DragonCon begins today – and of course TORn will be there! You’ll find staffers deej and greendragon at TORn’s ‘fan table’, in our usual location: in the Hyatt opposite the entrance to the Art Show. We’ll be there from Friday on, until the very end of the con! This year we have three new shirt designs and a new button, as well as some former designs, and other fun goodies at the table. Drop by and see us!
There are some exciting celebrity guests for Middle-earth lovers this weekend; read on for highlights of events of interest to Tolkien fans during DragonCon this year:
Friday 1st 10am The Wit and Wisdom of Samwise Gamgee
Gardener; friend; husband; potato enthusiast. We all need more Sam in our lives! Marriott room L401-403
Friday 2nd 8.30pm An Evening at Bree
As ever, TORn will be joining the High Fantasy track to host this long standing DragonCon tradition. Party like a Hobbit! Once again, our live acts will be fan favourites The Brobdingnagian Bards, Beth Patterson, and Landloch’d. We’ll also have the Elf Choir, and the costume contest – with a fabulous panel of expert cosplay judges. We’re thrilled that Charles Conley, Joshua Duart and Lacey Santos will be lending us their skill and judgement for the evening! If you’d like to enter the contest, please remember to sign up in advance of the evening, at the TORn fan table or the High Fantasy track room (Marriott room L401-403).
Find us at the inn of the Prancing Pony (aka Hilton Grand West)
Saturday 2nd 1pm The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Retrospective
It’s been 20 years (gasp!) since the final part of Peter Jackson’s trilogy was released. Join TORn staffers to look back and get nostalgic together! Marriott room A601-602
Saturday 2nd 4pm Rings of Power discussion
A look back at Season 1, and speculation as to what may be coming in Season 2 of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings show. Marriott room A601-602
Saturday 2nd 5.30pm Elijah Wood and Sean Astin in conversation
Marriott Atrium Ballroom
Saturday 2nd 10pm The Tolkien Renaissance
What makes Middle-earth such an enduring favourite with fans? With more shows, movies (and maybe even a theme park) in the works, we’ll explore why Tolkien’s works are evergreen. Marriott room L401-403
Sunday 3rd 10am Hobbits, Harfoots, and More!
Exploring the origins, characteristics, and significance of our favourite hairy-footed folks. Marriott room L401-403
Sunday 3rd 1pm Andy Serkis and Elijah Wood in conversation
Marriott Atrium Ballroom
(There are also photo sessions with Astin, Serkis, and Wood throughout the weekend. Their appearances are fully in line with SAG-AFTRA guidelines, enabling actors to attend conventions but not to promote work.)
Sunday 5pm Hobbit Drinking Songs!
Join The Brobdingnagian Bards and party like a Hobbit! Hilton Grand West
Sunday 10pm Dance Magic Dance
TORn’s own deej shows us how she got her name, as she djs this 1980s themed dance party. Put on your best 80s/fantasy cosplay and come and dance the night away!
There are many more High Fantasy Track events which are Middle-earth related, and other events across the con which will appeal to Tolkien fans. Check out DragonCon’s app for all the details. Hope to see you here for all the fun – come and say hi!
As the co-owner of this website, having been here from the very beginning, I’ve seen my share of online Tolkien community related collective anxiety. Our massive community is not dissimilar to that of Star Wars – we have our whacko fringe segment and we have the numbers to attract a matrix style army of Russian bots.
Weeding through all … of … that … noise (if that sounds exhaustive, that’s intentional) is so hard to accomplish in 2022. Apparently with age, comes wisdom, and apparently with wisdom comes the ability to dissect myself from most of the drama in the lead up to ‘The Rings of Power.’
Sure, did I occasionally get caught up in the tasty morsels of ‘Tolkien with nudity’ or the ‘Gam(of Thrones)ification’ of Tolkien? I admit – it caught me every few months. But all in all, through most of this journey to September 2nd, I found myself more concerned about aggressively protecting the ‘good’ in our community. Protecting those of us who don’t tell you how to enjoy your Tolkien. Aggressively pursuing the bad actors, trolls and goblins of the online space. Yup, I’m looking squarely at you Twitter. Your cesspool of existence had me pretty close to closing down our official account a few times!
