The Larry of the Rings -- Episode 2 - Back to Middle-earth. Wait . . . back? It's time for Nienna to face the Music and Many Meetings.
Back to Middle-earth. Wait . . . back? It's time for Nienna to face the Music and Many Meetings.
Nienna was the last one to awaken. Peering up into the blinding sun through a headache that would make even a [female] Uruk groan in agony, she groaned in agony. Drat. Redundancy. Bad form, Nienna! So instead of groaning in agony, Nienna studied her surroundings. They were horribly bright. A bird began to sing. Ugh. Horribly bright and overly-poetic. Ahem:
Delicate sunlight descended gently, flowing fondly through the baby-blue sky, rays a nurturing shower of love caressing the earth Far above, a single bird floated on the sweetness of the soft air, tender sunbeams, and fresh, intoxicating scents of flowers shyly unfolding their petals to bask in the sun's glowing affection, so freely given. Enchanted by this perfect harmony of soil and sky, freedom, poetics, redundancy and beauty, Nienna sighed lightly, reveling in the frail, whispering grass, verdant and young, as she nestled into it. Joyfully acquiescing, it formed a lovely bed for her round body. Hold it . . . round body??
"We're in Middle-earth!" someone exclaimed gleefully, but Nienna didn't seem to hear it. Round body. Round red body. Small, round red body with no hair and a smell Nienna didn't particularly like. Small, round, squishy red body with no hair, a nasty smell, no hands, no legs . . .
"Oh, no," Nienna prayed. "Please don't let this happen, God. Not . . . not . . . I mean, I love Veggie Tales . . . I just didn't expect . . . oh, please no . . ."
It was too late. What was done, was done. Nienna, sensible as they come, well built but slender, a little too sane for her TLOTR obsession, was a vegetable. A tomato, to be precise. "Nooooo . . .!"
"We're in Middle-earth, Rivendell to be ex-act, we're in Middle-earth - c'mon, Ainariel, sing with me! We're in Middle-earth . . ."
Rivendell? Seriously? Eager to see, Nienna shook her head - well, now almost her whole body - and stood up. Kind of. Actually, she looked almost exactly as she had when she had been sitting, only taller. Vague memories of "this is sitting, this is standing," flitted through her mind, but the line didn't seem so funny now. Maybe Lily and Ainariel could help sort her out. They sounded like their regular selves (not that that was much comfort). Anything was possible. Right. Hmmmm . . . how was she to turn around? Wait, what about what Larry had said in his work-out video - "squeeze, and jump!" Oh, joy. She was going to take instructions from Larry. Still . . . it was worth a try. Hunkering down in what she hoped was a squeeze, she leaped up, bouncing into the air and plummeting down in . . . exactly the same position. Great. Well, it was kind of fun . . . No! Nienna wouldn't let herself think so optimistically. There was too much wrong with the world without that happening. In any case, it wouldn't hurt to just try and turn around regularly. Seeing as Bob did it all the time, it had to be possible. Shift . . .lean . . aha! Take that, you sqeeze-a-holics!
Twisting around, she gasped. Emerald swathes of land lay ahead, leading up to the most picturesque and lovely sight of all - The Last Homely House. True, she couldn't be sure of its identity, but the beauty, the isolation, and, above all, the feeling of rest and welcome it exuded - even from relatively far away - convinced her. Then her gaze lowered, and was confronted by the sight of an asparagus and a cucumber hopping around in the pure exuberance of a Tolkien fan who's been transported to Middle-earth. All feelings of relaxation vanished. So she wasn't the only one. Not only that, but judging by the way the two of them were springing about as if everything were normal, they appeared oblivious to their condition. "Um . . ." Nienna began.
"I know! I know!" Lily exclaimed in her unquenchable gaiety. "Let's sing the [L url=http://www.ultimateveggie.com/sounds/mp3SongoftheCebu.mp3]Song of the Cebú![/L]"
"Okay, okay - you start!" Ainariel answered. "I can never remember all the words." Nienna rolled her eyes in her uniquely long-suffering manner. Why did they have to sing? And why was there now a trans-realital link to the actual "Ultimate Veggie" site magically shimmering in the air? Sheesh.
