cried Estelyn, swooping toward the bloody halfling. “You should have knocked! Please, come inside where I can help you better!”

“It’s just my nose,” came the muffled tenor reply. “I am sorry.”

“I see,” Estelyn sighed with relief, and then ordered him inside. “You’ll frighten passers by if you stay out here. In you go. No, not the Ballroom yet. Here’s a towel. Take a bucket out the back door, scoop up some water from the cistern and wash up. Off you go!”

Still muttering apologies, Lindo did as he was told, and then he washed the towel and hung it in the sun to dry. When he returned, he came through the kitchen and stood for a while in the kitchen doorway, listening. He had not been inside an inn for many years. The ballroom was modest but lovely; he had a strange sense that no matter how many more people came, there would slways be enough room,
Estelyn, Thinlomien and Legate were speaking by the fireplace, while a fellow in blue trousers sporting a toolbox was inspecting the hinges and the patches in a nearby window. Lindo resisted the urge to refer him to the latch of the great door, choosing rather to gently suggest the idea to Estelyn.

And then he saw the rockers, and the quilts. Heaving a sigh of relief, he crossed the ballroom as quietly as a hobbit can, chose a rocker, turned it to face the small gathering, climbed precariously into it as it wavered with his movements, sat down and cocooned himself in the quilt, as he listened to the conversation. He wondered if his nose would turn black and blue.

Morthoron 03-23-2020 09:54 PM

The Dark Elf Morthoron, having grown restless and irritable during an extended period of in-home quarantine, decided to forego all conventions of social distancing (a hallmark of Dark Elf indifference, even in more pleasant times), and took a stroll among the stiffs and statuary of the Barrow Downs.

Traversing further than was his wont, he happened upon a secluded area of the Downs that he had not visited since the 2nd Age. He recalled that nearby a maid managed a moot wherein many met for the mead and meat that was mete for mirth and merriment, and having exhausted his allotment of alliteration, ambled aimlessly ahead.

Aside from the runic sign being a bit askew and weather-beaten, the Ballroom seemed relatively untouched by time. He saw the washing bowl, considered the unsanitary nature of many folk having already scrubbed their greasy hands in the muddy waters, made a pretense of washing his as well (while opting instead to use a bit of balm concocted by the blue wizard Purello, which he kept in a leather flask in a pocket of his cloak).

Not wishing to intrude on any conversation, he quickly found an Edwardian leather club chair in corner. As it was a very comfortable Edwardian leather club chair, he ignored the anachronistic nature of such a piece of furniture in this time period, and waited patiently for some Stout. Because what else would a Moriquendi drink but dark beer?

Estelyn Telcontar 03-24-2020 08:25 AM

Estelyn beamed at the newcomers, a greeting that could not lighten the Dark Elf's scowl. This obviously calls for something special, she thought, and I know just the thing.

"Morthoron, you are good in dark places - can you help me with something?" she asked. He shrugged, which she interpreted as his having nothing better to do, and followed her out of the ballroom. She led the way down a flight of stairs, even dustier than the room above had been, and attempted to open a heavy wooden door at the foot. With an exasperated sigh, the Elf pushed it open and said, "You should not have tried to pull it!"

She smiled ever so slightly in the darkness, knowing that the males of any species were prone to display their strength and superior knowledge when given a chance. "What do your Elven eyes see?" she queried. He peered into the darkness, which, unlike the Void, did not peer back at him, and said, "There are many bottles here."

"I am searching for a special Old Winyard brew, a wine that has taken on a bubbly character," Estelyn said. "The bottles are shaped differently than normal wine bottles."

He walked around the room and pulled two of the flasks from the shelves. "This looks like it could be the potation you seek. There are more, though I cannot recognise how many."

"We shall start with these, and see if more guests come later," she determined.

Back in the ballroom, Morthoron demonstrated his ability to open the bottles without permanent damage to the room or the guests, and Estelyn poured the sparkling wine into the glasses she had cleaned and prepared.

"Let's have a toast to those who brought us together here!" she exclaimed. "The Professor!" Glasses were raised and the guests appreciatively sipped the fine beverage. "The Barrow-Wight!" was the second toast, and by the time the glasses were emptied and refilled, the atmosphere had become joyously festive.

Encaitare 03-24-2020 09:13 AM

It had been a strange time in the houses of learning. Pupils were sent home, and keepers of wisdom were suddenly tasked with continuing their teaching from afar. Missing her young charges, Encaitare was grateful for even the limited contact afforded by her Palantir. After checking in on several pupils, she glanced at the surface of her messy desk.

Estelyn's invitation!

"Oh! Is that today?" she gasped. Time seemed to have less and less meaning these days, and yet somehow more. "Better put some actual pants on."

(And that's trousers to y'all overseas, thank you very much. ;) )

Indeed, she had worn little but pajamas for almost two weeks, not counting the fuzzy sweater she threw over herself to appear a bit more professional in her Palantir communications. She put on a favorite outfit - a three piece black velvet suit with a diamond pattern in silver glitter. She had last worn it to ring in the New Year with her musical troupe. All that seemed so far away now.

"Perhaps I can provide some entertainment to lighten my fellows' hearts," Encai said. Her abode was full of options, everything from a piano to a kalimba. "No one wants to hear a euphonium right now," she mused. She suspected her neighbors felt similarly, though they were too polite to complain to her face. "I need something that's fun and easy to carry." After much consideration, she selected a ukulele and her trusty flute.

The ballroom was much as she remembered it, and after washing her hands at the door, she stood in the center, gazing up at the high ceiling. "Oh, the memories!" she said breathlessly. "How many happy hours were spent here? I think I feel a song coming on! Who's with me?"

Lalaith 03-24-2020 09:15 AM

"Bubbles? Did anyone mention bubbles?"

Lalaith had been delighted enough to receive the invitation, but was even more delighted that her entrance was marked by the sound of popping corks - to her ears, the merriest sound in Middle Earth.

Those of her friends who knew her best were not remotely surprised to see that she had gone overboard on the outfit - a full-length gown of teal and midnight blue, with silver workings on both the bodice and in her hair, which she wore loose and long. But she did so love a party - and there had been so few of late.
"This is a merry meeting," she cried, clapping her hands. "May we, at least here in the Downs, embrace our old friends in greeting? Oh, there is Lommy, and Legate, and Esty, and Inzil, and...."
Glass in hand, she ran about excitedly from person to person, trying not to spill her wine as she greeted them affectionately. She had wearied quickly of her dwelling in the guarded city of Londonlin, desiring ever to roam and wander free as had once been her wont. This grace to depart the safety of her walls, even for a virtual escape, was most welcome.

"So how is everyone? What news from the West, from the South, from the North...and from the East?"

Lalaith 03-24-2020 09:27 AM


Originally Posted by Encaitare (Post 721932)
I I think I feel a song coming on! Who's with me?"

"I am, I am!"
Lalaith waved her glass wildly in the air, with the bubbles frothing over and unfortunately splashing poor Morthoron, not improving his mood.

Encaitare 03-24-2020 09:47 AM


"I am, I am!"
Lalaith waved her glass wildly in the air, with the bubbles frothing over and unfortunately splashing poor Morthoron, not improving his mood.
"Whoa, whoa, careful there!" Encai said. "Come, sing with me. But hold your glass steady around my instruments!"