Just a Casual Fan…
All that said, I decided to write my thoughts on ‘The Rings of Power’ today because I feel I may represent a segment of our community that simply is Tolkien adjacent these days. Sure, we were avid fans and very active 20 years ago, but work, families, and simply time have calmed that passion down…just a tad.
I should also mention, for the umpteenth time, that I am a ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ reader. I tried to read the Silmarillion ages ago…not again. Nope, I didn’t read the Histories of Middle-earth or the new books that mystically appear every few years. I’m just a fan of Tolkien’s most popular works – judge me if you will.
With the multiple premiere’s happening around the globe, TORn staff were attending and reporting through the generosity of Amazon. Last week, I had actually scored a pass to the NYC Premiere, but after an enjoyable vacation I came back with a cold worthy of Sauron’s envy. I had even bought a sweet outfit for the occasion, but alas, it was not to be. (Nope, it wasn’t COVID, oddly enough.)
So like everyone else, I waited patiently until the show premiered last night on my Amazon Prime account. I should also note, that I’m such a casual fan these days, that I ended up watching the first half of the Penn State vs. Purdue American football game (PS – Penn State is where this website found its genesis), before deciding to check to see if ‘The Rings of Power’ was out a bit early. And yay…it was!
So it begins. Lights off, Apple AirPods Pro Max activated, and let’s do this!
I’m going to share a minor-spoiler stream of thoughts. I’m doing this for those of you who are like me – casual, Tolkien adjacent fans. Folks who may not be the most educated Tolkien scholars of the bunch – nor – *gasp* – really want to be. Folks who don’t want to participate in the drama of the community and just want to watch a good show and celebrate with the community.
So my quick review: this show nails it.
I wanted – no, needed – a thread – a connection to the films I so loved 20 years ago. ‘The Rings of Power’ delivers big time.
Just a few clear reasons why…
We get Galadriel, one of the best characters in all of Tolkien’s works, as the lead, the main focus of the series. I’m pretty sure I had not seen Morfydd Clark in any other show/movie before this show, and she is simply a gem. The strength she exudes with just a stare is mesmerizing, and her acting prowess is top notch. This series is in great hands with her in the lead role. The decision to focus on Galadriel from the very start is genius. I truly want to know her story, and I can’t wait to learn more.
We get breathtaking action and visuals. How cool is it to see battle sequences of Middle-earth in such gigantic scale. Did I really just watch a Fell Beast take out a giant eagle?!
We get amazing music from the talents of Bear McCreary. Throughout both episodes, it is clear Bear understands the musical ethos that is required for this world. So amazing. (Yes – already listening on loop while working!)
We get a taste of the innocence and simplicity of Hobbits with the whole Eleanor Brandyfoot plot. Markella Kavenagh is wonderfully cast in this role as a bright eyed mischievous Hobbit…err…Harfoot. In fact, when I look at her, I think of those quick takeaway shots of those cute Hobbits watching fireworks. (Pretty sure those were PJs kids?) And I’m pretty sure, by the end of this series, we are going to get the clear implication that Bilbo and Frodo are descendants of Eleanor. (Oh wait, my lack of Tolkien knowledge might be coming through…is that already spelled out in a genealogical chart somewhere?)
We get an Elf military that is stationed throughout areas of Middle-earth to protect her ungrateful residents? Noice! Wait – a Legolas 2.0 with Ismael Cruz Córdova’sArondir? YES. If you aren’t excited to see him kick some major arse in this series, check your pulse. BTW – he’s okay right? I mean…we did get a bit of a cliffhanger with him in Episode 2. (Obviously we do)
We get to see a whole thriving Dwarven culture. Am I really under the mountain and watching the genesis of semi-familiar names and their eventual (spoiler!) downfall? After all, I did see that Balrog in the trailer…you all are going to delve too deep…aren’t you…?
We get some REALLY impressively designed baddies. That orc/goblin that shows up in Bronwyn and Theo’s house…nightmare fuel. The ‘worm’ of the ocean – can I can get a fine art print of that in someway? That brief look right before taking out the raft…yikes!
Who the heck is this Meteor Man? How cool would that be if that’s Gandalf? Probably won’t be – but I’m game for having no clue, and finding out as the show unfolds. I do get a baddie vibe, but obviously they are trying to lead the viewer in that direction.
Hold up. I was worried this show might not be something I could watch with the family. Sure, the baddies are a bit scary, but as of right now, this is a family (10+) show. Well done, Amazon!
