There was a rather jarring knock, and I was pleased to see it was Belladonna, my good aunt. (If you are familiar with the Baggins chronicles, you might recall my bad aunt, Lobelia, who wears mithril next the skin and eats orc-children for breakfast. Fortunately, she was on a long cruise down the Anduin, and with any luck would be eaten by some sea monster from the First Age. Belladonna, a woman of quite astonishing physical dimensions, was no mean orc-huntress herself, but in a fashion that projected a fondness for strenuous activity rather than an implacable hatred of all living things, and her threats to maim me were rarely meant seriously and almost never carried out ) I hastened to welcome the Aged Relative.
“Pip, pip, A.R,”, I said. “What brings you to my humble abode this fine day?”. In reality, it’s not all that humble, being a double barrow in one of the better sections of Hobbiton, but lese majeste and all that.
“I need you to sneer at a ring”.
“Are you feeling all right, Old Thing?” I asked with a concerned eye. Both eyes, to be perfectly accurate. “It sounded like you wanted me to cast disdain at an inanimate, if that’s the word I’m looking for, object.”
She sighed, a fairly majestic operation, and looked about for a blunt instrument of some sort. Knowing her of old, I had carefully steered us into a room containing nothing more deadly than the odd throw pillow. Her eye, lighting on one and calculating the ratio of energy expended propelling it to damage inflicted, resigned itself to further explanation.
“Otho, as will no doubt have escaped the sieve that is your pea-sized brain, is a collector of Eregionish rings. He is going to look at one today in Gandalf’s shop, and I especially wish him to get it for a good price. Thus I need you to go there right away and insult it. Tell Gandalf it’s Mordoran. Apparently that’s a bad thing for a ring to be.”
Now I had the plot. Aunt Belladonna published a quarterly about interior decoration called Milady’s Hole, to which I once contributed a piece about what the well-fed hobbit is frying bacon in. Unfortunately, the rag had never found the success it deserved, and about once a year it become necessary for her to ask Uncle Otho for funds to keep it afloat. That time was clearly approaching.
“Never fear, Old Thing, your Frodo is on the case. Sam!” I bellowed, thinking some advice from the Faithful Retainer would not be amiss. “Rally ‘round! Milady’s Hole is in want. ”
I had evidently interrupted some deep train of thought, as Sam’s worried expression bore no resemblance to his usual imperturbable (that’s the right one; I looked it up) gravity.
“Aunt Belladonna’s magazine. We need to rescue it. Now, what’s the best way to sneer at a ring?”
Sam began to look calmer, if no less puzzled, and Aunt Belladonna, visibly restraining herself from some mayhem upon my person, filled him in.
“Yes, madam. I think “Mordoran” is indeed the mot juste for disparaging this particular item.”
Given the still purple hue of Aunt Belladonna’s countenance, asking for further clarification seemed unwise, but Sam’s tone strongly implied that he was agreeing with her. “Mordoran” it was.
“Very well, Sam. Lay out my best sneering clothes, and we’ll be off.”