She picked up her ukulele and strummed a jaunty, cheerful series of chords, and sang:

"It's been an age since we were here
Now friends have come from far and near
Friendship shall not fade nor break
When times are hard, make no mistake!
These halls shall always house your friends
We Downers all together again!"

Mithadan 03-24-2020 10:13 AM

*knock, knock.

Mithadan groaned and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. What was that sound? The sun was barely up, and he had not even had any coffee. Heed no nightly noises, he thought, and rolled over.

*knock, knock.

Mithadan sat up in his bed and shook his head. Groggily, he took account of his protesting joints. Low back pain, check. Creaking knees…. Then the springtime pollen did its magic and he sneezed. In response, a small dragon curled atop a bookshelf hissed quietly. Then, having ascertained that nothing justified her attention, the dragon hid her head under a wing.

“Good morning, Bird,” Mithadan muttered.

*knock, knock.

Shambling across the room, he entered the foyer and cracked open the door. On his doorstep stood a short (height-challenged, he corrected in an automatic and well-ingrained spasm of political correctness), bearded figure, dressed in a brown tunic and breeches, with a blue cape and matching hood.

“Begging your pardon, sir,” the Dwarf said. “Special delivery for you, sir.” Mithadan accepted the packet and passed a coin to the messenger. With a bow, the Dwarf trudged off. Mithadan noted that his pouch was bulging with similar packages. He squinted at the parcel in his hands, but it revealed no secrets. He took up a knife, opened the envelope, and began to read.

“Estelyn?” he mused. “I’ve not spoken to her in years.” Then he frowned as he read the balance of the message. “A party?” he exclaimed. “She knows that I vowed never to do such a thing again after the Downie Awards. When was that?”

He walked over to a wall covered with pictures and framed papers. Among them was a picture of several figures standing upon a red carpet, waving to a crowd. There he stood, with Piosenniel, Cami and Bethberry. Underneath was a small bronze label which read “Downie Awards, May, 2003.”

“2003?” he exclaimed? “That long ago?” His gaze returned to the picture and he smiled. Next to it was a picture of Kuruharan and Gravlox the Uruk discussing something of great importance with Barrow-Wight, Squatter, and Saucepan Man. In the background were Diamond, Lush, Amanaduial, Maikadilwen and Mark12_30. His smile grew broader as other names came to his mind unbidden. Then his gaze was drawn to a set of newspaper clippings and his smile vanished.

“The Hobbiton Garden Club to Protest Marileangorifurnimaluim's 'Hobbit Sex Ed' Article” read one. “Half-Elves to Sue for Equal Rights,” read another. He read on among the succession of headlines. “Shield Maidens Rise Up; RPG Management Unfair!; Admins Discriminate Against Legofans!; Too Strict; Not Strict Enough; Gay Sub-text, Yes or No?”

Mithadan shut his eyes as a flood of less-pleasant memories arrived. The cliques, the rivalries, the protests, the lawsuits, the spam, the bot attacks all replayed in his mind. The old weariness settled in again. His shoulders slumped and the corners of his mouth tilted downward.

“Nope!” he cried. “Not me. Not again. Good morning! No parties needed here, thank you.” He let the invitation drop to the floor and turned away, planning to stalk off to the kitchen and put up a pot of coffee, only to jump in surprise. There, hovering before his face, was the tiny dragon, Bird, with eyes ablaze and trails of smoke trickling from her nostrils.

“Coward,” she hissed. “A little adversity and you slink away with your tail between your legs.”

“I have no tail,” he replied, stepping past the wyrm.

“No spine either!”

“I got tired!” he exclaimed. “I had other things to do; other concerns. I didn’t have time for it anymore! And I still don’t!”

“This isn’t 2003,” she replied. “The movies are over. The fair-weather fans are gone. Those that remain are those who care.”

Mithadan scowled. “Have you seen how few there are? There’s nothing new under the sun. Everything has been discussed.”

The dragon perched upon his shoulder. “Hmpph,” Bird grunted. “I seem to recall you issuing a challenge a while back. ‘Open the books to any page! Within a few paragraphs, you’ll find something to discuss! Open a new topic!’”

“That was years ago,” he responded. “Before the social media explosion. Before everyone had better things to do.”

“What about you?” she hissed. “Do you have anything better to do? Yes, I know you have other things to do, but anything better?” She took the collar of his tunic in her teeth and dragged him back to the wall. “Look! Look here!”

In a frame was a piece of fine parchment covered with elegant writing. It read:


On May 1, 2002, the forums at the Barrow-Downs reached the ripe (and I do mean ripe!) old age of TWO! While the site itself is a bit older, the second anniversary of the opening of the forums is a cause to CELEBRATE!!!!! Therefore, we will have a PARTY in celebration of the second birthday (uh, deathday?) of the Barrow-Downs forums and all members are invited!!!!!

PLACE: The Fields of Cormallen (the Freestyle RPG Room in a thread to be opened there).

TIME: Monday, May 20, 2002 beginning at 9:00am until ????

DRESS: Formal Middle Earth Wear.

There will be an open bar, and meals will be served buffet style.



“Twenty years?” he whispered. “TWENTY YEARS!”

He rushed back into his bedroom, opened a chest and removed a carefully wrapped parcel. Placing it on his bench, he unwrapped it. Mithadan smiled as a grey velvet jerkin, a white ruffled shirt and a royal blue pair of breeches were revealed. “Good thing I had them laundered,” he said with a grin.

“Think they’ll still fit?” smirked Bird. “You’ve been a bit over-fond of your ale and porter recently…”

Pitchwife 03-24-2020 11:14 AM

Pitchwife was sitting on a sunlit stone bench in Rath Celerdain, at his feet a somewhat diminutive sheepdog, its coat black, white and amber; a large grey cat was curled around the palantír on his lap, and a somewhat smaller reddish one rubbing its head against his elbow. The Minas Tirith University Library (formerly Steward‘s Library) was closed for the duration, due to a plague that had spread across the land on the wings of a foul wind from Far Rhûn, but fortunately the palantír allowed him to work from home, or indeed anywhere. He was grateful for the skill of those ingenious jewel-smiths of the Seventh Age who had rediscovered the secret of making Seeing Stones a few decades back; less powerful these new Stones were than those wrought by the Noldor in days of old, but also far lighter and less vulnerable to Sauronic infiltration.

In early spring the air was still rather cool, even in the sun, and Pitch was just considering whether to retire to his study, a warm fireplace and a hot cup of tea when a faint green light in the palantír caught his attention. He gently nudged the protesting cat aside and, grabbing the Stone in both hands, brought the image into focus.

„Why, I‘d never - !“ he exclaimed. „A party on the Downs? Gosh, it‘s been ages! We‘ve all turned rather treeish in our middle age, haven‘t we? Well, most of us. I wonder who will be coming?“

„Wiff,“ said the dog (a bitch) in a tone that was half question, half appeal (and just the tiniest bit insolent).

„I know,“ Pitch agreed. „Only one way to find out.“ He jumped up suddenly, threw the palantír up into the air and caught it in his hands before tucking it away in a spacious coat pocket. „Come on then, Esty, it‘s high time anyway you met your godmother! You too, Simon and Garfuncil,“ he added, addressing the bewildered cats. „We‘re going to a party!“

Followed by his animal companions, he betook himself to Pelennor Central Station, and less than an hour later they were all sitting in a comfortable compartment of the Great North-Western Express bound for Fornost Erain and stopping at Isengart, New Tharbad and Bree.