Two episodes in, and there is so much to love about this series.
You know you got it right when…
The biggest compliments I can give this series are twofold:
I did not look at my phone the entire time. This is pretty impressive, considering the Penn State game was very close at halftime and I had relatives and friends dinging my phone and watch. The ‘tap’ of the watch was going mad at some points during the show, but I was so engaged in the show, I didn’t bother. And also…I ALWAYS look at my phone during shows.
I usually will make myself some popcorn during shows. I’ll get up, walk away from the TV with my headphones on and watch from the kitchen. Nope – not in this case. Popcorn was only made when the first episode ended.
In summary, I’m fully in. Well done to the entire team involved in this production. Sure, it was insanely expensive, but for this Tolkien adjacent fan, you’re nailing it.
If you are a casual fan of Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, you are going to absolutely love ‘Rings of Power.’
DragonCon is upon us! For the first time since 2019, the full Dragon (almost – numbers are slightly limited again this year) is being awakened. And TORn staffers are there to share the fun.
You can find staffers deej and greendragon at TORn’s ‘fan table’ (which we believe will be in our usual spot, in the Hyatt opposite the entrance to the Art Show) throughout the con. We’ll have new button and shirt designs on sale, and all kinds of fun things for fans to look at. You can also sign up at the table for the Evening at Bree costume contest! (Sign up is also available in the High Fantasy Track Room, Marriott L401-403).
Events of interest to Tolkien fans during DragonCon are as follows:
Thursday 1st 7pm TORn’s Rings of Power preview
A last chance to speculate what’s coming in Prime Video’s highly anticipated show, before it becomes available to watch at 9pm ET. Spoiler-free speculation! Marriott room A601-602
Friday 2nd 5.30pm Behind the Scenes of The Rings of Power
TORn staffer greendragon hosts a panel with very special guests artist John Howe and dialect coach Leith McPherson, talking about their work on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – and beyond. Hilton Grand West
Friday 2nd 8.30pm An Evening at Bree
TORn is delighted to join the High Fantasy track again to host a long standing DragonCon tradition. Party like a Hobbit! We have three live bands this year, to get toes (hairy and otherwise) tapping – The Brobdingnagian Bards, Beth Patterson, and Landloch’d. We’ll also have the Elf Choir, and of course the costume contest. If you’d like to enter, please sign up in advance of the evening, at the TORn fan table or the High Fantasy track room. Our panel of judges this year will be cosplayer Joshua Duart, together with very special guests John Howe and Leith McPherson.
Saturday 3rd 1pm War of the Rohirrim
Find out more about this exciting anime film, telling the tale of Helm Hammerhand – coming April 2024. Marriott room L401-403
Monday 5th 10am Rings of Power After Hour
Discuss and reflect on the first two episodes, and what may or may not be to come this season and beyond!
Let the games begin! Please come and say hi if you’re in Atlanta; see you in the belly of the beast!
The Dragon has been sung back into its lair: DragonCon is over for another year. For five remarkable days, geekdom had a chance to gather again and celebrate together – and TORn staffers deej, Madeye Gamgee and greendragon were able to be with them. Read on, for greendragon’s thoughts on the event.
I’m sure the first question on many people’s minds will be, ‘How was the safety of the event?’ My overall impression was very good. At check in, everyone (be they attending fans, professionals, exhibitors, or guests) was required to show either proof of vaccination or of a negative Covid test, before receiving their pass. Masks were required at all venues – and from what I saw, this was carefully enforced. It must be said, I was not at the Con late at night; and some folks reported that ‘DragonCon after dark’, when perhaps drinks had been consumed, saw masks being discarded. But in the High Fantasy Track room, and at An Evening at Bree, I didn’t see anyone unmasked. Masks were even – gasp! – up over noses, as well as covering mouths. Many cosplayers had found fun and creative ways to coordinate their masks with their outfits – and of course masks are an integral part of many costumes anyway.
Numbers were restricted this year – fewer than half the usual attendees were allowed; and it has to be said, it was wonderful to be able to cross the skybridge between hotels, or get in an elevator, without waiting for half an hour. 35,000 is still plenty of people, so the con did not feel empty – and there were still long lines for An Evening at Bree, and full panels at many of the tracks. (Numbers in track rooms were also reduced, to allow more space; and no standing was allowed.) Rooms were carefully cleaned – each track room had an hour of deep cleaning during each day, as well as a deep clean overnight, and between panels mics were given new covers and surfaces sanitized. As Madeye Gamgee put it, ‘…all the pandemic mitigation standards were followed and seemed to work.’
