IF HUNTER S. THOMPSON HAD WRITTEN
‘THE LORD OF THE RINGS’
OF THE DRUG FIENDS
BEING THE FIRST PART
The Lord of the Rings
(Fear & Loathing in Rivendell)
We were somewhere around Bree, on the edge of the Shire when the mushrooms began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should take the reins…”, which was really strange because I hadn’t realized that we were in a cart. I thought that we were supposed to be walking the whole goddamned way. And suddenly the sky was full of what looked like huge Balrogs, all swooping and screeching and diving around the cart, which was going about six miles an hour with the tarp back to Rivendell. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Eru! What are these goddamn animals?”
Then it was quiet again. My gardener had taken his shirt off and was pouring ale on his chest to facilitate the ‘trying-to-get-some-kind-of-color-on–this-never-seen-the-light-of-day-pasty-white-skin’ process. “What the udûn are you yelling about?” he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Númenórean sunglasses. “Never mind,” I said. “It’s your turn to take the reins.” I pulled on the worm-eaten stick that pressed against the wheel in the same way that a brake almost would and aimed the Great Red Warg towards the edge of the rutted dirt path that passed for a road. No point mentioning the Balrogs, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.
It was almost elevensies, and we still had more than twenty-five miles to go. They would be very tough miles. Very soon, I knew, we would both be completely twisted. But there was no going back and no time to rest. We would just have to ride it out. Chroniclers’ registration for the fabulous Middle Earth 400-League Pub Crawl was already underway, and we had to be there by tea-time to claim our soundproof suite. A fashionable wizards’ council in Isengard had taken care of the reservations, along with this huge red Corsair rag tarp we’d just rented off of a lot on the Shirebourn Strip… and I was, after all, an amateur chronicler; so I had an obligation to cover the story, for good or ill.
The council wizards had also given me £300 in gold, most of which was already spent on extremely dangerous drugs. The trunk in the back of the cart looked like a mobile shirriffs’ wizard lab. We had two bags of pipeweed, seventy-five cakes of lembas, five sheets of high-powered blotter pixie dust, a salt-cellar half full of powdered Barrow-Wight, and a whole galaxy full of multi-colored Shire herbal uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a bottle of Dead Marsh water, a bottle of Mirkwood spider venom, a case of Beornweiser ale, a pint of raw Ent draught, and two dozen Athelas.
All this had been rounded up the week before in a frenzy of high speed pastoral walks in the country from Waymoot to Frogmorton, we picked up everything we could get our hands on. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious herbal collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.
The only thing that worried me was the Ent draught. There is nothing in Middle Earth more helpless and irresponsible than a hobbit in the depths of an Ent draught binge. And I knew we’d get into that awful stuff pretty soon. Probably at the next ferry crossing. We had sampled almost everything else and now – yes, it was now time for a long snort of Ent draught vapours and then do the next twenty-five miles in a horrible, slobbering sort of spastic stupor. The more usual way to imbibe Ent draught is, of course, to drink yourself into a hallucinatory coma until you think you’re four, four-and-a-half, maybe even five feet tall, but the experienced drug fiend knows you get much, much higher inhaling the evil brew. The only way to keep alert on Ent draught is to do up a lot of Athelas – not all at once, but steady, just enough to maintain the focus at five or even six miles an hour to Bree.
“Man, this is the way to travel,” said my gardener. He leaned over the back of the driving bench to tell the cart’s standard issue quartet with the elf lead singer to play louder… and to play the current hits, not the moody, depressing and over-intellectualized elf standards that seem to punctuate our travels, humming along with the bass line and moaning the words “One Took over the Brandywine Sweet Eru… one Took over the Brandywine…”
One Took? You poor fool. Wait until you see those goddamn Balrogs. I could barely hear the quartet… slumped over on the far side of the bench, grappling with a recording fairy singing at the top of her tiny lungs on “Sympathy for Morgoth.” That was the only fairy we had, so we forced it to repeat it constantly, over and over, as a kind of demented counterpoint to the quartet and their singer. And also to maintain our rhythm on the road. A constant speed is good for reducing gas production by the ponies ahead of us – and for some reason that seemed important at the time. Indeed, on a trip like this one must be careful of gas production. Avoid those quick burst of acceleration (which can take you as fast as nine miles an hour for about 15 minutes before you start to wear out the ponies) that drag blood to the back of your liver.
My gardener saw the hitchhikers long before I did. “Let’s give the boys a lift,” he said, and before I could mount any argument he was stopped and these two poor Bucklander boys were running up to the cart with big grins on their faces, one of them saying “Hot damn, I never rode in a cart before!”
“Is that right?” I said. “Well, I guess you’re about ready, eh?”
The kids nodded eagerly as we tried to get the ponies moving again.
“We’re your friends,” said my gardener. “We’re not like the others.”
O Elbereth, I thought, he’s gone around the bend. “No more of that talk,” I said sharply. “Or I’ll put the liches on you.” He grinned, seeming to understand. Luckily the noise in the cart was so awful – between the ponies farting, the elf singing to the quartet music and my recording fairy – that the kids in the back couldn’t hear a word we were saying. Or could they?
How long could we maintain? I wondered. How long before one of us starts raving and jabbering at these boys. What will they think then? This same lonely forest was the last known home of the Bombadil family. Would they make that grim connection when my gardener starts screaming about Balrogs and huge eagles coming down on the cart? If so – well, we’ll just have to cut their heads off and bury them in some wight barrow. Because it goes without saying that we can’t just turn them loose. They’ll report us at once to some kind of old forest Mordorian black rider agency, and they’ll run us down like wargs.
