Disclaimer: I don't own Calvin and Hobbes or the Lord of the Rings.

Chapter 19: Night of the Flaming Palantir!

The war with Eowyn turned out to be short-lived. For one thing, she didn't understand some of Calvin's pranks (making her sing in front of everyone, for example), which made her less likely to run off crying like Susie. Then, when she did, ("Hungry, Eowyn?"- which was the start of him flinging all sorts of food at her), she made sure that Calvin quickly saw the error of his ways.

"I can't believe she lured me into the armory so easily," groaned Calvin.

"Me neither," said Hobbes, who was standing over his fallen friend. "You flung mashed potatoes on her, and you seriously thought she was going into the kitchen to get you an extra slice of pie?"

"Throwing food makes you hungry!" Calvin complained, "At first I thought she was running away, but then when she said that she was just going to the kitchen to replace the food I destroyed…"

"So, what exactly happened?" asked Pippin.

"I don't really remember," muttered Calvin, "Something about this going far enough, and then I think I got hit over the head with a shield."

Sure enough, there was a heavy round shield lying on the ground, not too far away from where Calvin was. "Wow," said Hobbes, as he examined it, "That had to hurt!"

"Really?" groaned Calvin, "However did you guess?"

After several insults were exchanged, Hobbes finally agreed to help carry Calvin up to their room, as it was time for bed. Merry and Pippin followed. Everyone in the Fellowship was sharing the same room anyway; there was hardly any room for all the guests and the soldiers staying for the night. So they each grabbed a few blankets, made individual beds for themselves, and went to sleep.

Calvin was just beginning to drift off when something entered his mind: the palantir he had picked up earlier that day. Could you really use it to talk to people? And why had Aragorn not wanted him to touch it? Sure, you could contact Sauron with it, but Calvin had no intention of doing that! What harm could possibly come from it? The more Calvin thought about it, the more he wanted to try using the palantir again.

After a quick search he found it, but there was a problem. It was lying in Gandalf's arms, and he was staring right at Calvin!

Calvin gulped. "Um, sorry…heh heh heh…just going to get a drink of water…" He grabbed the pitcher of water nearby, while keeping his eyes fixed on the wizard. "Boy, am I thirsty!" Gandalf didn't react. He simply continued to stare straight ahead. "What's the matter with you?" asked Calvin. He got no response, except for a grunt and then snoring. Calvin felt both shocked and triumphant. He sleeps with his eyes open! That is so weird…YES! Now I can steal the palantir! Eagerly he swapped the pitcher for the palantir and brought it back to his makeshift bed.

There was no doubt about it; there were definitely flames swirling around in there, but the stone ball felt cold in his hands. "Cooooool!" said Calvin excitedly.

"What're you doing?" mumbled Hobbes.

"Shh!" hissed Calvin, "Go back to sleep!" That stupid tiger might cause a scene, and that'll wake up Gandalf! And then I'd be dea…

Suddenly the palantir burst into flames, and Calvin felt his hands glue themselves to it! "OWWWW!" he screamed, "SOMEONE HELP! I'M BEING ENGULFED BY FLAMES!" But he couldn't see the people waking up and rushing over to help him. It seemed like the room had vanished and now he was staring at a flaming black eye!

In a sneering voice, it asked, "What sort of pathetic creature are you?"

"I'M A KID, IN CASE YOU DIDN'T NOTICE! What kind of pathetic creature are you?"

"I am Sauron, Lord of the Ring!" He expected this statement to terrify a mere child; it certainly had that effect on even the most powerful elf.

"Yeah? Well you're pretty lousy at that job! We've had that ring for months now! And guess what? WE'RE NOT GIVING IT BACK! NOW GET THIS STUPID BURNING BALL OF DOOM OFF ME!"

Sauron hissed in anger. "Where is it?"

"ON MY HANDS!"

"No, not the palantir, you fool! The Ring!"

"I have no idea! I'm just a kid! I barely pay attention to any of this nonsense, even when they're talking to me!"

Sauron never had time to respond, because the palantir was yanked out of Calvin's hands. Gandalf scooped it up and rushed right over to where Calvin was lying. "What happened?" he demanded as calmly as possible, "What did you see?"

"My hands hurt. Can I stick them in some cold water?"

"Answer the questions first!" said Gandalf impatiently.

"I'll get some water," added Hobbes, and he left the room.