On the downside, the parade seemed strange without the watchers along the street; that is perhaps something which didn’t work so well with reduced crowds. I know lots of folks missed the fan tables – and that’s a good opportunity for me to remind you that there is new TORn merchandise (shirts, socks, bags, masks, waterbottles, etc.) available online!
Do take a look at the various designs available at TORn’s online Spring store – and thanks for supporting the website!
As mentioned above, lines were long and the room (with the limited capacity allowed) full for Friday night’s An Evening at Bree. The Brobdingnagian Bards got us off to a great start, with toe tapping music playing from the very start, as guests arrived. We had wondered if we should try to limit dancing this year – but you just can’t keep the denizens of Middle-earth off their feet, and soon masked folks were swirling and skipping. Others enjoyed sitting in groups at tables, enjoying a drink from the Prancing Pony bar at the back of the room. After the Bards’ rousing set, the costume contest took place. It was a delight to see the usual extraordinary creativity and talent we’ve come to expect from this contest – big thanks to judges Constance and Laura, who had the unenviable task of selecting winners. Best in show was Lacey Santos’ amazing Smaug, Queen under the Mountain – complete with incredible embroidery, and Arkenstone in hand.
Musician Beth Patterson was new to Bree this year, but we hope she’ll be back – her two sets were wonderful, and kept everyone in high spirits. We ended the night with some recorded music, allowing us to bring fan favourites Emerald Rose back to Bree. TORn is always very glad to host An Evening at Bree for DragonCon’s High Fantasy Track; as Madeye Gamgee said, ‘It felt like a joyful reunion of old friends and fellowships.’ We look forward to next year; meanwhile, you can check out DragonCon TV’s coverage of this year’s event in the video below.
For those of you who couldn’t attend this year – or who did attend, and want to keep the geeky fun going – there are all kinds of panels, geeky fun, and special guests, to be found at dragoncontv.com. You’ll need to pay $10 for access; and that will enable you to watch TORn’s panel celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship ofthe Ring. You can find that under Fan Tracks (Saturday), at the 4’59 mark.
All in all, I think a good time was had by all, and I applaud the DragonCon organisers and many volunteers for all their hard work. Going back to that question of safety: I personally stayed away from big crowds, and was on the floor of the con much less than I would usually be, only going to specific events and otherwise staying out of the melee. When I was there, however – at Bree and for panels, as well as catching up with friends – I did not feel unsafe. Of course, when 35,000 people gather in one place, it seems inevitable that some, after the event, will test positive for Covid; but, to quote Madeye Gamgee again, ‘Assuming there aren’t any major super-spreader outbreaks connected to the weekend, DragonCon may have proven that a return to some form of a live convention is possible.’ And that is an encouraging thought.
The Dragon awakens! After a Covid-enforced hiatus last year, DragonCon is back in Atlanta this weekend – and TORn will be there!
The organisers of DragonCon are doing their best to keep everyone safe, requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination or of a negative Covid test, and to wear masks. Numbers will be scaled back (though given how massive DragonCon’s crowds usually are, the venues may not FEEL uncrowded), and there are no fan tables this year. This means TORn staffers deej and greendragon will not be in their usual spot, selling shirts and other merch. BUT – you can find them around the Con, and you can find merchandise online!
TORn’s ‘Hope is Kindled’ design, which was revealed at the end of 2020, seeking to cheer us all in the days of pandemic, can be found at our online Spring store. We’ve also brought back fan favourites ‘Keep Calm and Read Tolkien’ and ‘Coexist’ – which you can order on shirts, mugs, masks, and even socks! Check out all the goodies in the store here; and thanks for supporting the website!
Regular DragonCon attendees will be glad to know that Friday night’s ‘Evening at Bree’ is happening this year. Live music will be provided by The Brobdingnagian Bards and Beth Patterson, and there will of course be a costume contest – sign up for it at the High Fantasy Track Room. An Evening at Bree will be in the Hilton Grand West ballroom, 8.30pm, Friday night.
