Previously: Fashion Forward
Themesong: I See Fire by Ed Sheeran
Something I’ve learned. Some Jumps put you in untenable positions. Sometimes they’re relatively freeform. Most of the time, if the world is to be saved, there’s a canonical hero to do the saving and all you can do is either help, hinder, or supplant that hero. Often, it’s not clear what you can do that might help, especially if the issue is complex. Buffy in her canon saved the world a few times, saved the day lots… but there were a lot of seasons and a lot of episodes and issues. Ranma… more issues, slightly more episodes… unless you toss in Angel. Still, you get the point. Lots of days to be saved.
I’d known this day was coming from the moment I was offered a second jump. The ultimate fanwank question. You have X thing not native to Middle-Earth… how do you dispose of the ring? I stared at the vending machine in horror as it scrolled the intro screen. The year leaped out at me. 3011. Seven years before a band of four hobbits leave the Shire. My mind flashed with all the myriad ways I could dispose of the ring and still have time for tea before the end of my first day. I took a step back, shaking my head.
I closed the shutters on the machine and walk back into the house in my ferret sneakers, Ziggy scampering around my feet. I sat at the breakfast table and consider. For the first time I ask myself… should I respect the setting? Should I let things play out as they will? Is there any good reason not to save countless lives by just dumping the ring into the volcano by the most expedient method possible? Are there any possible ways that such an attempt could potentially go wrong?
I was at a loss. It seemed so simple. But plans had seemed simple in the past. I had to consider this one carefully. And I did. I ran the numbers for days. And in the end… Nothing changed. So I went back to the machines, checking the numbers one last time for obsession’s sake. I spun the wheel of locations, got Gondor. Seems Optimal enough.
I didn’t even really bother with the other races. I knew going in I wanted Elf and I’d pay for it, [200/800/1000] cash on the barrelhead. That got me Elven Forestry (You are trained, not in the ways of hunting and gathering but in the mystical arts of the forest. You know how to find and use magical plants such as Athelas, and in times of great hardship can call upon the spirits of nature for aid.)… sounds pretty “ooo isn’t nature coool.” hippy dippy to me, but I do like the woods, so eh. Also nabs me Elven Grace as part of the package (You possess the famed grace and skill of the Elves of Middle Earth. Your movements are a bit more graceful, your music and bit more pleasing (I have music?), and your voice a bit more soothing. You are more effective in diplomacy, are gifted in artistic endeavors, and your dexterity and balance are improved.) and Lembas Bread rounds out the knife-eared freebees (A few dozen loaves of lembas bread are among your possessions. A few crumbs of this bread can keep a traveller fed for a day! You also know the recipe, and can make more so long as you can in some way imbue objects with magic.)
I snatch up Elven Enchantment… time to start making things pretty and elegant instead of cobbled together, right Victoria? (You can enchant objects, if you pour energy into them as they are created. Some of your enchantments are useful in battle, such as swords that never dull and bows that always strike true, but most are simply to ease the life of the wearer, such as cloaks that weigh nothing and aid in hiding and water-flasks that never leak. You may also perform great workings, such as the creation of hidden doorways, given time.) That costs me [250/550/1000] even through the discount.
I also snatch up the Human capstone “Blood of Kings”: (The blood of kings flows through your veins. Your leadership skills and charisma are off the charts; convincing total strangers to follow you into certain death is as easy as drinking a glass of water. Further, certain death isn’t all that certain when you’re in charge; you have a great mastery of tactics and strategy, and the blood of kings enhances your lifespan and retards your aging.) Ragyo and Satsuki may have been over the top glowy villains, but they showed me a whole ‘nother game when it came to Charisma. Get enough of it and you can fucking change the world. As long as you can avoid becoming a tyrant that is. Of course, Blood of Kings takes me to 1050, so I’m looking at Drawbacks, but that’s okay, right? Had it easy with the bruisers and the pervs last time. Let’s see Middle Earth can throw at us.
“Out of the Frying Pan” is the least of them. A pack of 9 Orcs and their wargs have picked up your train from wherever you started. You are in battle from the very moment you arrive. That’s it? Seriously? 9 orcs and 9 wargs? They don’t even respawn? Fine, you know what? I’ll take it. That brings me 50 into the black. And I snag “My Word is My Bond” for 200 Alex. “If you make a vow you shall keep it, unto the edge of death. If you swear to do something you must accomplish it, and cannot rest until it’s done.” Well, fuck, I try to live by that anyway. Gives me 250 total.
So I snag the human version of Forestry (You have experience out in the woods. Hunting, tracking, and trapping are second nature to you, and you can move quickly and quietly even over broken ground.), Horsemanship (An excellent horseman, you will never be thrown from the saddle. You can ride a trained mount even in battle with no trouble, and a horse you have bonded with can be ridden bareback and even in the most extreme situations. This blends with other skills; if you are an Archer, you can now fire a bow accurately at a gallop, and a Forester can take horses through the densest forests without them balking or leaving a trace.), and an Elven Horse (You have a horse bred and trained by the Elvish riders. Your horse is intelligent enough to understand most commands, and can follow you to later jumps without difficulty.), because why the hell not. I don’t need the basic magic of this setting… it’s just not very powerful. Subtle yes, powerful no.