"Ok. Well, there was a huge flaming black eye, who called me pathetic, which is really ironic because he's the one who lost his ring…"

"Did you say that to him?" asked Gandalf in horror.

"Something like that. And then he asked me where it was, and I told him I had no idea. And then it was over."

"Anything else?"

"Well, when he told me his name, I saw a white tree burning. Is that his symbol or something? 'Cause I could come up with plenty of scarier ones than that!"

Judging from the surprised look on Gandalf's face, he knew what it meant, but he wasn't saying anything yet. "Are you sure that you didn't say anything to Sauron about Frodo?"

"Nothing. Is Hobbes back with that water yet?" he moaned.

"No. When you are ready, come and meet us in the king's Hall." Gandalf got up and left, followed by King Théoden, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Merry and Pippin stayed behind.

"Calvin, are you all right?" asked Pippin anxiously.

"I will be when Hobbes gets back! My hands got burned!"

"They look fine to me," said Merry, "I don't think it was real fire, it only felt that way because you were connected to Sauron."

"They feel like they're scorched and blistering and about to fall off!" groaned Calvin. Actually, the pain had gone away after he let go of the palantir, but if this got him special treatment, he was prepared to play it up as much as possible!

"I'm back!" said Hobbes, "Here you go Calvin." Calvin eagerly stuck his hands into the bowl of cold water, put on a huge show of how much it made him feel better, and took his time getting up to go meet with Gandalf and the king.

The Hall was mostly empty, except for Calvin and his friends. Gandalf started saying that luckily, Sauron hadn't found out anything they were planning, because Calvin hadn't known enough to give anything away. At the same time, the burning tree actually came from a city called Minas Tirith, in the neighboring country of Gondor. Gandalf was certain that this was where Sauron and his army of orcs were going to attack next. "So, are we going to warn them?" asked Hobbes.

"I am," said Gandalf, "And I won't be going alone." He shot Calvin a look while saying this. "Any other questions?"

"Yeah," said Calvin, "Why do you sleep with your eyes open?"

"Any other questions pertaining to the subject at hand?"

"Do you have to use such a high vocabulary? I'm just asking!" he added, when all he got was a glare.


"I can't believe you picked up that palantir!" complained Hobbes for the millionth time. It was the next morning. "How could you be so dumb?"

"Excuse me?" yelled Calvin, "How many times do I have to say it: I'm the victim!"

"You're always the victim, even when it's obvious that you're the one who messes things up!"

"Geez, what's with you? Are you jealous of all the attention I'm getting?"

"I don't want the attention you're getting, thank you very much! Do you understand that when you touched that palantir, Sauron started trying to figure out exactly where you were?!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Are you saying that palantir is like a tracking device?"

"Close enough."

"Why didn't someone say so?" Calvin shrieked, "Is this Sauron guy going to kill me?"

"He's going to try," said Merry, as he poked his head in the room Calvin and Hobbes were in, "Gandalf says he's ready to leave. Did you finish packing?"

"Packing? Where're we going?" asked Calvin.

"You're going to Minas Tirith with Gandalf!" said Pippin, as he joined Merry in the doorway, "Weren't you listening?"

"No."

"Well you'd better, because Gandalf said this journey's going to be very dangerous!"

"Really?" asked Calvin, brightening instantly, "Coooool!"

"Yeah, but the danger's going to start once he sees you haven't packed yet. He said very clearly he doesn't want any delays!" insisted Merry.

"Fine," grumbled Calvin, "What're you taking with you?"

"Us? We're not going."

"Wait…what?"

"We can't go," said Pippin sadly, "Gandalf wants us to stay in Rohan."

"Since when have we ever listened to him?" demanded Calvin.

"Calvin, this is serious!" replied Hobbes.

"No kidding, but I don't want to go anywhere without you guys! Where's the fun in that?"

"You'll be fine," said Hobbes, "You'll get to flee for your life on the back of one of the fastest horses in the world, and if you do run into any orcs or the remaining Ringwraiths, you'll get to watch Gandalf defeat them with his incredible magic powers! That oughta be a show."

"Hey, YEAH!"

"I knew I could cheer him up," Hobbes muttered to Merry and Pippin, "Now Calvin, you'd better start packing!"

"Since when have you been my boss?" asked Calvin indignantly, "Now get out of here! I have to pack."

"What a good idea!" said Hobbes, rolling his eyes, and the three of them left the room.