Tolkien panels in the High Fantasy Track include (of course!) TORn’s panel about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series. What do we know? What spy reports can we share? Friday 2.30pm is the time to discover those secrets, in the High Fantasy Track Room (Marriott L401-403); when staffers deej, greendragon and Madeye Gamgee will share all they know – and speculate about stuff they don’t know…
On Saturday at 5pm there will be a streamed, pre-recorded panel featuring the above staffers, and a rare sighting for TORn founder Calisuri; this panel is a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship ofthe Ring. Calisuri spills the beans about a very special invitation he received, to see some amazing footage in Cannes…
At other times during the Con, you can find entertainment such as Madeye Gamgee discussing the Second Age, greendragon talking Arthurian Adaptations, and deej considering Tolkien’s influence on Stephen King’s The Stand. Find full details in the High Fantasy Track’s schedule for the weekend!
We’re excited to see folks at the Con, and to share some Middle-earth fun with you all. We’ll miss those of you who can’t attend; we’ll raise a drink to absent friends! Cheers, Gaffer!
In the summer of 2013, three adventurers formed a company dedicated to arriving at Dragon Con at any and all costs. They were to travel the long, winding roads, and make it so you felt as if you were there yourself, streaming all the while with the two magic crystal slabs (iPads), and bringing it to you with Cryptozoic Entertainment and TheOneRing.net’s help. This is a day-by-day re-telling of their adventure.
SATURDAY AUGUST 24TH Justin the wily hobbit, Ryan the grumpy wizard, and Doug the jolly dwarf, met in the cool of the morn at the local disposable pictograph vendor “Meltdown Comics“. Doug had heard that the mighty Dwalin would be attending Dragon Con this year, so he did what any sensible dwarf would do at this news – he shaved his head, giving himself a mohawk. So proud was the hawk now perched upon Doug’s head that Ryan needed one as well, which is out of character for wizards (and had nothing to do with the soaring heat). They packed up, said their goodbyes, and set out on what would be a journey to test and strengthen them all.
One final stop in the city was needed – to collect a magic brick capable of transmitting their likeness across all tamed lands. The city gave way to desert, but their excitement about the road ahead gave way to only more excitement. Their destination for the day: Zion National Park, a pocket of land left behind from ages past, a slice of the Grey Havens tucked away in the mountains. It was here that they would lay down their loads after a full day’s worth of traveling, and sleep easy, conserving their energy for the days ahead.
As anyone wise in the ways of travel can tell you, even the most well-laid plans go astray. So when the company pulled into the camp well into moon-rise, and found there were no spots, they did not quail. There by the soft light of the moon, a counsel was called to decide their course. Turn back thirty leagues as the crow flies to uncertain lodging, or forge ahead deep into the night with the same uncertainty? Forge ahead they did! It was a lucky decision too. For the windy, winding, mountainous roads they traveled in the soft quiet hours of the night were empty save their own block-like, automated white steed Shadowfax. They blew by roads that, in the day, would be bogged down to a crawl. They felt no fatigue, for the lustre of adventure shone in their eyes.
SUNDAY AUGUST 25TH Luster or no, there were no elves in this company, so the need for sleep eventually caught up with them. Stopping a few hours before dawn, they found a local camping area in the desert to stop and rest. In the traditional hobbit fashion, Justin needed to simulate the comfort of his hobbit hole. With a great, gaping yawn he sprawled out in the back seat, and soon his gravelly snores echoed from the automobile. Doug claimed it was too late to properly pitch a tent; so he whipped up an alternative for the two companions leftover that the Great Maker Aule would have smiled at. He took the two tarpaulins covering the cargo-bed of the automobile, and fashioned them into a crude lean-to, one anchored flat on the ground to sleep on, and another anchored at an angle from the dining table that came standard in all resting areas. They slept.
As the sun labored his way into the sky, and the darkness gave way to a blood hued pre-dawn, a tapping woke Doug up. He stuck his arm out of the shelter to feel droplets of water striking his naked hand. He chuckled a bit, congratulating himself on being exceptionally clever. By using the tarps previously used to cover their cargo, he had made a water-proof shelter tha- WAIT. THE TARPS ARE OFF THE TRUCK. Shedding all grogginess, he leapt up into the sullen light. Storm clouds were gathering, and this light pitter patter was just the beginning. He bellowed a call for help, and started covering up their precious goods, the cargo meant to sell at Dragon Con. Ryan, being a wizard who sleeps with eyes wide open, was the first to answer his call. Together they wrestled the tarpaulins into place, securing them in the gathering wind.
