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Three short pieces in which Eugenides wanders into the books of other authors and wreaks the expected havoc.
Warning: Here be spoilers for the plot of The Lord of the Rings.
A great dread fell on Frodo, as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken.
"Bring out the Ring, Frodo," said Gandalf again, and it seemed to all those present that the sky darkened and the very air around them seemed more fell.
It felt to Frodo as if a great weight had taken hold of his arm, and he felt the eyes of those around him like so many daggers in his flesh.
"The Ring," said Gandalf, like the statue of some ancient king, but yet living, and more mighty.
With hand like lead, Frodo reached into his pocket. He tried his other pocket, but there, too, his fingers encountered only emptiness, like the endless void that is at the end of all things. He tried the pocket of his breeches, and the safe place sewn into the lining of his coat.
He felt as light as air, and yet as cold and hollow as the deepest places of the world. "It's gone," he told Gandalf, and then he turned to Elrond and to the elves, so wise and yet so fair. "It's gone."
"Gone?" Gandalf's voice was quiet, and more chilling than any shout.
"Gone." Frodo turned to Strider, who sat so quietly in his hooded cloak in a patch of dappled shadow. "I had it at Weathertop. You saw it."
"Indeed." Strider stood up and pushed his hood back, and he, alone of all the company, smiled. "It was an easy thing to steal it when I lifted you onto the horse."
"Steal…" Frodo gasped, but Gandalf rose to his feet and pointed a trembling finger, as he intoned in solemn, furious voice, "You are not Aragorn, son of Arathorn."
"Apparently not." Strider shook his head apologetically. "It is a simple thing to forge a few genealogies, to send the real Aragorn off on a wild goose chase to the lands of the south, where the stars are strange, and to spend half a year tramping the roads around Bree until a certain party of hobbits should happen to come along."
"Where is the Ring?" Gandalf demanded, and Frodo felt his body cleave to his chair, so much power and command was in that question.
Strider shrugged, as if that power fell away from him like water on cold, hard iron. "Oh, I gave it to my Queen. She had it thrown into the sacred mountain." He sighed ruefully. "She does that with all my gifts."
Elrond gripped the arms of his chair. "The Ring is destroyed?"
"Weeks ago." Strider grinned. "The realm of Sauron has ended forever, and there was much rejoicing." He flapped his hand in a circle, implying a continuation of words.
"But…" Gandalf gaped. He collected himself; snapped his mouth shut. His hand tightened on nothing.
"All your solemn preparations for war?" Strider raised a mocking eyebrow. "The catering bill for this impressive Council? All for nothing, I'm afraid. The power of Mordor crumbled weeks ago." He appeared to notice Gandalf's tightening fist for the first time, but Frodo was suddenly certain that he had been aware of it all along. "By the way, if you're wanting your staff…" He shrugged apologetically. "Dedicated to my god, I'm afraid, as if that broken sword that the real Strider likes to carry around with him."
Gandalf made a strange, inarticulate sound, something akin to the croaking of a frog.
"While we cannot do anything other than rejoice at the fall of Sauron," said Elrond, clearly struggling to hold on to a dignity that had not wavered many thousand years, "many things were Written."
"Aragorn was supposed to lead armies and become king of all lands west of the sea," said Bilbo.
"It was supposed to be the swansong of the elves," said a strange elf, "before we went to the Undying Lands beyond the sea."
"I was supposed to die," Gandalf complained, "and come back more powerful than ever."
"And I was hoping," muttered Bilbo to Frodo, "to write a very long book about it, with escalating peril, a proper climax and an epilogue. We've barely got past the start."
"Suffering from a sense of anti-climax?" asked the false Strider. "You were screwing your courage up to go out on this epic but probably-doomed adventure, and I've pulled the rug out from under your feet. I can only apologise."
"You're not sorry at all," Frodo accused him. "You're enjoying this."
The false Strider nodded slightly, as if admitting it.
"Why," Gandalf demanded, "did you remain with Frodo and his party after the deed was done?"
"Because revelation scenes are such fun," said Strider, "although I would have preferred it with more gaping. The longer you prolong the pretence, the more gratifying the revelation becomes. Sometimes," he added, with a sigh that Frodo did not understand, "it is hard to bring yourself to stop the pretence at all. But now, gentlemen, I'm going home."
There was a long silence after he had left. The silence stretched on until the first stars appeared in the field of the night's sky above them, and all hearts there yearned for those stars, and felt the chill of the empty dark around them.
"We could go to Mordor, anyway?" suggested Gimli at last. "After all, the preparations are all made."
"I'm going home," said Boromir, and many there were that followed him out of the door, first in trickles, and then as numerous as the leaves on a small tree.
Elrond cleared his throat.
"Er…" said Gandalf, and then there was nothing but silence.
The King of the Hundred Acre Wood, by AA Milne
"Look, Pooh," said Piglet. "There's a Strange Animal in one of the Pine Trees."
"So there is," said Pooh, looking up.
"Is it a Jagular?" Piglet asked, hoping that it wasn't.
Pooh shook his head. "I believe," he said slowly, "that it is not a Strange Animal after all, but Tigger."
"But Tiggers Can't Climb Trees," said Piglet. He kept hold of Pooh's arm in case Pooh was feeling cold, for it was a Chilly and Blustery day.
"Hallo, Pooh. Hallo, Piglet," said Tigger from the top of the tree.
"But Tiggers Can't Climb Trees," said Piglet, in a strengthening sort of voice. "Tiggers are good for nothing but Bounces. Rabbit says that Tigger in worthless. Wol says that a Tigger is an Animal of Very Little Brain."
"Less than me?" said Pooh hopefully.