"Cebú! This is a song about a little boy . . . a song about a little boy and his Cebús . . . a song about a little boy and his three Cebús . . . and also a hippo . . ."
Slowly growing louder, a music enveloped the three vegetables, as Lily the Cucumber and Ainariel Asparagus sang the Song of the Cebú. "Of course," Nienna muttered to herself. "I get to be a tomato of all things - at least they're green. And - hey, where's that music coming from?"
Peering around with malignant inquisitiveness, she searched for the source of the music. Well, it was obvious - everywhere. "I'm going to kill that old man when we get back. A lesson indeed! I mean, Rivendell is great . . . but as a vegetable? Why even send us here? This is ridiculous! I mean, unless all that quantum stuff was true . . . but really, it's dangerous! And why can't you shut up?" Nienna suddenly shouted at Lily and Ainariel. "I have a headache. Ibuprofen, do either of you have Ibuprofen?"
"Nope! Sorry!" Lily shot back, then engaged herself once more in the song, finishing it. "Oh, wait, that's a water buffalo. Ainariel! Nienna!! I did it! I did it! I finally sang the Song of the Cebú right! I mean, my voice was absolutely perfect! I can never get my Larry imitation to work, and that was perfect without me even trying! This is great! Did you hear the music? I mean, wow . . ." Lily drifted off, finally noticing Nienna, who was scowling in a way only made possible by the serious and possibly explosive situation of being a tomato in Middle Earth with no Ibuprofen soothe her. Nienna liked Ibuprofen. It was the cure for everything.
"Lily, Ainariel, stop! Are you listening to me? Lily? Lily!! Ainariel!! Are you insane? Have you looked around you?? We're in Middle-earth!" Didn't they realize the danger of what was going on? Oh, sure, Nienna had always wanted to visit M.E. . . . but as a vegetable? No!
"Yeah, isn't it awesome?"
"No! It's deadly! Don't you pay any attention? I know this is Rivendell, but there could be orcs, or Nazgûl, or . . . or, I don't know! We could die! This isn't some fun-and games, let's-just-mess-up-the-canon Mary-Sue! This is real!"
"Oh come off it, Nienna," said Lily cheerfully. Nienna started. Was it just her, or was Lily's voice higher? There was definitely a nasal tone to it, too. "What do you expect? That some wraith is just going to walk into Rivendell to hurt us? `Hi, I'm a Nazgûl, and I'm here to kill you.' Really . . ."
Lily and Ainariel laughed. "We could join the Fellowship," Ainariel suggested, her eyes brightened, excited at the chance.
"What??" Nienna screeched. "You are crazy! That is the Mary-Suedom of all Mary-Sues! Join the Fellowship?! What makes you even think that they're here right now, ready to leave? Oh, so this just happens to be the right time, age, week, whatever! I mean . . . and . . . and . . ."
"Nienna, it's okay. I'll protect you!" said Lily.
"Protect -" Nienna started furiously, but was interrupted by Ainariel.
"Yeah, don't spaz about it. It's going to be okay. Maybe even fun," she added.
"We're vegetables in case you hadn't noticed," said Nienna, squeezing her eyes shut, unnaturally calm after her spurt of indignation. "I am a tomato. I am big and red. That's like the whole `shoot here, I'm a really obvious two foot target thing.' And you're like twice my height!" she slowly looked up, a low fire burning in her black eyes. "You two don't even care that we are going to die! Probably. You're a cucumber, Lily, in case you haven't noticed."
Lily glanced down to break her contact with Nienna's intense gaze and a slight: "Oh. I thought everything looked bigger because I was a hobbit," was heard. Still, she wasn't fazed for long, and her smile reappeared. Who cared what she was as long as she was in Middle-earth? Ainariel had apparently come to the same conclusion, and was about to speak when Nienna continued in a low voice.
"And Ainariel is an asparagus. But look at me," Nienna's voice was no longer devoid of emotion, but laden with a sudden sarcasm. "Aren't I beautiful?"
"Oh, stop complaining," Ainariel said, hopping forward. "Who cares? This is Middle-earth! Land of the . . . um . . . of the people who live in Middle-earth! The hobbits . . . and . . . people . . . elves, and dwarves, and everything!"