Sleep had been stolen from them, much like the precious. They had only grabbed a few winks, but the only option was to move forward. They grabbed a quick breakfast at Denny’s, practically chugging their coffee, and started driving. The destination for today was nowhere, but also everywhere. They company simply needed to get as many miles behind them as possible on the way to their first major stop: the magical mountain city of Denver, Colorado. They stopped at two places of note that day – the Four Corners, where four states meet, and the cave dwellings of Mesa Verde. Both proved to be well needed stops, to stretch the legs and mind.
They stopped for the evening at an inn located in the town of Salida. Sleep never felt so good.
MONDAY AUGUST 26TH
Revived after sleeping on actual beds, the company set their sights on Denver, a city a mile in the sky. A few hours into the daily drive, Justin had to ask when we’d be stopping for second breakfast. The day was crisp and fair, with just a hint of fall’s cold embrace, a perfect day for a cookout. So second breakfast was spent by the side of a pristine stream, roasting sausages and smoking pipes. In the rush of activity that was about to sweep them away at Dragon Con, this was a perfect moment of stillness. Full bellies and sounds of contentment accompanied them all the way to Denver, where the Morrison Natural History Museum awaited them. Before they could enter that hall of learning however, Justin insisted they stop at the biggest fiesta in all the land.
Casa Bonita! A hall of laughter, mischief, and daring high-divers, known equally for its electrifying atmosphere and its festive food. A fellow Ringer met them there, and they whiled away the hours with pleasant conversation. In addition to the welcome company they found, there was so much exploring to do! Doug headed straight for the Gold Mines, because that’s where dwarves always go first as a rule. Ryan headed for the lofty seats among tall towers spread about, to have a steady eye on the lay of the land, no doubt. Justin made his way to the cursed caves, for his Tookish side grabbed ahold of him, and he wanted adventure, prepackaged and non-threatening. Hours had passed and the company needed to move on; they said their goodbyes, and such was the kindness of their guest that she paid for their meals. It was the first of many acts of kindness along the road, and they were all extremely thankful.
The best way to learn about the creatures that once walked Middle-earth is to look at their bones, so that is the very thing they did at Morrison Natural History Museum. Assisted by Dr. Robert Bakker, the company was led on a tour of kingly magnificence. The ancestors of Smaug were laid bare before them, and they were allowed to touch, feel, and marvel at them all. After two hours of visiting the past, and all the organic treasures it has left us, the company went to the Best Western Denver to meet their final companion for the journey – the burglar Katalena!
Short of stature, fiery of temperament, and quick to jest, Katalena was just what the sluggish band needed to keep them on their toes. They met at dusk where all dinosaurs go for a good night’s rest, Best Western Denver, and supped together in a nearby tavern whilst discussing plans for the road on the morrow. They parted ways back at the Inn with the promise that Justin and Co. would pick her up and set out at a reasonable hour. They had time to spare on The Road to Dragon Con, and they were in no great hurry as of yet.
TUESDAY AUGUST 27TH
With a full night’s sleep behind them, Justin and Co. took a detailed tour of the inn they had stayed in. The Best Western in Denver was once a Quality Inn, but now it was being taken to a whole new level of excellence. The proprietor Greg had mixed his passion for the fossilized remains of elder beasts with ownership of an Inn, creating something right out of the pages of history. Fossils as counter-tops! Petrified wood to make the bar! An aquatic beast thirty feet long adorning the ceilings! That and many other splendors combined to make an inn of such rustic beauty, Barliman Butterbur would have left the Prancing Pony just to take holiday there.
However home-like an Inn might be, the road always beckons with its rushing song. The company said fond farewells and headed out to pick up their burglar. It was mid-day when they arrived at Katalena’s place of residence. It was hot, and promising to out-do itself as the day wore on. She hopped into Shadowfax and immediately began sewing one of her many clever disguises. She had six or seven stowed away in her luggage, should the need to use them arise. Such was the cleverness of our burglar.
The rest of the day was spent whittling away the miles of the journey, in friendly debate about Tolkien’s writings, and interaction with watchers of the crystal slab. The now complete Justin and Co. drove deep into the night; so deep into the night it was already morning, if not sunrise, by the time they stopped to rest.