That taps me out and, after warning my companions to be ready, I hit the jump button… and drop right into combat. An orc’s arrow thuds into me and falls to the ground harmless as my skin hardens to obsidian. Another glances of my head. I’ve been shot with machine guns and felt the bite of HF blades and LF blades and PSI powers slamming into me. I don’t even feel these stings. I draw my blade and flash step, crossing the distance between the nearest orc and I in the beat of a heart. “One,” I say, as calmly as a child counting stones.
I flip an ice grenade at a second. It catches Warg and Rider, lifting them off the ground and shattering them where they fall. “Two”. It becomes a mental exercise. How many ways can I kill an orc. I do not run out of ideas before I run out of orcs. The last one gapes at me as I hold his heart in the fist I’ve plunged through his chest. I feel the centuries of hatred this body, 220 years old, a veritable infant for the immortal Sindar, has inherited, but I feel… nothing. The black blood of the orc drips from his lips and he snarls at me in Sindarin.
“There will always be more of us.” he says.
“No, there won’t. Your time is coming to an end. The age of magic is coming to an end. And soon.” I crushed his heart, because he was an orc and there wasn’t any way to save him… or her… I’ve no idea. “Nine,” I commented to the silence of the Pelennor fields. My horse, “Fliagor” was grazing nearby, unphased by the brutality. I patted his neck. “Good boy.” I mounted up and rode for Isengard. I had seven years. No need to rush things.
Three nights later, I looked down at the corpse of Saruman the White. He didn’t look particularly like Christopher Lee, for which I was somewhat grateful. I closed his eyes. “In this timeline, old man, no one will ever learn of your treachery and the name Saruman will be remembered with honor.” It hadn’t been hard to kill him… then again, it hadn’t been hard for Grima to do it either. I swore an oath to find the worm and end him too before the tale was done, but that was for another day. I looked out at the pleasant fields of the Isen, enjoying the calm. It was a lovely night. I cremated the wizard, then took his staff and (carefully) so as not to touch or look at it, froze the Palantir of Orthanc in a block of ice half a meter on a side, dumped it into a warehouse freezer marked “Biohazard… touch and SJ will be very cross” then I warded it as well. I trust my companions, but I didn’t need Sauron getting into their heads, even for a moment.
And speaking of my companions, Joy and Ahab were waiting for me as I arrived in Bree. I looked down at them in all their hobbity goodness. “Soooo? Having fun?” They glanced at each other, then Joy smirked and Ahab chuckled. “It’s not bad. Lots of meals. The height takes some getting used to.”
“I imagined it would. You find the place okay?”
“Good, let’s do this.”
And we stole the Ring. Okay, the Hobbit Bosses stole the Ring. I flew the shuttle. Hobbits get Sneakiness and Mental Fortitude free. So I knew they’d be able to resist the Ring’s lure initially, but Joy was a woman who’d laid down her life to spare her country an incident and Ahab was a man who’d sacrificed his own identity for what he believed was right. I never doubted their will, their resolve… but I also had them load the Ring into a cargo pod the second they got it on board… a cargo pod that, once closed, could not be opened, not even by me… though they didn’t know that. I’d left Victoria and everyone else back in the warehouse, the warehouse locked in time. The Ring was treachery manifest and I wasn’t taking any chances.
A shuttle can make the trip from the Shire to Mount Doom in 20 minutes. I lowered the shuttle down the chimney of the volcano, carefully, butt down, the Hobbits strapped into crash webbing and anesthetized. I didn’t even glance back at the box. I could feel the siren’s song of that power reaching for me, but I knew where that path lay. I could rival Galadriel for cruelty, a dark queen… but I’ve never really wanted that.
I hit the switch and the pod ejected from the back of the shuttle, plunking lightly into the lava below. The pod had never been designed to survive in that heat… in fact that heat was its specific design fault. It vaporized, as I’d built it to do, as I flipped the shields to maximum, blasting upwards as the mountain ate the precious.
I landed back next to Weathertop and lit up some pipeweed as I waited for the others to wake up. I couldn’t feel any changes in the world yet, but maybe they’d come. Maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe Tolkien was wrong and the magic never goes away. I didn’t know. But I did know this. I could have let events unfold as they had. I could have let thousands or tens of thousands die so that the Fellowship could have their day of glory. Or I could just… let the Ring quietly die, unknown, unremarked.
I still had some cleanup to do. A giant spider to kill, a little spider on two legs but just as poisonous to eviscerate. Gandalf and Aragorn to find and all that… but the hard part was done. It had taken me 4 weeks. I had 9 years and 11 months in the often pleasant and charming Middle Earth. I’d said it was an easy fix.
Next: World 18 – Over the Sea and Under the Sea
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