Thenamir 03-24-2020 11:25 AM

(EDIT: It looks like Thenamir needs to read more posts before he posts himself. This is seriously out of order.)

Thenamir decided that he might as well remain and enjoy everyone's company, there were worse places to kill an afternoon. "Ho, Inziladun! Well met, old friend! It looks like Esty needs our help restocking the beverage table -- and if we help, we'll be first in line to refill our mugs!"

He grabbed Inziladun by the arm and dragged him to the door of the wine cellar where Esty and Morthoron were emerging with a couple of wooden crates loaded with interesting-looking bottles. Thenamir took one of the crates from a grateful-looking Morthoron and set it down on the table next to the goblets, mugs, flutes, and tumblers provided. "Well, well," He said, extracting one of the bottles and admiring its label, "Inziladun, you asked what was on tap, well lookee here! Old Winyards! Where have you been hiding this stuff, Esty? I thought the last bottles of O.W. went down the gullet of old Bilbo himself." Suiting the action to the word he smoothly extracted the cork and set himself up as an impromptu bartender for all those nearby.

"Is it too early for a toast?" he asked, not really caring whether anyone answered. "To Estelyn Telcontar, mistress of the feast!" All those in attendance shouted a hearty "Hear! Hear!" before draining their vessels dry. Which of course meant that they quickly came back for more.

Oddwen 03-24-2020 01:11 PM

When Ms. Estelyn Telcontar of the Barrow Downs announced that the Downs would be celebrating its 20th birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement on social media.

The invitations were impressive, gilt edges and fancy calligraphy and all, which was slightly odd because you know, the whole "digital" thing. Oddwen tried not to think too hard about it as she strolled up to the tomb doors. She had baked a few dozen cookies for the occasion, for what was a party without snacks? A party without snacks, of course.

The grand hall had been cozified and several people were already there, settling into comfortable chairs, distributing, quaffing and sipping drinks, and filling the space with music. The familiar green and gold lights made the scene eerie yet welcoming.

"Don't follow the lights," hissed a voice from a dark corner. "Or Downers will light little candles of their own..."

"That sounds pretty cool actually," replied Oddwen.

The voice had no answer and Oddwen figured it was just as well, as she had forgotten where the joke was going, and she washed her hands of the matter. She set the cookies on a likely looking table and placed a few boxes of disposable biodegradable gloves nearby.

Galadriel55 03-24-2020 01:32 PM

There was a knock on the door. "I'll get it!" said Estelyn, hurrying across the ballroom. She opened the door wide, but no one was there. "That is strange," she muttered under her breath. Only then did she notice a strange looking package placed neatly on the doorstep.


Galadriel55 was feeling very unqueenly. Due to the plague, all Elves were confined to their telain, and only the brave border guards would venture out on solid ground. This plague of course would not kill Elves, but it would sap much of their healing powers to clear. It was believed that the evil air stayed near the ground and could be avoided by living high up in the mallorn treetops. All of this meant that Galadriel55 was currently stuck with six other Elves on a not too large talan. And three just happened to be very young Elves, not even a hundred years old as Men would measure the passage of time.

Galadriel55's Mirror was sending flashes of green glowing light onto the mallorn branches. The Downs was calling, things were happening. But every time she turned towards it to send an answering thought, "We ran out of lembas!". Or, "He stole my length of rope! Tell him to give it back!". Or, "Tell her that if she continues calling me a slimy yrch I will stop lending her my cloak". Or, "Help me climb the mallorn branch! I absolutely need to!" Or simply "Aaaaaaaaaaa!".

For a few seconds things seemed settled. Galadriel55 felt a flutter of hope. Maybe now she will be able to take her thought to the faraway land? Maybe?... "I'm back from mallorn climbing! But I don't wanna wash my hands!". Galadriel55 sighed. Too bad.

But she would not be a complete bystander when so many faces were flashing in the mirror. Faces that were nearly forgotten, that were surely forgotten in the human kingdoms as all mortals who knew these faces were already gone. How many times has Galadriel55 exchanged jokes and quizzes with these people? Played WW, RPGs? The stern Books faces. The laughing Mirth faces. The sly wolf faces, and the pensive N&N crowd. Even faces that she has seen in life, not just in the waters of her mirror. She would send them all a token that they are not forgotten in the forest of Lothlorien.


Estelyn finished wiping off the package and tossed the cleaning rag back into the bucket. She untied the silver string that bound the lid of the box shut, and the string fell down onto the table like a trickle of water. She opened the lid.

"Come here for a taste of lembas, everyone!"

Estelyn Telcontar 03-25-2020 04:45 AM

Guests had arrived at the party! It was New Year's Day in Middle-earth, and that meant lots of stories and poetry to share. Readers gathered in a special room and listeners flocked to hear them there:

At the moment, a genuine Wight was reading - the renowned Brian Sibley!

Pitchwife 03-25-2020 12:52 PM

Brushing aside cobwebs and hanging moss, Pitchwife strolled into the ballroom, his furry friends trailing behind him. His coat, having outlived its narrative function of providing a pocket for the palantír, had somehow got lost on the way, and he was attired, as was usual for him, in jeans and a chequered flannel shirt; his hair, just beginning to grey at the temples, had grown long since his last visit to the Downs, and a pony tail stuck out under the rim of his leather hat. He had tied a scarf over his mouth and nose and was brandishing a Quenya pocket dictionary.

„Arriba los manos, eso es un robo!“ he declaimed to the company at large. „No wait, that‘s wrong. I meant Elen síla lumenn‘ ovomaltínë! I‘m afraid my Elvish has got a bit rusty lately. But what I really mean is you‘re all a sight for sore eyes!“

Bêthberry 03-25-2020 01:01 PM

Hey! now! Come hoy now! Whither do you wander?
Thwump. Thud. Ommphph. All the air was knocked out of Bêthberry. She hadn’t expected such an ignominious landing.

Then again, she hadn’t expected the invitation to a party on the Barrow Downs. How many years had it been? “Goodness, so many of the youngsters must now be almost adults, counting in hobbit years,” she thought, once she had caught her breath. And all those romances and partnerships and tieing up of knots. She thought for a bit. “Will many Downers be bringing new little Downers? Did folks not learn things from Marileangorifurnimaluim’s ‘Hobbit Sex Ed' article? Or maybe they did, ” she giggled.

Slowly stretching her legs to ensure nothing was broken, Bêthberry looked around and wondered if Wyrd would find her and join her at the party. Oh that she had been able to hitch a ride with him and not that execrable eagle who provided the drop landing. It was a trial and tribulation that Estelyn’s invitation had arrived just as the borders were closed back in her far, green country and she had had to search for Thorondor when Air Green Country was grounded. “Maybe it will be warm enough to take a coracle for the way home, although sails would be helpful given the size of the pond,” she thought. And her less than enthusiastic rowing ability these days.

“I wonder if Estelyn invited Vinegrettiel, Galadriel’s evil twin sister?” “And will there be talk of reviving The Entish Bow?” “Will anyone bemoan the Canonicity thread?” “Or want to replace it with an Intertextuality thread?” She wondered if Fordim Hedgethistle would get her note about the party or Squatter. She was fairly certain that Mithadan, Hele--um, Mark--and others, would show up, but she wondered if she could remember everyone’s Middle-earth names after having met so many Downers at primary world moots.

Bêthberry was getting quite good at talking with herself, so good that she was quite startled when she heard another voice answer her. She looked up and tried to follow the direction of the voice. A grey-feathered Wyrd peered down at her from the nearest tree. “Well, look what the eagles blew in,” he astutely said. “The party’s already started but I can show you the way. Don’t ever trust those eagles again. They are still quite miffed about not being asked to take the Ring to Mount Doom. You wouldn't believe the theories of narrative they have come up with to explain it.”

THE Ka 03-25-2020 08:51 PM

It had already been a week into quarantine when a letter appeared through the door slot. A pitch black grim flashed from a couch to sniff at it, considering it was the first 'thing' to happen in several days. Ka shooed them away, read the contents, but frowned and looked out the window.
An entire week of rain... and another week of being stuck indoors. More confirmed infections in our community and more going out without a care in the world.

She moved Estelyn's kind and encouraging words to a table and continued to clean and putter about, for there was little else to do besides annoy her dog further. Occasionally, her eyes glanced at the invitation and she ruminated whether it was worth going. Besides being potentially infectious, she hadn't visited with the other Wights in years let alone the Downs. It'd seem presumptive... what could she contribute on such short notice?

A few more days went by much the same, hesitation and deprecation fogged the air of her simple dwelling along with piles of books and loose sketches. Another invitation came forward through the door, this time from Mithadan proclaiming in bold and strong hand a reminder that the 1st of May was none other than the 20th anniversary of their beloved Downs. A twinge of intrigue went through her seeing so many familiar names had signed on the invitation as well. Things had began to calm for the most part in her rainy and grey cast spot of the world, yet unnecessary travel had been strictly prohibited by local authorities. Ka harrumphed and paced, setting her mischievous hound to circle excitedly.

Later that day another invitation and another began to slowly pile up at the door, a glaring reminder that for many others who were in much the same situation had decided eschew self-imposed isolation and the fever of boredom it came with to attend such a timely gathering. Her hound snorted in protest and she threw up her hands. Obviously the decision was clear. It was time to pay a visit to their old home away from home. Otherwise, the invitations would eventually jam the doorway anyways.

Going into an industrious flurry, she began to at least bake something to bring. The contents were a hodgepodge of whatever meat and veggies could be found at hand, but often was the nature of last minute 'meat pies'. This time it was the last of her remaining caribou. Discerning palates to Udun, it would have to do.

Dressing for the occasion would have to be swift, she didn't much care what was on display over the last few weeks since the only critic had been her dog and to him it was naught but a wash of greys. She held up two but old reliable tunics, one of red and one of a dark green for the hound to pick. He sniffed at both until she growled for a decision. Finally he settled with a snort at the green.

Ka glanced at some of the shaky sketches she'd done over the last few days. There had been less and less over the years and it had always been a sore spot remembering how prolific she and the rest of the Wights had been playing Paper Telephone. Instead she settled on just a few pencils and a sketch pad. Perhaps others would like to play again at the gathering.

She snuck from her quiet abode, down old forgotten and overgrown paths that slowly familiarized themselves to her with each step. It wasn't so bad, until an old moss and fog shrouded archway demanded her passphrase in a curt rattling voice. She gave an apologetic and clumsy smile as she mumbled through it. There was a frustrated groan before the fog was hurriedly waved away to reveal the path ahead and the voice chided her to be more clear next time or else. She had been a bit of an imp in the past, perhaps it was warranted.
Ka instead smirked, turned, and stuck her green sharp tongue out before hurrying down to the gathering with her invitation and gifts.

The gathering tomb was already lit inside and had the familiar eerie glow of home from so many of her fellow wights passing through. At the great doors lay instructions to make use of the water, basin, and soap. Ka complied without further word, there was no sense in causing her friends worry over where she had just come from. Further in at the entrance of the main hall were sideboards already ladden with food. Not wanting to disrupt the others chatting and sampling away, she slid her dish in at the end and looked about. Many had come and it gave her a warmth of home to see so many she recognized, but she had never really grown comfortable in boldly announcing herself at gatherings.

Instead she spotted a familiar face at the end of one of the long tables full of food. Silently she approached at Oddwen's side with a barely contained smile and poked her shoulder with a hello.

Huinesoron 03-26-2020 08:21 AM

Technically speaking, it would be entirely accurate to say that Huinesoron was dressed as befitted a Noldo of high degree in the glory days of Beleriand, but to make such a claim would be to miss out a few key points. Such as that he was at least a foot and a half shorter than his outfit had originally been tailored for. Such as that his hair was less 'elegantly braided' and more 'quarantine-trimmed semi-haystack'. Such as the way his colour-blindness meant his muted earth-tone palette contained more than a little bright red and emerald green (not to mention mismatched blue and purple socks).

But that was okay. He wasn't much of a one for parties anyway, and didn't want to get in the way of old friends enjoying a long-overdue reunion. He was perfectly happy to slip in through the door behind Ka, scrub down his hands (humming twenty seconds of a tune he fondly imagined would have gone down well in Nargothrond), and find himself a perch by the wall to nibble on a pilfered cookie. It was enough, for him, just to be there.


Mithadan 03-26-2020 12:56 PM

“Losssst! Lossst! Lossst we are and we shall never find it. My preciousssss!”

Mithadan glared at the tiny dragon hovering over his shoulder. “Enough!” he cried. “We are not lost.”

“You could have asked for directions,” Bird hissed. “Maybe at that White City that we passed.” The wyrm flapped its wings and rose up towards the sky. “It’s not too far back. I can still see it.”

A cloud seemed to pass over Mithadan’s face and he, once again, appeared weary. “Empty; long since abandoned,” he mused. “Long embattled by bots and spam and neglected until its gates closed.” He closed his eyes for a moment and, opening them, appeared to see a vision of things long past. “Tall were its walls and bright were its banners. Many were its folk, and among them minstrels, storytellers and seekers of wisdom. Now gone. All gone.”

“And we’ll be gone as well!” snapped Bird. “Wasted away. I was hungry before we left. Your pantry was nearly bare. And now we’re lost! Keep in mind that I’m a dragon. Not above snacking upon a Man.”

Mithadan snorted in amusement. “I’d like to see you try,” he retorted, with a pat on the hilts of his sword. “Anyway, we’re not lost. There’s the Uniform Resource Locator now.”

To their right was a path leading into a dark forest. Its trees were shaggy, overgrown with moss and lichen, and cast a dark shadow on a track leading through their broad and craggy boles. A wooden sign stood next to the entry into the wood. “Da Downs” it read in green letters, and an arrow pointed the way. Without hesitation, Mithadan strode forward and entered the gloomy way. Bird hovered briefly before the entrance.

“This does not look right,” she grumbled. Then she darted forward, agile as a sparrow and quick as a hawk, and followed the Man into the trees. Catching up to Mithadan, she burrowed into his hood and folded her wings. The two trudged along for a while until the path broadened into a clearing that lay before a grey hill. The track ended at a black wall of rock in which stood a closed gate, flanked by two standing stones. Cobwebs hung from the lintel and a noisome mist crawled from beneath the gate. Over the door were glowing runes that read “The Barrow-Downs.” Under the letters, a graven image of a sword appeared to underline the words. Atop one of the stones, a crow cawed, then wavered and fell to the ground in a heap.