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 28TH
The road, the road, the road. It goes on and on. So too must the company head ever onward, stopping only for a short while in any friendly harbor to make friends. Today they moved from the Misty Mountains into the plains of Rohan, or would have if they were denizens true of Middle-earth. They weren’t, not in this lifetime; so instead they drove into Arkansas, veered off the highway, and meandered their way into the back-country’s rolling hills to The Wildwood Rabbitry.
Greeted by the two sisters who make the cultivating of the earth their trade, Justin and Co. stretched their legs and said words of greeting in what could only be described as a perfect slice of the Shire. Before they could be shown anything, they were quickly ushered into the kitchen, where they were assaulted by the fabled kindness of the south. Warm yeasty rolls, homemade with a hint of molasses, were given to them to make sandwiches. At the mention of their milk cow, Douglas asked for a glass in earnest. They obliged him with smiles and a tall, frosty glass. At first sip he declared it to be on par with the finest ale, forcing it upon the rest of the company till they were all smacking lips and exclaiming at its purity.
Simple lives these sisters led, but they were far from simple people. Their farm’s name came from their rearing of giant rabbits, ancestors of the Rhosgobel rabbits Radagast had used to move swiftly to and fro. That, however, is a very small piece of what they do. They raise oxen, goats, pigs, and a clutch of chickens. They have gardens, brew their own beers, ferment their own wines, fish in their own lake, and have a pack of great hounds to ward off giant predators set on assaulting their farm. They led a wide-eyed Justin and Co. around the border of their land, stopping to point out its various virtues and qualities.
Not only are they workers of land, but workers of fabrics and tree carcasses. Inside their sprawling farmhouse were shops designed to work metal, cloth, wood, plaster, and any medium they so desired. By day they work on their farm, by night they toil to make costumes, commissioned by people in far-off places. After much discussion, the two sisters, and brother who had joined them, sent them off with smiles and two heaping bags full of country way-bread, to keep them hearty and hale till their journey’s end.
That would be a perfect end to that day, but it wasn’t over. On the way back to the highway, Justin stopped on a whim at a woodworker’s shop. The storefront was humble, the owner portly and kind. With glassy-eyes he showed the company round his shop, glowing with pride as he showcased the pieces of cast cement his three year old grand-daughter had painted. “Princess Maddie” was her title, and her artwork was that of a three year old: shapeless, untrained, and sloppy. The artwork only a grandfather could love and cherish. Justin purchased two pieces, he was so moved by this show of paternal love. The old woodworker took notice. With a thumb of his nose and a wink, he said he’d be right back. He returned a few minutes later with a bundle tucked under his arm, handing it to Justin with a finality that suggested it was given freely. “A little something for this “Dragon Con” you’re headed to”, was all he said.
Back inside Shadowfax we had Ryan open the package – after all, mysterious artifacts gained from chance encounters fall under the expertise of wizards. Inside was a clear jar surrounded by protective packaging, filled with a crystal clear liquid. The old woodworker had given them lightning in a jar, a +10 modifier to charisma, a quick gulp of courage: a mason jar full of genuine moonshine. Justin and Co. marveled at their luck and stowed it safely in the bed of the automobile. This would have been the perfect end to a perfect day, but no, it was not over yet.
Nights spent sleeping in foreign beds are fine, but one does grow weary of the constant strangeness. So when a family of Ringers opened up their home in a show of uncommon kindness and generosity, the company was overjoyed to join them! Memphis is where they stopped that night, and the city where Elfvis of Mirkwood made his final resting place is where the company rested as well. They took the member of the family that was still awake out to a jovial feast at a local eatery, then talked deep into the night, finally falling asleep after what had been a perfect day.
THURSDAY AUGUST 29TH It’s a bit of a let down to realize, upon waking in such a welcoming home, that you have to leave. However this was much the case. In one last show of thanks they gave the daughter of the house a Legolas simulacrum as they dropped her off at work – which was received well, as she happened to be an archer, and needed a lift. The last day on the road, at least till the journey back, opened its maw to Justin and Co., engulfing them whole while grinding them down with teeth made of gas station stops, and talks of who would drive. As the sun was patting himself on the back for a job well done, and sinking below the horizon, the company rolled into Atlanta – into DragonCon.
