Strider looked around with a sigh, blinking in the pattering rain drops. Calliope music blasted loudly beside him as he watched the hobbits ride the carousel. Merry had taken on a black charger, which he had instantly dubbed ‘Truefoot the Horse’. Sam fallen in love with a hunched-over pony, petting it, and calling it Bill. Frodo didn’t like riding by himself very much, and had sat behind Sam on the horse, which creaked wildly whenever one of them shifted their weight. Pippin had found a horse that looked rather like a zebra, and its mouth has hanging open, and someone had stuck grape gum in its teeth. Pippin ate the gum and now rode the steed, which leaned precariously, squealing as it rode up and down on its brass pole. The music blasted loudly, and Strider pulled out his chewable Tylenol tabs, popping three into his mouth. He glanced up just as Pippin shot his arm out and caught the little brass ring hanging on a string. He caught it, and with a laugh he hugged it, showing it to his horse, who seemed constantly petrified. Aragorn groaned, knowing Pippin would soon want to ride again….for the third time. When the music stopped and the ride screeched to a halt, Pippin bounced off and back into the line. The other hobbits felt around their pockets for more tickets, but all three came up empty.
‘Hey,’ Merry whined, ‘Why does Pippin get more?’ Strider sighed.
‘Because he caught the brass ring.’
‘Brass……RING?’ Frodo asked in a strange voice, his eyes growing wide. He blinked, and looked up at Strider. ‘Umm, can we have more tickets?’ Strider fished around in his pockets, and produced six more tickets.
‘All right, but this is the last time I’m paying for you.’ The hobbits nodded and dashed back to get in line with Pippin, who clutched his brass ring with glee. He handed it to the attendant, who tossed it to another guy who took it somewhere. The hobbits climbed back on their horses, which conveniently, no one else had claimed, and sang out for the ride to start in their high, hobbit voices. Too soon the music began again, and the big carousel rolled to a start, round and round. Strider felt awfully dizzy staring at it, and looked away. His eyes caught sight of a small stand where a man stood, selling handmade swords. He grinned, and strode over. Meanwhile, the four hobbits squealed with delight as the ride went round and round, the world flashing by them in a blaze of color and light. Frodo clutched to Sam’s shirt to keep from sliding off the back of the smooth fiberglass horse. He looked up, and something shiny and round caught his attention. His eyes grew wide as he saw a small brass ring hanging temptingly above his head and to the right. He grinned, and stretching out his arm, he caught it between his grasping fingers.
Aragorn looked up to hear shrill maniacal laughter coming from the carousel. He sighed, knowing exactly his party was to blame. Dashing over, he caught sight of Frodo, standing on the platform of the carousel ride, holding a small brass ring on high, and laughing like he had claimed the world for his own. He looked up at Strider with a glazed look in his eyes.
‘It’s my precious!’ he squealed, and hugged it close. Pippin hopped up to him on one foot.
‘Pip, why are you hopping on one foot?’ Merry asked quizzically. Pippin looked at him blankly.
‘Because,’ he said, placing his hands on his hips. ‘I have grape gum on my foot. And if I pull it off, I might peel the whole bottom of my whole foot off.’ Merry laughed.
‘Yeah right! Like you could peel your foot off.’ Sam rolled his eyes. Pippin leaned over Frodo’s shoulder, staring down at the trinket in his cousin’s hand.
‘Whatcha got there?’ he asked, adjusting his scarf. Frodo stuck it in his pocket.
‘A ring,’ he said, looking at them suspiciously. ‘Why?’
Pippin rubbed his nose. ‘Hey, you got the brass ring! You know, Frodo, you can go back on and ride again because you have that ring.’ Frodo’s eyes grew wide.
‘Oh, the power!’ he cried, and ran up the platform to get back in line. When he came up to the attendant the manager held out his hand, and the hobbit looked up at him. ‘I want to get back on,’ he said. The manager nodded.
‘Yes, and you need two tickets to do that.’ Frodo shook his curly head.
‘No I don’t. Because I have a ring.’ He showed the man the brass ring. He nodded.
‘Ah, I see. Allright then, hand it to me.’ He held out his hand, looking down expectantly at the hobbit. Frodo backed away.
‘Why for?’ he asked in alarm, hugging the ring to his chest. The man sighed, apparently used to this.
‘For to let you on. Give me the ring’ Frodo gasped.
‘No! It’s mine! I found it ! It came to me!’ And with a shrill maniacal laugh, the hobbit leaped off the platform and dashed past Strider and the others into the surging crowd of people. Strider sighed and ran after him, pushing passersby aside. The other three hobbits followed behind as best they could, until they were distracted by a stand selling homemade beer and pretzels. Strider ran on, looking about him, but not seeing any little half-crazed hobbits. He sighed loudly, remembering what happened the last time Frodo had gotten hold of a ring. They had been at the mall, and it had not been pretty. Strider had had to pay for $500 in damages, plus the bills for the shoe store cashier’s psychiatric visits once a month. His sharp eyes searched the crowd, and soon he spotted Frodo. He sat on a small stool, throwing darts at a wall of balloons. Strider caught up to him and sat down breathlessly beside him.
‘Frodo! Are you all right?’ Frodo threw another dart at a balloon, watching as it sailed through the air towards its target. ‘Frodo! Are you listening?’ Strider asked impatiently. Frodo turned to him and blinked, his eyes focusing on the ranger.
‘What? Sure I am. I just hit 300 points!’ Strider leaned his head on the counter. Apparently Frodo had, once again, forgotten what had taken place minutes before. He watched as the hobbit amused himself with stabbing poor innocent blue and yellow balloons with evil sharp tipped darts. Finally the game was over. The attendant pulled the cigarette out of his mouth and looked sharply at Frodo.
‘All right then, boy. You have five hundred points. Do you want a teddy bear, or this collapsible portrait of Orlando Bloom on the beach?’ Strider stood up off the bench, directing his attention to the three childlike figures stumbling through the crowds with pretzels in one hand, and Styrofoam cups of beer in the other. They came up to Strider and sat on the swivel chairs, setting their beers on the counter.
‘Hey, Frodo, what’s up?’ Pippin said, wiping the foam from his mouth. Frodo showed him his prize, and Pippin clapped his hands with delight. ‘Where can I get one of those?’ he asked glibly.
‘You need to shoot those darts at those balloons.’ Pippin grinned.
‘I’m good at this game.’ Merry folded his arms.
‘No you’re not, Pip. Remember? I’m the good one. You’re the bad one.’ Pippin rolled his eyes and slapped a dollar on the counter. The man with the cigarette took it, and handed him four darts. Pippin took one, reared his arm back, and threw. It bounced off the board, and back behind Pippin, where Merry stood. The pointed end stuck on Merry’s forehead. He gasped, clapping his hand over his forehead where a tiny red mark now formed.
‘I’m scarred for life!’ he cried sadly, glaring at Pippin. ‘I told you you were the bad one.’ Pippin shrugged and finished his game without a care in the world, winning a ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ ‘Jack Sparrow the mean pirate’ plush keychain when he was finished. Frodo and Pippin traded prizes, and Pippin told Frodo he would hang it in his room next to the poster of Garfield. Strider rolled his eyes again.

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