“Home, sweet home,” said Mithadan with a sardonic grin. Then he entered his password and stepped through the gate as it opened with a creak. Before them was a broad, gloomy entryway of dark green marble, covered by a pale, yellowish ceiling. Corridors led off to the sides, each labelled by a sign. “The Books, Name Generators, Fun and Games, Reader’s Section, Themes…” he read. The entryway was empty, and his steps echoed as he traversed its length.

“You’d think there would be more folks heading to the party,” muttered Bird.

“That’s something I noticed early on,” replied Mithadan. “Even when something has people’s interest, members live all over, in different time zones, and posts come in at all hours. Waiting for a response isn’t wise; the person you’re exchanging thoughts with may be asleep, thousands of miles away. Ah! There it is…” At the end of the hall was a doorway bearing the label “Ultimate Bulletin Board.” Grinning broadly, Mithadan entered, expecting to see a room filled with appropriately socially separated friends.

Bird’s eyes narrowed and a trail of smoke issued from her jaws. “Some party,” she commented as she spread her wings in caution.

The hall beyond was empty. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling. There were no candles in the sconces. The only light was the ambient glow from the sickly-colored floor. A deep, sepulchral tune came from an unseen source. “That old black magic has me in its spell, that old black magic that you weave so well, those icy fingers up and down my spine, the same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine… pzzzzt.” Acrid smoke wafted through the hall and sparks flew from behind a large dust bunny. Then, with a crash, a speaker fell over. A stream of rats issued from the walls, seized the fried piece of electronics, and carried it off, squeaking in glee.

“Looks about the same,” commented Mithadan. “But something’s wrong. Where is everyone?”

To the left was a heavy door, ornately carved, with a knocker made in the image of a ravening wolf’s jaws. A stream of spittle dripped from the fangs, and a low growl could be heard. Above the door was a sign that read “Middle-Earth Discussions: The Books.” He ignored the knocker, which was now audibly whining, and reached for the knob. The door opened with a creak. Here, at last, there were people, but this was not what Mithadan expected.

Figures walked to and fro, intent on their own tasks and lost in their own thoughts. But this was no party. The figures lacked substance. They were pale, translucent and their features were unclear. But their voices could still be heard. “Wings!” one cried. Another was expounding upon the naming of rivers in eastern Beleriand. A young woman spoke of the influences in Tolkien’s writing. Yet another argued that the Bridge at Khazad Dum could not be the only way in from the east side of Moria. To the side, two men raised their voices. “What part of enigma do you not understand?” one cried. “He’s clearly an earth spirit,” responded the other.

“Nerd party?” whispered Bird.

“No,” replied Mithadan. “Downers do know how to party, even in these times of stress and uncertainty. This is odd.”

He approached two of the figures and squinted at their indistinct features. “Galpsi?” He said. “Dogtrot?” Other figures approached. “Gwaihir? Joy? One White Tree? Saulotus? I have not seen any of you in ages! Have you returned?”

Another figure approached. Mithadan recognized him immediately. “Sharku!”

Sharku smiled sadly. “No,” he sighed. “We have not returned. We are no longer wights, but rather are shades or echoes of what was. Our words and thoughts remain, but we are trapped in the past and do not appear in the here and now. We exist only in the Ultimate Bulletin Board.”

“The UBB,” Mithadan “That’s our old platform. We moved years ago. This must be an archive.”

“Release us!” Rimbaud cried. “We have forgotten our passwords!”

“You need only sign on to the forums and post,” cried Mithadan. “Your passwords can be recovered. You need only ask.”

A man walked forward with a rattle and clamour. Mithadan recognized him as Saucepan Man. “But we are tired,” he said. “We have become treeish and have other things to do.”

“Follow if you will,” said Mithadan. “But know this, I need not release you. Your words remain on the boards and your thoughts speak to others who seek knowledge even today. The forums remain and are viewed by members, visitors and friends every day. Come if you may, but I cannot make you log in.”

Mithadan turned and stalked from the caves of the archive. He paused at the gate for a moment, looking inside wistfully. “Hither shall the flowers of simbelmyne come never until the world’s end. I wish that they would return, but I can do no more. For that is not my errand!”

Bird took wing and floated above Mithadan’s head as they made their way from the archive. It took some time, but they soon found the correct Uniform Resource Locator. Before them was the celebration.

“Let’s party!” they cried.

Estelyn Telcontar 03-26-2020 04:49 PM

Estelyn left the reading room after several blissful hours of tales and poetry and was surprised to hear considerable volume coming from the ballroom. It was positively crowded when she walked into the room, and she smiled widely to see so many who had responded to the invitation.

Encaitare was still playing a jaunty tune, and soon the hand-shaking and embraces of fond greetings turned into a lively dance. Esty twirled from Lalaith to Pitchwife, interrupting her progress to cuddle her namesake puppy, dragged the protesting Lindo out of the corner to join the fun, did a credible imitation of a carousel with Inzil, thanked Thena for the toast, greeted Oddwen and THE Ka, and tried some of Galadriel55's lembas. Everyone must have had a piece, for the energy spread throughout the room and soon all were dancing, some with more enthusiasm than skill.

She stopped to catch her breath at just the right moment, for Bêthberry entered the room. "How wonderful!" she exclaimed. "I'm glad you were able to join us!" She saw an unfamiliar face and walked over to introduce herself.

"Hello! I'm Estelyn, the hostess of this party. I don't think we have met, have we?" Huinesoron stretched out his hand rather shyly and said his name. "Don't worry," she smiled. "We may be dead Wights, but we're a friendly group - the more, the merrier!"

"This is a pleasure indeed!" Esty laughed as she saw Mithadan enter the room. "One of the illustrious Old Ones has come to celebrate with us! Who knows - maybe even the Barrow-Wight himself will look in? After all, this is turning into a birthday party, and he's the one responsible."

mark12_30 03-27-2020 09:04 PM

Lindo gasped as Mithadan entered. Mithadan turned.

"You brought Bird, " Lindo whispered.

"Or, she brought me, " said Mithadan.

"Let me see her, " said Lindo, hesitant but eager.

Mithadan hesitated too. "She is, ah, a dragon right now," he said.

"Indeed," Lindo whispered, eyes very wide. "Black with a white stripe?"

Mithadan smirked. "You make her sound like a skunk," he said.

"Hey!" Said the dragon, poking her nose out of Mithadan's hood. "Oh, it's that daft singer."

"Nice," snorted Mith, as Lindo began to hum a tune from the drowning of Beleriand, and then very softly he began to sing.

"Raven hair in wind blown tangles
One tress opalescent dangles..."

Pitchwife 03-28-2020 06:14 AM

„Did I hear right?“ said Estelyn the sheepdog, using osanwë to communicate with her human friend across species boundaries. „Did she just call me a puppy? Me, a bitch grown & flowered (TM), and mother of three?“

„Shush,“ said Pitchwife. „The lady meant no ill. Children will always be children to mothers - even godmothers. Believe me, I know what I‘m talking about! Now, why don‘t you go find some food, or someone to pet you? I‘m sure there‘ll be takers. But don‘t just nibble on any old pile o‘ bones you find lying around – they might be a new member!“

Estelyn (still the dog) took his suggestion and began to explore the ballroom, weaving through the guests and sniffing here & there as was her wont. At last she wound up in front of Oddwen and The KA and looked up at them with a friendly wag of her tail. „Arf!“ she said.