Calvin finished packing his bag, grudgingly agreed to leave the TV and the karaoke machine behind (while silently pocketing his Transmogrifier gun) and ate a quick breakfast. After that, he, Hobbes, Merry, and Pippin followed Gandalf to the nearby stable. "This is Shadowfax," explained Gandalf, placing Calvin on a large white horse, "He is the Lord of the horses, the fastest and strongest of all of them."

"Neat," replied Calvin, as Gandalf mounted behind him. "Well, so long guys! I'm going to really miss you! Take care of my slave for me!"

"It will be our pleasure!" said Hobbes with a wink. Then Shadowfax suddenly raced forward and ran out of the city, into the wilderness. Hobbes, Merry, and Pippin raced up one of the watch towers to see them gallop away.

"It's going to be strange with him gone," said Pippin softly.

"I know," said Hobbes, "It's going to be a lot quieter for one thing. Plus, we're going to have to come up with our own ways of entertaining ourselves now."

"Great!" groaned Merry, "He'll be a hard act to follow!"


The ride to Minas Tirith took all day, and Calvin fell asleep at least twice. When he woke up for the final time, he saw that they were racing out of a forest and into some hilly fields. "Ah, you're awake!" said Gandalf, "Good. We've just passed into the realm of Gondor!"

"Cool," replied Calvin, gazing eagerly at his surroundings. When nothing in particular caught his eye, he said, "I'm bored. Are we…"

"…there yet? No," answered Gandalf.

"Actually, I was going to ask we were going to run into any orcs soon."

"You say that as if you want to."

"I do! I thought this was supposed to be a thrilling trip!"

Gandalf rolled his eyes. "Oh don't worry. I promise that by the end of your visit in Minas Tirith, you will see more than your fair share of orcs and other foul beasts."

"All right!" cried Calvin, pumping his fist. Gandalf just didn't get it. It was normal for a young boy to want to have an adventure of some kind before he actually experienced one. But how could someone who had been captured and almost killed a dozen times over by orcs still want to encounter them? Calvin made no sense to him sometimes.

Finally, they rode up the last hill and stopped to stare at a magnificent white structure carved into the mountain! "Whoa!" gasped Calvin, "Is that Minas Tirith?!"

Gandalf nodded, and they raced down the hill. The guards opened the gigantic gates when they saw who was coming, so Gandalf continued riding as fast as possible all the way up to the highest level of the city. Calvin watched everything flash past eagerly. Minas Tirith was made out of white stone, but there were some gardens in various courtyards. Everyone was dressed in dark blue and purple, except for the knights, who were marching everywhere. The top level was flat and stretched out, so that Calvin could see for miles (including a nice view of the mountains and distant volcanoes that made up Mordor!) He also noticed the white tree that he'd seen burning in the palantir. It looked fine right now, except that it was being guarded, as if the people had seen the same thing too.

As they got off Shadowfax, Calvin could hear Gandalf going on about some guy named Denethor, who wasn't the king but acted like he was. "Calvin, are you listening to me?"

"Yeah sure," he said, "Denethor. Got it."

"Good. Now there's something you need to know: he's Boromir's father."

"Oh, cool! Say, where's Boromir been anyway?"

"He died, Calvin! Remember?"

"He WHAT?" shouted Calvin, "No one told me that!"

"Merry and Pippin told me that he was defending you three when he was killed," Gandalf replied in a low voice, so no one else could hear.

"I know he got hit by a couple of arrows, but he was still alive when we left. He didn't look that bad!"

"Well, I'm afraid he was. I'm sorry you had to hear it now, but you can't tell…"

"WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE TELL ME THAT BOROMIR DIED?"

"Calvin!" cried Gandalf, "Shh!"

"I'm always the last to hear these things…"

"Calvin, be quiet!" Gandalf hissed while grabbing him, "Boromir was Denethor's favorite son. We can not let him know what's happened until later."

"Why not?"

"Right now he needs to concentrate on defending his country, not mourning for Boromir."

"Can't he do both?"

"No. You'll see what I mean in a moment. Come along…oh, and don't mention Aragorn."

"I wasn't going to."

"Good. And don't mention Frodo and the Ring."

Calvin nodded. "What can I talk about?"

Gandalf hesitated. "Just let me do the talking."

"Sounds good."

Gandalf opened one of the heavy metal doors, and they walked inside.

A/N: And so, Gandalf trusts Calvin to keep his mouth shut for longer than five minutes. Unbelievable. Stay tuned for Chapter 20!