"Yes, that's my point! Orcs! Wraiths! Balrogs! It's dangerous here! And we are vegetables. I just can't stop thinking about that salad I ate last night . . . this is a nightmare! Why couldn't I have been something awesome and powerful! I wish I were home; I wish I were home; I wish I were home! Click, click . . . ohhhhh!!" She opened one eye, secretly expectant of Lily catching the quote. It wasn't that Nienna really wanted to be home, exactly. This felt like where she belonged (she was, after all, a Tolkien freak) but as a tomato? Panic . . .
Lily waited politely until Nienna was done ranting. "You don't have to be so low about it," she told the tomato helpfully. "I mean, you still are - what did you say? - two feet tall. And I'm like four. Oh, but good `Rack Shack and Benny' quote. Hee hee. Auntie Em, Auntie Em!" Ha! she got it!
"Anyway," said Ainariel kindly. "We all like Veggie Tales, right? I mean, this isn't so bad. That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
"Or just makes you really, really sick," added Lily brightly.
"Aaahhhhhhhhooooooooooooo!" Not surprisingly, Nienna was not comforted - on the contrary, howling like a wolf was apparently the only way of expressing her feelings. She was odd like that sometimes.
"You know the difference between you and me?" Lily asked. Another opportunity to quote had popped up, and she knew to never let one skid by. Who knew when it would appear again? (Besides the next time someone spoke.) "You see Rivendell as half-empty, but I see Rivendell as half-full."
"What? I don't know what that's supposed to mean."
"Neither do I."
"You know," said Ainariel slowly, thinking out loud. "It could be a lot worse."
"But not much better!" Lily exclaimed. She did stop to consider Ainariel's words for a moment, then: "I mean, unless suddenly a -"
"No! Don't say that!" Nienna burst out in warning. "If you say that, it'll come true!"
Lily smiled mischievously. "You know, Nienna, it could be a lot worse . . ."
"Lily, Nienna, look!" Ainariel interrupted, attempting to point into the trees. It was then that she found out: "Hey, I don't have hands! How am I supposed to point? Well, uh, look that way . . . no, no . . . THAT way." She kept having to nod her head vigorously and roll her eyes in the direction she wanted them to see, which got rather tiresome after a while. Nienna, who had figured it out after the first couple times, sighed. Ainariel stopped. "But in the bushes, there's someone coming. He's green, and -"
"Archibald? Jonah?" Nienna gasped suddenly recognizing the asparagus with veggie-sight. Finally someone [semi] sane! Yes! She couldn't help herself from grinning widely, even though she felt obliged to mutter in response to Lily's side-long look: "Okay, so maybe something worse won't always happen."
"Somebody just said your line, Traveling Buddy!" came a voice from behind Archibald. "The one you said in the belly of the whale."
"This is really not the time, Carlyle. And I would rather not talk about that."
And then he noticed the three girls - two ecstatic, the third craning her, um, lack of neck to get a better view of someone whose rockers were not permanently off-balance. Standing four-and-a-half feet tall, Archibald Asparagus was one of the most handsome vegetables in existence.
"Hey, Ainariel, why isn't he wearing his red bow tie?" Lily whispered.
"I don't know. Maybe he got cold and decided to put on the Jonah robes. I wouldn't want to run around wearing just a bow-tie either."
"Shhh," Nienna hissed. Yes, it was definitely Archibald. The monocle gave him away. Straightening up, and desperately attempting to not look like a large, scarlet tomato (which was hard,) Nienna watched eagerly as he approached, a slightly bemused expression on his face.
"Oh, my," he inquired politely. His British accent didn't ring melodiously through the fair land of Rivendell, but it was nice all the same, especially to accent addicts such as the trio. "Who are you?"
"Um, um . . ." For one of the first times in her life that didn't include either sleeping or eating, Nienna's comebacks were in short supply. (Meaning she had the current verbal abilities of a sick, sad, mute, and possibly dead wombat.)
Ainariel took over, saving Nienna from unnecessary stuttering. "I'm Ainariel, and these are my friends, Nienna and Lily. We know who you are - Archibald Asparagus. Nice Jonah outfit."
"Hi, ah, Mr. Asparagus sir," said Lily with surprising shyness. "How are you this . . . fine day," she asked tentatively, blushing a darker shade of green.
"Well, ah, thank you. However, I seem to be at a loss of our present location." Archibald asked, looking a little overwhelmed. Nienna supposed he wasn't very used to female vegetables who somehow knew his name acting so strangely around him. "I was sent here to deliver a message to the -" he checked a scroll to make sure - "`orcs,' the real Jonah being dead and all."
"Oh, good," Nienna muttered happily. "He is sane." In a louder voice, she added, "We are in Middle-earth, in a place called Rivendell. I can tell you about it if you like."
"Yes, thank you," Archibald answered politely.
"Okay," chirped Lily. Then: "You guys go ahead, we'll catch up!"
"Lily," Ainariel said patiently. "You don't have to sing."
"But it's a -"
"It is the beautiful young asparagus!" Khalil burst in, finally popping from where he had be stuck in Archibald's scrolls in all his caterpillar glory. Well, that is not exactly accurate: his mother was a caterpillar, his father was a worm. He had a weird family. Deep, but weird. "It is your beautiful young asparagus from Nineveh! She has come!"
"Um, no," Archibald began.
"Even though you broke her heart when you told the people in Tarshish about the camel thieves, she still loves you! Ah, true love! Matchmaking runs very deep in my family." Ainariel groaned and looked at Archibald for help on how to deal with the little blue worm . . . caterpillar . . . thing.
"I would advise you ignore him," Archibald told her. "Now what was this about Middle-earth?"
"Middle-earth! Isn't it great? I always knew we'd get here someday!" Lily burst out. "Now I can finally visit the Shire, and see - actually see Tookland!" For a moment she appeared lost in joy. Noticing Archibald's curious look, she found herself so she could enlighten him: "The Shire. Home to hobbits. Hoybtla. Pheriannath. Or, as Treebeard said, `And, hungry as hunters, the hobbit children, the laughing folk, the little people.' They're the best race in Middle-earth by far! Always kind, always friendly, short (and shortness is virtue, you know). The orcs found that out in the Battle of the Greenfields, in 1147 Shire Reckoning, when . . ."
"Lily, I think Nienna was trying to say something," Ainariel told Lily, stopping her in mid-sentence, while glancing again over to a not-so-happy-to-be-interrupted-when-she-was-speaking-to-her-favorite-asparagus-from-VeggieTales Nienna.
"Yes, yes, now -"
Suddenly Nienna had a plan to keep Lily away from her conversation with Archibald. It wasn't the nicest plan, but it was tricky, and she liked it. "It's Lily's fault . . ." she began quietly, just so Lily could hear it.
"It's Lily's fault?" she asked. Then, from all around them, music started up. "Oh!" Lily exclaimed at the same time Ainariel said "That works."
"Figures the sound pops up when she sings," Nienna muttered.
"What works?" Archibald asked, getting his answer from Lily, however indirectly.
Grinning from green-lack of ear to nose and back again, Lily began hopping about. "It's Lily's fault, she broke the plate, I couldn't stop her," she began to sing for no apparent reason save that there was music. Nienna thought it might have been a disease. The sound swelled, despite the fact that there was no evidence of shattered flatware in the area. Ainariel, after wondering for a moment if she could be doing something more useful, joined in. "She said she had to demonstrate her apple chopper." Unfortunately, Ainariel's hopes of drowning out Khalil were fruitless, as he was now crying:
"You knew all along the beautiful young asparagus from Nineveh would be here! What is her name?"
"Rivendell is the home of elves," Nienna told Archibald. "It's lovely here - but I have a bad felling about this. You see, we could be in any time or place in the history of Middle-earth - and not all eras in this place are peaceful."
"What are you saying?" Archibald called over the racket - meaning the combined singing, dancing, and exclaiming of Lily, Ainariel, and Khalil. "I can't hear you!"
"The apple-chopper worked just great, but chopped right through your bowling plate! Come and sing with us, Nienna!"
"And you too, Archibald," Ainariel added a second later.
"Um, no thank you," he responded, rather more politely than Nienna would have.
"Could you please walk - hop - over here a little way with me?" Nienna requested. "I'll explain once we can hear. It should be quieter."
"No, no, no, let's do it this way! The apple chopper worked just fine, it ate the plate in double-time . . ." Lily and Ainariel had begun to do the veggie version of the Jitterbug (quite a feat, considering Nienna had just learned to successfully hop without tripping over. And she was normally the one with good balance, too.)