The cats had already vanished into the crowd by that time. The red one had found a lintel to jump on, whence it surveyed the gathering with the air of a theatre critic, while the grey one approached a gaily-dressed Noldo sitting all by himself and rubbed against his leg with a soft „Prr?“, its tail curled into a question-mark.

Pitchwife, meanwhile, having helped himself to a glass of Old Winyard and a lemba (and made a note to write to the Lady of Lórien at his earliest convenience), sauntered through the crowd, toasting and greeting all his friends of old, some of whom he had only met far from here in the intervening years, some not at all for a long time. He noted with great pleasure that the plague had not killed Lalaith this time (Maedhros or no Maedhros) and, having listened to her duet with Encai, said to the latter: „Hi, I‘m Pitchwife! Not sure we‘ve met in this place before, but you seem vaguely familiar. Something to do with horns, great horns of rust wildly blowing, I think?“

littlemanpoet 03-28-2020 01:05 PM

Elempi was glad that Bethberry had invited him to the party. He used his palantir to watch the beginnings of this new unexpected party.
He wondered if he might go in the garb of Eodwine of Rohan?

Go as yourself.

Elempi set aside his Habit o' Nine Types, put away his palantir, and made for the party.


Many miles and no miles later, he stepped up to the door, washed his hands and entered, looking for the food and drink and a nice corner from which to watch the goings on. In time, he would do more than watch.

Kitanna 03-31-2020 06:16 AM

How long has it been? Kitanna thought as she washed her hands with the soap the thoughtful Esty had laid out. Two years? Three? Five? No matter, she had been away for too long. Having received the invitation to the party she quickly aired out her finest dress of black and red silk and made travel plans. Too long had she been away. The invite was just what she needed to lift her spirits.

As she walked into the great hall there were faces she recognized even after so long an absence. Esty in her red dress with the white blouse. Lommy offering her assistance. Legate looking regal an as though he had just stepped from the woods of Lórien. Thenamir, Inzil, and so many more! This was right, this was home, and Kitanna was glad to be back.

Kitanna had not come alone though, she brought a loaf of her famous soda bread. She set it on a long table filled with other refreshments. She had shaped the loaf to look like a mallorn leaf. She hoped her simple dish satisfied the other party goers.

Esty wandered around greeting the guests, but rather than wait Kitanna hurried to her.

"Esty, you beautiful, wonderful, fantastic-" Kitanna stopped herself, knowing she was gushing. "You have done something truly wonderful bringing us all back here." She hugged Esty without giving it a second thought.

Boromir88 03-31-2020 01:08 PM

It had already been a week since Boro received Esty's party invitation, an Unexpected Party too! What is not unexpected, Boro is usually one of the later arriving guests to any party, and not even the fashionably late sort. He was coming in a rich purple sweater and dark blue jeans. He was also carrying a brown satchel bag with a shoulder strap.

Boro was troubled by the sickness and quarantines effecting everyone. It was almost a year since Boro's last journey of significance visiting Enca and her partner, Celuien and her husband, Formendacil, Nienna and their child, and wilwa for the Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibit. His thoughts were on them, and many more who are in heavily crowded areas and have to hunker down through the perilous days ahead.

Boro had seen another party-goer traveling to the house far ahead of him, but he could not make out who it was. In his youth, he might have ran to catch up with the others, but thought better of it. He was sure the last thing Esty would want to have happen is her opening the door and there he would be on the door step exhausted, panting and sweaty.

When he finally got to the entrance, he wondered if he should knock or just let himself in. The door appeared to make up Boro's mind for him, and seemed to open on his own. Already he was able to see there was quite a significant gathering with many familiar and friendly faces.

"Hello. Well, it's good to be back."

Estelyn Telcontar 03-31-2020 03:00 PM

Estelyn hugged Kitanna enthusiastically - hugging was one of her favourite ways to connect with others, and the outside world prohibited that at the moment. "I'm so glad you came!" she exclaimed.

Then her eyes widened as she saw Elempi, and she swirled him around in a boisterous embrace. "Isn't it wonderful to be partying together again?!"

"And Boro too! What have you been up to since we last met?" she asked. The question fell into one of those mysterious lulls in the general noice of conversation and echoed in the room. And suddenly everyone started answering, and stories of families and work and enjoyments of life were exchanged, as if the hall were a book of faces.

Morthoron 03-31-2020 10:08 PM

All this time it had become quite plain to the Dark Elf that these were some rather queer folk assembled herein. Not that there was anything wrong with queer folk, of course, particularly not if one eschewed the more modern pejorative sense of the word. And it wasn't a matter of looking fairer and feeling fouler, just the innate queerness of a group of introverted folk who seemingly had been imprisoned at a Renaissance Faire for several years and now suffered from some malingering form of Dernhelm Syndrome.

"Or Cosplay Dismay," Morthoron chuckled to himself, as he kindly accepted the glass from Lady Estelyn with a nod and an approximation of a grin he hoped didn't appear sinister....or downright creepy.

He sighed as he sat back in his anachronistic Edwardian leather club chair, coming to the sad realization that he had become, in fact, the very caricature of a stock grim Dark Elf. All he needed was some ebonized galvorn to be the epitome of grouchy old Eöl, grousing about the smithy, graceless and grumpy. Bah, humbug!

But Morthoron had a dark epiphany as the group of idiosyncratic Dungeon & Dragon characters toasted the Professor. With the sudden recall of a drowning man (drowning elf, damn it, why do I think in terms of mortals!), a rush of reminiscence filled him with dread as the last couple decades flashed before him like an amusement arcade mutoscope that flicked cards in sequence to give the appearance of an actual moving picture (as he was sitting in an Edwardian chair, this analogy seemed to fit, even if it was totally nonsensical for the Third Age). And he suddenly realized the reason for his morbid melancholy.

"Peter Jackson!"

There was a sudden stillness in the room, and all eyes turned his way. The Dark Elf cursed under his breathe: he had uttered the sacrilegious name out loud! Eventually the thrum of buzzing discussions returned and the frivolity that is the handmaiden of inebriation settled back on the crowd, and the Dark Elf was left alone with his murky musing.

"Yes," he thought to himself, "it was Peter Jackson that did this to me!" Morthoron shifted with the discomfiture of an insomniac in the chair. "Sandworms from Arakeen! Aragorn frenching his horse! Xenarwen, warrior princess! GAH!!!!"

The Dark Elf slammed down the expensive and exquisite Dorwinion as if it were cheap bathtub gin, savoring none of its richness. Now more miserable than ever, the malignant memories washed over him like an insidious black tide. Three films instead of two. Del Toro! psychedelicized wizards with bird droppings and hedgehogs named Sebastian (O, the arrows of irony!)! Sam leaving Frodo! Goblin Chutes and Ladders, and a Great Goblin with a globulous goiter as ridiculously over-sized as the WitchKing's monstrously massive mace! Thranduil riding a moose! An each and every and all and sundry an extended edition to maximize canonical misery!

The Dark Elf threw up in his mouth a little.

piosenniel 04-01-2020 03:06 PM

On the way . . .

“We’re going to be late, you know . . .”
A small voice stage-whispered in the Pio’s ear – this time with an added flick-flick of scaled tail against the Elf’s neck.

