Monday, 23 June 2008

It's better not to ask

Coxpip, a hobbit of a long-established line of hobbits who dwelled on the other side of the valley, pushed open the heavy wooden door to the Inn of the Shire, and padded inside. The Inn had been serving hobbits for generations, and was owned now by Furzepurple, or Fuzz to both of his friends. Behind his back, which was scarred and knobbled as the result of a childhood bout of Nettles, a particularly odiferous hobbit disease, people referred to him as Furzepustule, but only in quiet voices as the Inn of the Shire was by far the most convenient place to drink. The Inn today was quiet inside, with only three other patrons, all passed out in front of the cold, grey fireplace. Coxpip sniffed the air and recognised the bonfire smell of Americy, a strong narcotic smoked only by indolent and ne'erdowell hobbits. He avoided the unconscious hobbits by the fireplace, and seated himself at the bar.

"Ho Furzepurple!" he called, looking around for the owner cum barman and wriggling uncomfortably on his stool as he realised that it was wet, and that something was now soaking into the seat of his pants. "Furzepurple, are you here?" he called, wondering if he could change seats before anyone else came into the Inn. There was no reply, so he slid off his stool, and perched himself on the one next to him. He looked again around the bar, and this time noticed the stairs beyond the fireplace than led up to the bedrooms. He remembered hearing that once upon a time hobbits had stayed at the Inn when travelling and had praised its cheer and hospitality, but now it seemed that the Inn was not somewhere to spend the night.

Furzepurple fell down the stairs, bouncing on his face as he reached the floor, and sliding along on his prominent nose and chin for a good number of hobbit footlengths. He said nothing, but pulled himself to his feet, which Coxpip noticed were shaved completely smooth and had thin cuts running in parallel lines across the tops of them. He glared at Coxpip until one of his eyes fell out and clunked on the floor. It started to roll, but Furzepurple stuck out a foot and trapped it expertly. He picked it up, and put it back in. Backwards. Coxpip realised at this point that the eye must be made of glass, and forced himself to relax.

"What do you want, 'obbit?" said Furzepurple in glutinous tones. "Why are you disturbing the peace of the Inn?"

"I came for a drink," said Coxpip nervously, hoping that Furzepurple wouldn't make his eye drop out again. "I heard that the Inn of the Shire serves the best Brandywine in the whole of the Shire."

"Not today," said Furzepurple flatly. "All the beer's off today."

"How can that be?" said Coxpip in wonderment. "Can it be that the hobbits of the shire have drunk you dry last night?"

"No, you bleeding pillock," said Furzepurple. He reached up to his face and started to worry at a long splinter in his upper lip. Little droplets of blood formed where he picked at it. "The beer's off cos there's a dead 'obbit in every barrel. Most of 'em drowned in there, but there's a couple that were put there cos 'is wizardship thinks it's a preservative."

Coxpip had gone pale at the mention of spoiled beer, and went paler again at the mention of the dead hobbits.

"What wizard would kill hobbits?" he gasped. "Even in the time of Mordor..." he tailed off, unable to say any more.

"Gandalf, you cretin," said Furzepurple. "Sauron's eye, what kind of cumdump was your mother anyway? Ever since they diagnosed him as having Gulf War syndrome 'e's been a right piece of--" Furzepurple's voice was drowned out by an explosion from somewhere upstairs. "-- and if I wasn't providing 'im with 'obbits for target practise there'd be no Inn of the Shire any more."

"But you're a hobbit yourself!" spluttered Coxpip.

"Nope," said Furzepurple with a toothy grin. "I'm an Orc with a makeover. Now, if you could just go and run to the door and try and escape, I reckon 'is wizardship's 'angover has probably receded enough that he'll give you a bit of an 'eadstart before blowing your legs off and making them dance by themselves while you watch. And bleed to death."

No comments: