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Old 03-02-2006, 04:18 AM   #299
The Saucepan Man
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: A green and pleasant land
Posts: 8,467
The Saucepan Man has been trapped in the Barrow!
The Eye

And still the Ent stood motionless, its mouth open, as if to speak. But the no voice issued forth from it. Instead, it emitted a peculiar gurgling, rattling, wheezing sound.

“Behold! The Ent that was Rent but now fully Extent lives!” cried Yawanna in joy.

“Are you sure, babe?” enquired Manuël Santana. “It doesn’t, like, sound too hot to me.”

“Well, it is bound to experience some shock after all this time,” replied the Green Goddess. “It’s only …”

But as she spoke, the Ent began to shudder and convulse, and the strange sound originating from it grew in intensity. And, just as the noise reached a crescendo, an object the size and shape of a large cucumber, a putrid, glistening pinkish-greenish ochre in colour, emerged from the Ent’s mouth and dropped to the ground, where it lay writhing blindly.

“Ew! Gross!” exclaimed Prada.

“Dude!” cried Mantoes and Tickle-me Ulmo in concert, high-fiving. “Uber-gross, man! Way to reuninfy!”

“Er, is that supposed to happen?” asked Howlie.

But Yawanna did not answer. Instead, maniacal laughter filled the air as, at a point some twenty feet above the stricken Ent, a patch of thick black smog appeared and slowly resolved itself into a recognisable, albeit rather twisted, form.

“You!” uttered Yawanna in disbelief.

“Yes, me,” replied Môgul Bildûr. For it was he.

It is fair to say that defeat on the field of battle had not done the Dread Developer any favours, aesthetically speaking. No longer was he able to assume the drop-dead gorgeous form of a roguish rock star. Rather, his face was misshapen, his eyes dark and sunken and what skin he had left was ashen grey and peeling prodigiously from his skeletal form. He floated there in mid-air, as though seated upon an invisible throne, the mangy white furry - er - thing, Heslob, perched on his bony knee.

“You look awful,” said Yawanna, stating the obvious.

“It is of no concern,” cackled Môgul insanely. “My power is not diminished.”

“But you have lost!” declared Merisuwyniel defiantly. “The Ent has become whole. And according to the ancient tale, you should, by all rights, now be kissing goodbye to your soul.”

“Ah, yes. You refer of course to my little brother’s little rhyming curse. Not one of his best, it has to be said.”

“Hey, dude, cut me a bit of a slack,” muttered an abashed Mantoes. “I was just starting out on the doom pronouncing gig back in those days.”

“No matter. The pertinent point is that the Ent is not whole. For it is unable yet to live and breathe. There are a number of – ah – obstructions within …”

“What do you mean?” ventured Yawanna weakly.

And, of course, Môgul, being the super-villain that he was, could not resist the opportunity to explain his fiendishly cunning scheme.

“Mwahaha!” he gurgled, by way of introduction. “You know, when you are forced to spend some of your time in beetle form, you get to make all kinds of interesting acquaintances. May I introduce you to a friend of mine?"

The ground began to shake and a low rumble, deep within the earth, could be heard. Rather disappointingly for Môgul, no one seemed unduly perturbed by this, as it was a common occurrence when he was around. But what happened next was altogether more disconcerting. Gradually, a pair of enormous, chitinous legs broke the surface of the ground, in front of where the Ent stood. As the shiny black limbs pushed the soil aside, they were followed by a grotesque head bearing a pair of evil-looking mandibles. Then a thorax, followed by a great dark brown abdomen and two more pairs of spindly legs. Eventually, the vile creature had heaved herself out from her tunnel and squatted menacingly before them, regarding the assembled company through two large compound eyes, antennae twitching malevolently.

“Behold Exfoliant!” exclaimed Môgul triumphantly.

None knew whence she had originally come, but some have said that in pages long before she had descended from the vagueness that lay around and about this thread, when Melvin had first dwelt in idle contentment with his breth/sist-ren in Valleyum, and that she had taken rather a shine to him. But he had rejected her, and she had removed herself to the great forests of southern Valleyum. Deep in the gloom she had made her lair, and taken shape as a deathwatch beetle of monstrous form. There she had chewed up all the trees and bushes and plants that lay about her, until the forests were no more and she was famished. And so it was that Môgul had sought her out when first he had escaped from the void. And he had tempted her ravenous hunger with stories of the great woodlands of Muddled-Mirth, and so enlisted her aid in his efforts to destroy the Ent to which his fate was tied.

Môgul turned his attention the Entish Questors.

“My persistent friends, you may be surprised to learn that there is a traitor among you. One who has been travelling with you, but who is in fact an agent in my service.”

The companions stared from one to the other in disbelief - save for one, who was desperately wishing that he was somewhere else entirely, preferably a nice Hobbit hole in the Mire, with a plate of hot crumpets and a pipeful of Mireboro Light.

“Step forward, Windsor Gummidge!” commanded the Dread Developer.

“Who?” enquired the majority of the Gallowship in unison.

“Perhaps he is better known to you as Soregum,” the Dread Developer continued.

“Who?” they all said again.

“Small fellow, so high, bad teeth, enormous belly, smells.”

“Oh him.”

“Soregum, how could you?” said Pimpiowyn, addressing him in a voice which was to him as an arrow through his heart.

“I always knew that he was up to no good,” declared Vogonwë, self-righteously.

Soregum, meanwhile, had turned quite the brightest shade of red that even he had managed yet to achieve and stood, frozen to the spot, overburdened with shame and quite unable to speak.

“You will have noticed that he has quite a fondness for the Halfling leaf,” continued Môgul. “In fact, he cannot do without the foul stuff. So I took the precaution of keeping him fully supplied with stock from Moredough. And I believe that he has been using your charming wagon within which to store it. What a pity that the weed was contaminated with the spawn of my dear friend, Exfoliant. And, of course, when the grubs ran out of pipeweed to feed upon, they moved on to the Entish pieces. They do so love wood, you know.”

All stood dumbfounded, staring at the poor Hobbit, their eyes piercing him like sharp blades.

“And so the accursed Ent is riddled with the writhing spawn of Exfoliant. They lurk within it now, awaiting her command. Just one word from me, and the Ent will be no more.”

“Yawanna!” cried Merisu. “What can we do?”

“Nothing. He has won,” she said bleakly. Then, turning to Môgul, she continued,” Then why not give the word? What is it that you want from us?”

“Simple, my dear. All I require is kingship over the lands of Muddled-Mirth. Valleyum I am content to grant to you, my breth/sistren, as a fiefdom, subject to a suitable tribute payable annually. Oh and I almost forgot. Mantoes must, of course, renounce the doom which he pronounced upon me. If you give me your agreement on this, the Ent will be returned to you, hale and healthy. If you do not, he is maggot fodder.”

There was a moment of silence. And then Manuël Santana, King of the Velour, stepped forth with an air of determination.

“Sounds good to me, man,” he grinned. “I’d say we have a deal.”

“Yeah, it’d, like, avoid a lot of fuss and nastiness,” agreed Prada.

“Melvin’s right, dude. The curse stinks,” said T-M Ulmo to Mantoes.

“Dude!” said Mantoes, high-fiving T-M Ulmo. “That’s harsh, man. But fair. It was, like, pretty lame. I suppose I could cancel it.”

“And you would get to keep the Ent, dear,” ventured Howlie.

“Then we are agreed,” said the Dread Developer smugly.

Last edited by The Saucepan Man; 03-10-2006 at 07:50 PM.
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