Not missing a step, Pio swatted at the insistent tail. “And we would not have been, you dreadful wyrm, if you had not eaten the horse!” Shrugging her shoulders, she adjusted the rucksack back into a more comfortable position. The sudden jerky movement dislodged the small, golden-scaled dragon from her perch.

With an irritated flutter of wings, Angara resettled herself on the Elf’s other shoulder, digging her claws in just a wee bit for emphasis. “Hmmmmmph!!” she snorted. “I was hungry! It was a loooooong flight to get here. What was I supposed to eat – the scrawny Elf who owned it?” Stretching her neck out, Angara peered into Pio’s face, fixing her with a green-gold eye gone wide. “I could have, you know.” She poked at the Elf’s cheek with one nail. “You don’t eat enough . . . too rangy, too bony! That horse, though, now that was a toothsome delight.”

Getting no response, other than a raised brow and a disbelieving snort, Angara turned her attention to the small rucksack. Poking her nose in it to open it wider, she riffled through the scant contents. Some lembas, a stoppered bottle of Old Gammer’s Elixir (bearing four XXXX’s on the label and an assurance of “Good for Whatever Ails Ya or Don’t” – no doubt from the back storeroom of the Green Dragon), several sharpening stones, some oil, a number of knives carefully wrapped with leather. She hopped round to look Pio in the eye, once again. “It’s a party, you ninny! Where’s your party dress?”

Hoping to divert any further questioning of her lack of beribboned finery, Pio grasped her small companion, and placed her on the pine-needled track. ‘So, here’s an idea – why don’t you just fly us to the party, dear heart.” She smiled sweetly at the wyrm. “You don’t want to miss all the meats and pies and honeyed pastries that are sure to be there, do you”


Grown to full size, Angara made flight to The Barrow-Downs with record speed. “Just land up there on that rocky outcropping,” Pio instructed as they circled the Downs from on high. “Let’s not raise a fuss among the party-goers.” “And besides”, she thought to herself, “I want to get the lay of the land before we go down.” “Of course, you do – wary as ever, I see,” Angara replied silently.

Dismounting from her perch behind the dragon’s neck, Pio looked down at the gathering crowds of people of all sorts. She stomped against the rocky ground - dislodging some of the trail dust off her boots. Smoothing her leather jerkin, she brushed what dirt she could from it. Her leather leggings looked adequate enough to her mind. Her long dark hair she loosened from its braid, combing it as she could with her fingers. Motioning for the now-again-small dragon to perch on her left shoulder, the two companions walked toward the site of the celebration . . .

Pitchwife 04-01-2020 03:39 PM

And out of Erebus many souls arose of the departed dead
Before Encai could reply, however, Pitchwife‘s attention was caught by another new arrival. „By Glaurung‘s third molars,“ he exclaimed, „does each and everyone on these Downs have their own pet dragon nowadays?“

piosenniel 04-01-2020 10:23 PM

An irksome opinion overheard . . .
“By Glaurung‘s third molars!” a man exclaimed. “Does each and everyone on these Downs have their own pet dragon nowadays?”

Her hearing had always been quite acute. Angara’s head whipped round to focus on who had uttered this quite mistaken opinion. Her gold-green eyes fixed on the speaker. “Pet! My A…!!” she started to hiss toward the fellow.

“SSssst! Quiet!!” Pio picked up her pace, attempting to put a necessary distance between the man and herself. “Don’t start a fight! We’re hardly in the door!!”

Angara gave the man one last scathing glance and a last parting comment. “And to be clear, dear, if anyone’s the pet,” she said with a certain smugness, “it’s the Elf!”

Pio made for the bar she’d noticed at the other end of the room. “Tall glass, if you please, ‘Keep. Something strong.” She nodded at the tap he pointed to. “Yes, that, thanks!.” Taking a long drink, she held up her hand, indicating to the Barman she had an additional request. “Oh, and for my friend, here,” Pio said, pointing at Angara, “a nice bowl of wine . . . something Dorwinian, to sweeten her mood.”

Boromir88 04-02-2020 06:30 AM

"And Boro too. What have you been up to since we last met?" Estelyn asked.

"Much has happened and changed!" he exclaimed. That was quite true, especially the past year, events in his life have been hurtling him forward. All for the better, but coming to a sudden stop had left Boro befuddled. "Well, it started with acquiring a new house; small, but suitable for my needs. Then I was blessed with a sister-son. He pulled out one of the first pictures taken with his nephew. "He will be quite the charmer with those dark-blue eyes. And one of the final new changes was a career change. I coordinate an exchange program. Young travelers from different realms come and we have an exchange of languages, history, culture, sport and..." Boro faltered. The program had to be cut short from concerns involving the plague.

"Begging your pardon, we had to end the program early. Oh, they all made it back home safe and healthy, which is the most important thing. It's just I don't recall all the world coming to a sudden and complete stop before. I hope and look forward to the day we can start again. Being here amongst friends and..." Boro faltered again, when he noticed another arrival "dragons, is most welcome. Thank you for the invitation."

Galadriel55 04-02-2020 10:14 AM


The door silently opens again. There is another package lying on the doorstep.

A note attached to it says:
Always bring a banana to a party. Besides, you gotta keep moots canonical.


The Squatter of Amon Rûdh 04-03-2020 05:45 PM

Beyond the Edge of the known universe, far past the ends of the Twittering Hells and beyond the reach even of the Googloid Hegemony, lie the wide grey plains of the Offline.

In these asphodel fields, beneath jet skies and dying stars, the sightless and endlessly hungering husks of the Old Net wander, gnawed at by insatiable hunger, tormented with unslakable thirst; forgetful of all but a pitiless, griping Need.

Conscious, too, of the nightmare babel through which they must pass to catch the merest scent of a lolcat meme or amusing badger video. These forsook the horror of a world run mad, only to discover beyond their barred gates and bolted doors that they had left in the asylum a map and the keys, and that the inmates had followed, or perhaps that they had brought with them that which they flew.

In their despair the Old Ones forsook the Online, retreated into a real world that others had abandoned, and found that it could be worse and had bookshops.

In some far-flung corner of this virtual desert, made all the more virtual by its not being on a computer, and therefore meta-virtual, even doubly virtual. Maybe virtual cubed or something. Factorial of virtual. Imaginary, in any case. Figurative if you will. You get my point. Anyway, in some nameless corner of the ashen lunar plain stands a ruinous house. In that dread place, which even Gomez Addams might have considered giving a lick of paint, lives a Collector.

What exactly he collects, where he finds it, how, when and even why are all indeed questions. He might say "things" or, being a pretentious sort, "unconsidered trifles." Mostly it appears to be dust, but to the hypothetical observer who has somehow arrived in this unedifying place its most notable content is unread books. Books in modern languages, books in dead languages; books about history, about pharmacology, about things that never were nor ever will be; books about other books; books about how to acquire yet more books and which they should be: on shelves, in boxes, in piles, stacks, heaps. Among these are some that appear actually to have been opened, and of those happy volumes more than are good for anyone's mental health are marked with a JRRT monogram. Amid this bibliophilic confusion sits, or I suppose you could say "squats", the Collector himself. Festooned with cobwebs, half-buried under the dust of ages, much about him is indeterminate; but the shape on his head might once have been a silk top hat. Perhaps the hypothetical observer has somehow brought him a hypothetical message through the fourth wall, and perhaps it concerns some sort of Party. Or perhaps an e-mail was sent to a work account. One of those things, almost certainly.