"She has forgiven you! This is wonderful! Forgiveness runs very deep in my family." Khalil seemed perfectly exuberant. Finally, one of his `predictions' had come `true.' He was getting more dramatic by the second. "My mother always forgave my father, you know. And my grandfather, now he . . ."
"Dude, I'm not part of your family!" cried Ainariel, at last, whirling to face Khalil. "Could you chill? I'm not his beautiful, young asparagus! I - I'm . . ."
"A fork? No, that's not right," came a drift of part of Nienna's and Archibald's `conversation.' "What? Oh . . ."
"It's Lily's fault she broke the plate, it's true! And that's the tale I have to tell to you!"
"Can you hear me now?" Nienna asked Archibald tentatively, suddenly feeling shy of this strange asparagus. After all, what if he wasn't . . . well, in any case, he nodded. "Right. Okay, I'm not sure how to explain this - but what are you supped to do?"
"No more than you already know," Archibald answered. "He wants me to bring a message to the orcs - a standard `Turn and Repent.' Why?"
"Well, as I said, we are in a place called Middle-earth, in Rivendell, to be exact." Lily beamed at being accidentally quoted. "Now M.E - That's Middle-earth - was created by a man named J.R.R. Tolkien. Rivendell, luckily, is one of the safest places we could land - but it is nowhere near the orcs. Elves live here."
"Well perhaps they would be willing to give me instructions," Archibald said.
"No! I shall guess her name, you do not need to tell me!" Khalil leapt down from Archibald's scrolls, then added, almost as an afterthought, "Names run very deep in my family."
"Stop, okay?" You're getting on my nerves." Ainariel was talking in vain now; Khalil wasn't listening. As usual. And she was still too close to block his voice out.
"Please, Carlyle," Archibald moaned. "Go and speak to her if you want to know."
"Now, let's see - not Zelk or Busa or anything like that. It must be beautiful, for she is a beautiful young asparagus!" Khalil didn't seem to feel hindered by this unnecessary reiteration of previously stated comments, and continued to emit a steady stream of sound. Apparently he hadn't been this excited about anything since the Old Testament.
"Anyway," Nienna said, finally tearing her eyes away from Khalil's annoying - yet strangely fascinating - spectacle "I'll try and give you a synopsis of what I know, but it might take a while even so. And I don't think the others can keep themselves occupied in a - in a safe manner for much longer. We have to hurry."
"It is Pariwash! Her name is `Beautiful!' Why didn't I see it before?" Khalil clapped his tiny hands together in glee. "Oh what a goose I am!"
"No! Gosh! No! It's not `Pariwash' or whatever you said! It's Ainariel! Ainariel! For goodness sake!"
"Poor Ainariel," Nienna mused, before turning her attention back to Archibald once more, and smiling brightly up at him. "Okay now about Middle-earth . . .uh, oh, too late (ha, ha)."
"Hey, Archibald," Lily asked, hopping up to him and leaving poor Ainariel to deal with Khalil by herself. She wanted to say something useful, but couldn't seem to think of anything. It was time to pull out the joke for every situation. "So . . . why did the peanut eat the other peanut?" she asked quickly.
"I don't know. Why did the peanut eat the other peanut?" Archibald queried innocently. A suddenly protectiveness of this strange (well, no, not strange, not really) asparagus flooded Nienna, and she abruptly felt that she could not let the cucumber by her side answer that seemingly innocuous question. Using all her skill and long-honed habit, Nienna attempted to kick Lily. It may have worked slightly better if Nienna had had legs.
As it was, the tomato promptly fell over. On a downhill slope. She didn't even have time to say the well known "Oh, dear . . ."You see, while the attempt to silence Lily had been accomplished . . .
"Why is the big tomato rolling away from us? Have you scared her? Khalil asked from beside Ainariel. "Are you going to save her like you saved the beautiful young asparagus from Ninevah?" Ainariel groaned. So he hadn't forgotten her.
"Excuse me, but he did not - "
"See?" said Khalil triumphantly, "You can no longer even deny it was you!"
"Hello? Someone? Aaah!" Nienna cried, hitting a tree root and abruptly stopping. "Oh, yeah, that hurt. Thanks so much, Lily."