Piglet nodded. "Less than you."
Tigger looked down from the top of the tree. He was a Changed Tigger. He was a Different Tigger. He was a Tigger who Bounced, but he was a Tigger who could sit as sleek as a Jagular on a branch as thin as Christopher Robin's little finger.
"I thought that Tiggers Can't Climb Trees," Piglet called out bravely.
The Changed and Different Tigger shrugged ruefully, and balanced himself on one paw. Piglet gave the sort of squeak you give when you are a Small Animal faced with a great height. He hid his face in Pooh's fur in case Pooh was frightened.
Pooh nudged Piglet. "I think," Pooh whispered, "that this Tigger is actually a Very Clever Animal Indeed, but I could be wrong. I am a Bear of Very Little Brain myself."
Piglet looked up. Tigger was sleek and curled on the topmost branch, and his eyes were sparkling. "Rabbit will know what to do," Piglet whispered. "Wol knows about these things. Christopher Robin--"
Tigger flapped a lazy paw. "Christopher Robin has-- Oh," said Tigger with a smile, "here's Costis, right on time, sent to get me down."
"I think," whispered Piglet in the voice of someone who has suddenly remembered something Important, "that I have an urgent appointment at home, and--"
"Relax," said Tigger. "Costis is harmless. Except to me, that is," he added, pointing to the side of his mouth. "He's not a Strange Animal, though, so there's no need to beat the hasty retreat. I'll grant you that his tail is most intimidating, but despite appearances, he's actually one of Rabbit's friends-and-relations."
"Yours now, My King," said the friend-and-relation, cautiously climbing into the lower branches. "You're drunk. Come down."
"Life was easier," said Tigger emphatically, "when they let me Bounce all the time." He raised a glass vessel and waved it.
Pooh drew closer to Piglet. "Is that honey, do you think?"
"I don't think so," said Piglet.
Pooh sighed. "That's a shame. Things are always clearer with honey."
"You can still Bounce at times," said the friend-and-relation, his tail rippling expansively. "Come down, your Majesty."
Tigger stood up, but his paw slipped. Piglet gave the sort of squeak that you give when a gust of cold air has gone down the wrong way. Tigger dangled in thin air, his paws over nothing. "Go to bed," a clear voice said out of the empty air.
Piglet closed his eyes. "It's quite all right," said Pooh, squeezing his arm. "He's coming down now. He isn't a Squashed Tigger, but a Very Much Alive Tigger."
"Oh," said Eeyore, appearing suddenly behind them. "I thought he was doomed for a moment then. Merriment and whatnot. Shame."
Pooh rubbed his eyes. "I had some fluff in my eye. I thought I saw…" He rubbed his eyes again. "What that Christopher Robin? Did Christopher Robin stop you from falling?"
Tigger shook his head.
The day grew colder and colder. "It had to be Christopher Robin," Pooh said stoutly. "He is the answer to everything."
"About that…" Tigger cleared his throat, running his paw up and down the stripes of his furry forearm. "Christopher Robin's gone, I'm afraid. I gave myself six months to bring down his corrupt and autocratic rule. It took two." His smile made the day feel like winter. "Wol, too, the old fraud - hoarding knowledge and keeping you all in a state of ignorance, proud of your lack of intelligence and independent thought. Rabbit--"
Costis' impressive tail twitched.
"Costis?" Tigger's voice made Piglet think of cold, running water.
"Rabbit," said Costis, "can be won over. Spar with me tomorrow."
Tigger's smile broke over his face like sunlight over a winter river, but the ice was still there, too. Turning to Pooh and Piglet, he said quietly, "I have broken the power of your old masters, you see. From now on, things are going to be very different here. He smiled strangely, and looked down at his empty bottle, and he sighed.
"I think," said Pooh firmly, "that I have twelve bottles of honey at home, and I hear them calling very loudly indeed. Do you want to watch me eat them, Piglet."
"I would like that very much indeed," said Piglet, and they both turned and ran.
Then there entered into the hall the Holy Grail, covered with white samite, but none bore it. When it had been borne through the hall, then the holy vessel departed suddenly, that they wist not where it became.
And then Sir Gawain arose and said, "I will make here avow, that I will labour without cease until I have achieved the Sangrail, and I will never return to this court until I have seen it more openly than it hath been seen here."
"This too I avow," quoth Sir Lancelot, and every knight of the Table Round did also arise and avow that they would seek the Holy Grail and return not to Camelot until it was found, or until they lay dead in the ground.
But King Arthur waxed full with grief, and therewith the tears fell from his eyes. "Alas, Sir Gawain," quoth the king, "ye have bereft me the fairest fellowship that were ever seen together in any realm of the world; for when they depart from hence I am sure they shall never meet more in the world. The fellowship has ended, and the age of Arthur is fast hastening towards it end."
And then up spoke a young knight. Sharp of tongue was he, and oft overlooked, for oftentimes he hid his worth like the waning moon. "Er… My King," quoth he. "The Holy Grail? I have it here."
With that he revealed the Sangrail shining in lap, and all the fair fellowship fell to their knees in awe and reverence. But the young knight, who was yclept Sir Eugenides, did smile and shrug his shoulders and say, "It wasn't hard. I can steal anything."
Note: I shamelessly stole the idea for this from… well, from myself. A year or so ago, I wrote a Stargate Atlantis fanfic in which various characters wandered into five different novels and proceeded to ruin them utterly. (Or, rather, they managed to ruin four novels, but Douglas Adams got the better of them.) Malory and Milne appeared in that one, too. I also wrote a different story in which they broke Tolkien. But if I can't plagiarise myself, who can I plagiarise?
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