‘In any case a message did come to our king, Von Dain, about a year ago… but not from Musicia. From Mordorator came a horseman in the night, who called Von Dain to the city gate. “Lord Scottron wishes for your friendship. Rings he possesses such as he once gave your forbearers, and they may be yours again. Of what kind are hobbits, and where do they dwell? Scottron knows that not so long ago one of them was known to you. As a small token of your friendship, Scottron asks only that you find this hobbit thief who stole a ring, the least of rings, from the Lord. Deliver the thief or the ring, and you will receive three rings of power in return. If not that, then any news you could bring of hobbits and their location would be met with great reward and alliance from Mordorator. Refuse, and things will not seem so well. What is your answer?”
‘At that his breath came like the hiss of a Clinton, and all who stood by shuddered. Von Dain said, “I have no answer. I am a grumpy ass dwarf who hates 95% of the people he meets, and you are setting off my bastard-alarm. Be gone for now! I will consider this message and its meaning in due time.”
‘ “Consider well, but not too long,” said he with another hiss.
‘ “You’re trying way too hard now,” answer Von Dain, and the rider then left. Troubled have our people been. Twice more the messenger returned and left unanswered, but we fear now war upon our borders. Hosts of wildmen have gathered to our east. Von Dain sent me to warn Hallo and to seek counsel from Elr’oats. What does Scottron desire from Hallo’s ring, the least of rings?’
‘You were wise to come, Masteroin. Illiterate and fat, but wise,’ said Elr’oats kindly. ‘You do not stand alone, as this trouble is but part of a turmoil that affects all the western world. What shall we do with this supposed “trifle” that Scottron fancies. “The least of rings” indeed. All of you have come to deem the doom of this ring whether you knew it or not. It is not by chance that all came here unbidden in the nick of time. The tale of this ring shall now be told, starting with me, though others shall finish.’
Then all listened to Elr’oats as he spoke of Scottron of the Ring of Administrative Power. How Scottron at first had a fair appearance and ensnared Men and Dwarves with rings while forging in secret the Ruling Ring to be their master. The Canadelves discovered first the treachery and hid away their three rings, which the Lord of Mordorator had not touched. The tale stretched on of war with the Enemy, full of deeds great and terrible. He spoke of the Kings of Men returning from the sea. Melton the Tall with his mighty son Issueldor. The Alliance of Men and Canadelves.
‘I was the herald of King Saf-ado. The banners waved in splendor those days among the many great princes, captains, and stone masons. I beheld the death of Saf-ado and Melton on the slopes of Mount Douche. The blade of Melton’s great sword Norinco broke, and it was then that Issueldor took up his father’s hilt-shard and struck out, cleaving the fingers of Scottron and taking the Ring as his own.’
‘If Scottron hadn’t been thugging around with dark orcs in that black land, he would still be alive today. No doubt though, he would have had to pawn the Ring at some point to help pay for the spinners on his fellbeasts,’ Liquidomir chimed in.
Elr’oats glanced sidelong at Liquidomir for but a moment before continuing, ‘Racist conjecture is great and all, but I will finish now uninterrupted. Issueldor took it, as should not have been. After the war was won, he rode forth to Debador and swore oaths to build the towers of Minas Ictirith higher and the defenses stronger. The people heaped upon him their treasures, but now his mind bent only to the Ring’s power. He marched North to the lands of his own lordship, leaving behind few to tend to Debador. The Ring in time betrayed him to death… which perhaps was better than what else might have befallen him. And so the Ring was lost for many lifetimes of Men and fell from memory.
‘Scottron was diminished, not destroyed. The Ring lost but not unmade. The Canadelves decrease while the line of Kings of Men eroded, mixing with lesser men. But now in these later days, peril comes once more. The Ring has been found,’ Elr’oats finished and turned slowly to meet the eyes of all before him.
Liquidomir stood at once, tall and proud. ‘Give me leave to speak next, Elr’oats,’ he said, ‘to explain more of Debador from wert I come. The blood of Kings is not fully spent. By the valour of my people are wild and dark-skinned folk kept at bay. By OUR strength is the terror of Mordorator restrained behind the Black Gates of the Black Lands. Yet the hour of Debador’s defeat is perhaps now not far. The Black Land grows and our holdings dwindle ever…’
Ham whispered quickly to Neo, ‘This guy is super racist, right? I mean, my old Strider used to say, “Two blacks don’t make a right,” but Mr. Liquidomir is surely on another level.’
‘…and yesteryear we were driven away our river port by an army led by a great black rider, like a dark shadow under a white moon. Fear fell on our boldest, and our forces fled, tearing down the port’s bridges behind them. Still do shadows walk the ruins of that once bright place. Only from Showhan now do we receive aid, thanks to the kinship of King Jonatheodas’ blonde-haired, blue-eyed riders.
‘And so it is that I come seeking the lore-masters of Jungledell at the behest of Lord Wynydor, the Steward of Debador,’ Liquidomir said in ending and sat again.
‘And here in the Council more shall be made clear to you,’ said Skelagorn. He rose and cast upon the center table his sword with a blade in pieces. ‘Here is the sword that was broken! Here are the shards of Norinco!’
‘Who is this black guy, and what does he have to do with Minas Ictirith?’ asked a bewildered Liquidomir.
‘He is Skelagorn, and he is descended through many fathers from Issueldor,’ Elr’oats said with authority.