Eru! Did I say that? Or just think it? Was I talking? Did they hear me? I glanced over at my gardener, but he seemed oblivious – watching the cart path, driving our Great Red Warg along at five-and-a-half miles per hour or so. There were no sounds from the boys in the back.
Maybe I’d better have a chat with these boys, I thought. Perhaps if I explain everything, they’ll rest easy.
Of course, I leaned around in the bench and gave them a fine big smile – admiring the shape of their skulls.
“By the way,” I said. “There’s one thing you should probably understand.”
They stared at me, not blinking. Were they gritting their teeth?
“Can you hear me?” I yelled.
“That’s good,” I said. “Because I want you to know that we’re on our way to Rivendell to find the Great Epic Hero’s Quest.” I smiled. “That’s why we rented this cart. Can you grasp that?”
They nodded again, but their eyes were nervous, Elbereth! I thought. Do these two idiots even function as separate beings?
“I want you to have all of the back story,” I said. “Because this is a very ominous assignment – with allusions – no, wait, I don’t believe in allusions, uh – with motifs of extreme personal danger… Udûn, I forgot about this ale, you want some?”
They shook their heads.
“How about some Ent draught?” I asked.
“Maybe later.  Nevermind. Let’s get right to the heart of this thing. You see, about a week ago we were sitting in the Croquet Lounge of the Green Dragon Inn in Bywater – in the patio section, of course – and we were just sitting there under an oak tree when this uniformed dwarf comes up to me with a pink palantír and said, “This must be the dangerous magical relic you’ve been waiting for, sir.”
I laughed and broke open an ale bottle that foamed all over the back of the cart while I kept talking. “And you know? He was right! I’d been expecting this small hypnotic orb, but I didn’t know who it would come from. Do you follow me?”
I blundered on: “I want you to understand that this man at the reins is my gardener! He’s not just some gargoyle I found in Hobbiton. Shite, look at him. He doesn’t look like you or me, right? That’s because he’s a foreigner. I think he’s probably a Stoor. But that doesn’t matter, does it? Are you prejudiced?”
“Oh, udûn, no!” they blurted.
“I didn’t think so.” I said. “Because in spite of his race, this hobbit is extremely valuable to me.” I glanced at my gardener, but his liver was somewhere else.
I whacked the back of the front bench with my fist. “This is important, goddamn it! This is a true story!” The cart swerved sickeningly, then straightened out. “Keep your hands off my fucking neck!” my gardener screamed. The kids in the back looked like they were ready to jump right out of the cart and take their chances.
Our vibrations were getting nasty – but why? I was riddled, frustrated. Was there no communication in this cart? Had we deteriorated to the level of river elves?
Because my story was true. I was certain of that. And it was extremely important, I felt, for the meaning of our journey to be absolutely clear. We had actually been sitting in the Croquet Lounge – for many hours – drinking Grey Haven Hurricanes with Mirkwood spider venom on the side and ale chasers. And when the message came, I was ready.
The Dwelf approached our table cautiously, as I recall, and when he handed me the pink palantír I said nothing, merely gazed. “That was headquarters,” I said. “They want me to go to Rivendell at once and make contact with a Dúnedain vagabond called Strider. He’ll have the details. All I have to do is check into my suite and he’ll seek me out.”
My gardener said nothing for a moment, then he suddenly came alive in his chair. “Eru udûn!” he exclaimed. “I think I see the narrative. This one sounds like real trouble, I mean, three volumes, at least, not to mention countless prologues, appendices, maps and additional volumes of histories, linguistics and back story!” He tucked his pastel undertunic into his white elfbottoms and called for more drink. “You’re going to need plenty of gardening advice before this thing is over,” he said. “And my first advice is that you should rent a very fast cart with no canopy and get the udûn out of the Shire for at least a year.” He shook his head sadly. “This blows my pruning season because naturally I’ll have to go with you – and we’ll have to arm ourselves.”
“Why not?” I said. “If a thing like this is worth doing at all it’s worth doing right. We’ll need some decent companions and plenty of gold on the line – if only for drugs and a super-sensitive recording fairy, for the sake of a permanent record.”
“What kind of story is this?” he asked.
“The Middle Earth 400-League Pub Crawl,” I said. “It’s the richest off-the-road tall tale contest for mixed species adventurers in the history of epic hero questing – a spectacle of high fantasy in honor of some red-eyed maiar named Sauron, who owns the luxurious Barad-dûr Tower of Horror and Wax Museum in the heart of the great theme-park of Mordor… at least that’s what the early chronicle says; my elf in Isengard just palantíred it to me.”
“Well,” he said, “as your gardener I advise you to buy a horse. How else can you cover a thing like this righteously?”
“No way,” I said. “Where can we get hold of a Nazgûl Black Shadow Rider?”
“A fantastic horse,” I said. “The new breed is something like 20 hands, developing two horsepower at four hundred steps per minute in mithril armor with a dwarf-skin saddle and a total walking weight of exactly two thousand pounds.”
“That sounds about right for this tale” he said.
“It is,” I assured him. “The fucker’s not much for swimming but its pure udûn in a chase. It’ll outrun the elvish-111 until it hits water.”
“Water?” he said. “Can we handle that much imagery.”
“Absolutely,” I said. “I’ll palantír Isengard for some gold.”
 Sweet Elbereth, I guess that Balrogs do have wings after all.
 See Volume Two [The Two Hugely Overcompensating Phallic Symbols], Book Three [The Great White Wizard Hunt], Chapter Four for more details.
 “The time has come,” the Council said,
“To talk of many things:
Of rings – and wraiths – and Shadowfax –
Of broken swords – and kings –
And why Mount Doom is boiling hot –
And whether Balrogs have wings.”
 The liver, of course, has long been known to be the bodily organ responsible for thoughts, memories and ideas.
© 2008, 2011 Rhys M. Blavier