"Hey, it wasn't my fault!"
"It's Lily's fault . . ."Ainariel muttered under her breath, getting combined stared from the others. "Oh, I get it. It's not funny when I say it." But instead of the music from "Lily's fault" starting in the background, a very different song began . . .
"Ann needs a hero!" Lily declared, standing erectly and posing in front of . . . well, the non-existent camera. "I . . . am . . . that . . . hero!"
Nienna started. "What did you just call me?"
"Don't worry, citizen. Lily-girl shall save the day!" and to the astonished disbelief of the others (save, perhaps, the all-knowing background music), shining metal began to materialize around Lily's head - a gleaming amber helmet that fitted snugly over her eyes and featured a bold crest at the top that petered out as it descended. From the sides of this enviably fashionable headgear gravely sprouted a pair of rubbery pink plunger ears - invaluable tools with which our heroine could seize the enemy (if enemy there be that dared to face her). A cerulean dress was next, garbing Lily-girl in highest hobbit fashion (in the event that hobbits developed a taste for spandex). Now attired in the strangest mishmash of apparel any of the crew (save Archibald's inner alter ego Alfred) had ever seen, she announced boldly: "Fear not! I'm coming, though it be where no cucumber has gone before!" And with that, she hopped forward, followed by a curious, but cautious, Ainariel, Archibald, and Khalil. After all, if Lily really was crazy, they wanted to be as far back as possible.
No such luck for Nienna, who was starting to look a little odd herself. Not so much as Lily, but the tomato seemed more and more the victim to be rescued. Perhaps it was the intimidating effect of the music. She obviously still had her mind, though, as she cried out: "Wow, Lily, um, no. Stay back! Archibald, Ainariel, could you help me?" the tomato looked desperately to the others. Not to Khalil, though. She was in enough trouble. "No, wait, I've got it," Nienna said in relief hoisting herself upright, and looking so much like her typical self that the others wondered if she had every seemed strange to them. She quickly ducked just in time to avoid:
"Plunger-ears to the rescue!" Leaping into the air, Lily shot out one of the plungers, which barely missed Nienna, and attached itself, along with Lily, to a tree. "Hey! But . . . wait . . . don't you need saving, Ann? Don't worry . . . nothing can defeat . . ." Already, with no apparent need to exist, her new-found outfit was melting back into nothingness, depositing her back on the ground with a thump. Blinking, Lily, now normal once again, looked up in confusion. "Um, why am I lying in the dirt? And why are you so beat up, Nienna? You look like you just tumbled down a hill. You didn't fall, did you?"
Nienna just glared.
Um, here are some bloopers for the enjoyment of y'all!
1. "I'm a tomato, I'm big and read."
2. "She said she had to demonstrate her apple hopper." Unfortunately, Ainariel's hopes of drowning out Khalil were fruitless, as he was not crying:
3. Already, with no apparent need to exist, her new-found outfit was melting back into nothingness, depositing her back on the ground with a thumb.
4. Nienna didn't sem to here it.
5. "Someone just said your line, Traveling Buddy! The one you ate in the belly of the whale!"
Thanks to all you readers who stuck out the long wait between parts! I only wish I could say they'll come out faster now, but, you see, for the last week before we submitted this, I, for one, worked on it about an hour a day - and sometimes up to four hours. It's a big job writing with three authors. But please do comment and tell us how well we're doing. Suggestions for improvement are welcome.
~Ann T. Tomato
Lily's Note: Yes, a big lack o'hand for Ann and Ainariel! While they were virtuously writing, I did my homework! Don't worry - I'm not a complete leech: I did write quite a bit, and am currently on Ann's list of FE (Favorite Editors). Or at least I better be, after all those hours of nitpicking and changing lines/scenery/etc. *Stares pointedly in Ann's direction*. As for them coming out, the process probably can't be speeded up. It really is a lot of arduous (but exceedingly fun) labor to compose a part, and with the teachers becoming more assignment-obsessed by the minute, please don't expect these to come shooting out of the blender like high-voltage sacks of Almond Joys. We try. Honest. Because you're worth it, too!
Oh, and Nienna? My comment is longer than yours. Neener. . I feel so loved.