Beneath the shifting drifts, the figure stirs. Images like long-dead amphibians rise up from the stagnant pool of memory. Green. Green on black: emerald signal, but that was something else. So far down, downish. Downs. "Have fun posting and enjoy being dead." So many words. Much concerning a talking bow. A dry, cracked voice announces: "Yes, I was Squatter". A Summons has been received and even at this late hour must be heeded. What, he wonders, does he have in his pockets? Ah, six-month old till receipt, several sets of keys, lint, mothballs. All there. Ideal. Best take a flask too. Need the edge off with that many people about. In a great billow of forgotten years, a dark figure rises, tweaks some wax into its false moustache, and sets its feet on the long road back to its grave.


Many leagues through the plague-lands later, a less dusty but more rained-upon Squatter passed through Downish Quarantine. Fortunately, despite mild cases of croup, mange, the King's Evil, septicaemic plague and even the Red Death, he had somehow avoided the Nameless Pest, probably. The finest physicians known to automatic password recognition had declared it unanimously. So he was admitted, and in time came to the Dark Tower. I mean lit ballroom. Wait: we still have a ballroom? I thought it would be a cinema now. Or -he shuddered- a discotheque. No, apparently not. Someone had been busy. Probably Estelyn. Keeps the lights on. Casting his eyes about, he picked out familiar and fondly remembered faces of Discussions Past. Almost exclusively so. What year even is this? Can it be 2002 again? Looking forward to that new film by some New Zealander, but not having actually seen it. Those were good times. Is that Mithadan? Nice surprise. Not spoken in ages. Quested after that bow together. Blimey, Underhill will be in before you know it, then the fat will hit the fire. Laugh a minute. Whatever did we do with the Travest-o-Meter? Probably buried in some sub-basement. Unless we blew it up, of course: something like that may have happened. Not an admission of liability. Clear fictional damage case. Vandalism? Desecration? Bother Oxford council. No sense of humour.

These, of course, were the thoughts of but a moment. A nip of Talisker and an archaic figure in well-worn morning clothes a hundred years out of style sauntered up to his hostess and bowed. "Hi, Esty. Nice shindig. Sorry it's a bit late: dark road, came as I could. Twenty years, eh? They built them to last in those days."

Mysteriously, in spite of the thorough cleaning the room had undoubtedly received, the atmosphere seemed now ever so slightly more laden with dust, as though some old volume had been lifted from its bed of centuries so that someone could look up rude words. The summons was answered. Squatter was Online. How good a thing this would be remained to be seen.

The Saucepan Man 04-04-2020 07:12 PM

The vir(tu)al party was in full swing and the pleasant hum of friendly conversation filled the Barrow Downs ballroom. The air was thick with the delighted cries (and odd squee) of Downers who had not seen each other in many a year and the excited babble of long lost friends reacquainting themselves with each other.

Suddenly, a discordant sound rang out, cutting through the cheerful chatter, and bringing the delighted discourse to a sudden halt. Just beyond the ballroom door could be heard a dreadful clattering fit to raise the dead, as though a large quantity of metal had been dropped from a great height.

Estelyn rushed to the door, concerned that some great misfortune had befallen the latest guest to arrive. Flinging it open, she was greeted, to her great relief, by the sight of a pile of cooking vessels heaped in the passage beyond. Relief because she quickly remembered that this was in fact the customary manner of arrival of said latest guest.

Slowly, a wizened face emerged from under a large cooking pot and flashed a broad smile.

“Thank you for the invitation, Esty”, said the Saucepan Man with a twinkle in his eyes. “Sorry I’m late. Strange place to leave a banana, though!”

“Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes, Esspiem,” cried Estelyn cried in delight.

“More pies? Well I haven’t had any yet, but I am happy to try whatever’s going,” replied the Saucepan Man. His hearing, impaired as ever by the clatter of his pans, had not improved with age.

Slowly, the Saucepan Man picked himself up from the ground. He was, as always, covered from head to toe in cooking pots, frying pans and kettles, and a shiny saucepan sat atop his head. He was sporting his finest kitchenwear, dug out especially for the party, although it had still seen better days and was slightly rusted with age.

“Wonderful to see you, my dear,” he said fondly, as he made to give Esty an affectionate hug. “It’s been a long time.”

It had indeed been a long time. Many years had passed since the Saucepan Man had last clattered noisily through the Downs, not all of them happy. But the familiar black and green glow of the place, the sight of Esty in her festive red finery and the pleasant hum of intelligent discourse, once more resuming after his cacophonous interruption, reminded him of the wonderful times that he had once spent here.

Esty returned the hug as best she could, given the bulky and somewhat jagged nature of his attire.

“Come on, let’s get you inside,” she said, raising her eyes in mock exasperation.

Lhunardawen 04-05-2020 09:37 AM

“It’s like the Red Arrow,” whispered Lhuna, staring at her computer screen, as one who receives a summons long expected and yet dreadful when it comes. She trembled. It had indeed come to that, as she had predicted. Had it been entirely up to her, she would have heeded the call with all the strength and speed she could muster, but there were other factors to consider. A comrade in arms counselled her to wait until the stores of personal protective equipment were adequate, and the siege was better under control. She, in turn, decided to start sharpening her best weapon. Long had her mind — and stethoscope — been idle.

In the midst, however, of studying the local clinical practice guidelines for COVID-19 management, her concentration began to waver. Before long she found herself wandering along long-forgotten halls; dark they were, but with a tinge of mint green light that seemed to emanate from no particular source. As she walked, a musty scent filled her nostrils, making her sneeze. She was careful to cover her mouth with the crook of her elbow, as health authorities advised. The sound echoed faintly in the empty hallway.

At the end of a hallway there was an elaborate door from which came a steady hum of voices, some oddly familiar, as though she had encountered them often in years past but had since been absent, some entirely unknown, all filled with excitement. Lhuna found herself drawn to the sound. She started pacing towards a glitter near the slightly ajar door, which revealed itself to be a frying pan reflecting sunlight from the room inside. “What’s a pan doing here?” She picked it up, wiped it with a piece of tissue soaked with 75% isopropyl alcohol, a bottle of which she always brought everywhere she went. She also poured a generous helping of alcohol on her palms and rubbed them briskly together, as she had done countless times. She then peered cautiously through the door.


Lhuna had not said the word in years, yet was surprised at the ease with which it escaped through her lips. “I must have fallen asleep reading that CPG. But if this is a dream, I hope I don’t wake up yet.” She stepped inside soundlessly, and walked along the wall to keep herself inconspicuous. She had not seen or heard from any of them in ages (her own fault, she had disappeared even from Facebook) and she was not certain they would remember her. She looked at the familiar faces and, as was her wont, gave herself a few seconds before each one brought to mind a name, and a particular memory. She saw a walking pile of pots and pans (“SpM! I must remember to give this pan back to him”) speaking to a long-haired woman with her back towards her (“Esty! I’d recognise Princess Fiona’s hair from anywhere. I wonder if she remembers swooning over Aragorn”). She realised she was not up for socialising just yet.

She saw Elempi sitting in a corner and knew he would not mind quiet company. Lhuna made her way to his corner and sat gently on the seat beside him, before turning to face him and answering his wide-eyed look with a huge smile.

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