The streets were littered with thousands of people, all here for this grand occasion. If every flaw in time and space ripped open and regurgitated a piece of its respective era into one location, it would look like the sidewalks and Inn common rooms at the time of DragonCon. People were dressed as living pastries, people were dressed as technological busters of ghosts, people were dressed in next to nothing, all mingling together in a city-wide safe zone. The company could not stare in wonder for long, as they had cargo to unload. Using muscles which had lain dormant on the road, they hoisted the cargo from the bed of Shadowfax to the vendor stall two floors above.
They had made it, safe and sound, without mishaps save for those that brought good fortune. At this point I’m sure you would like to think that the company spent the first night celebrating till the wee hours of dawn, getting rowdy, meeting new people and going to strange places; but no. Exhausted from the trip out, Justin and Co. had a meager dinner, refreshing showers, and called it a night. After all, they had people who were depending on them to stream the speeches made by those portraying some of Middle-earth’s most beloved heroes. Besides, sleep never comes so swiftly and easily as it does upon completion of a goal.
FRIDAY AUGUST 30TH
The first sound that woke the company out of slumber this day was Doug’s boisterous curses as he dropped his newly opened cask of crystallized coffee. Days earlier he knew he’d be in a big city, and foreseeing the need to stay awake mixed with the problem of long coffee lines, had purchased a small cask of crystallized coffee from a peddler while Shadowfax was being fueled. While opening it for the first time that morning, his fumbling sausage fingers had tipped it out onto the carpet of their lovely room. In the most heavily trod section of the room was a small, dark pile of dried coffee that almost instantly began to melt in the humid air. Doug sheepishly called for the chambermaid to come clean it up, profusely apologizing all the while. However it was almost impossible not to step in the coffee zone, for its location was in a place you had to traverse even to leave the room, let alone to use the facilities. Soon there were sticky, coffee-colored footprints all over the room. That patch of carpet was never the same. You didn’t read this for the coffee stain story however, so I will move on.
DragonCon! It opened to them in its fully-revealed splendor, now that the workweek was coming to a close. Justin headed off with the crystal slab in tow to catch the Hobbit cast panel, where Graham McTavish, William Kircher, Sylvester McCoy, and Manu Bennett would be making an appearance, to talk about their time spent at work on the Hobbit trilogy , and tell stories of the good times they had. Doug and Ryan headed out to make some sense of all the chaos, also with a crystal slab. They walked the streets and buildings that made up DragonCon, interviewing its inhabitants and generally adding to the ruckus. Katalena donned one of her disguises and dissipated into the throng, for that’s what burglars do best.
They met back together later that night, in a re-imagining of what ‘An Evening in Bree’ would look like, hosted by DragonCon’s Tolkien Track (which is run by TheOneRing’s own MrCere). Many there had dressed up in the fashions of the time, and for a spell danced away the evening with traditional song and dance, provided by musicians Emerald Rose. Then they took part in a costume contest, MC-ed by Graham McTavish, William Kircher and Sylvester McCoy. Doug got so caught up in the atmosphere he even challenged Graham to a friendly arm wrestle! He was politely refused, which was fine, as he had not a chance of winning in the first place. Everyone was laughing, singing, dancing, and generally having a jolly time. The hour was late before the festivities wound down, and the company retired after a toe-tapping first day.
Before going to sleep that night, Doug and Ryan traveled to an inn down the road to meet up with representatives from Cryptozoic Entertainment, a table-top gaming company. They gifted them with games such as The Hobbit: An Unexpected journey, and The Two Towers Deck Building Game, to learn and share throughout the event. They stayed up deep into the night pouring over these table-top games, learning how to play, but more importantly how to share.
SATURDAY AUGUST 31ST
In what would seem to become the norm at DragonCon, Justin and Co. were awakened not by their natural clocks, but by a loud noise. A wordless roar was sounding from outside. Sliding back the curtains and opening the door, it was revealed to be a parade; a parade made up of all the hard-working men and women who had spent the year leading up to this event preparing costumes fit for a ball, or a battlefield, or a rowdy party. While the others were still stirring, Doug grabbed a crystal slab and headed out the door, promising to be back when it was over.
He walked the city streets drinking in the sights and sounds; for it was only here you could catch jedi mock-battling wizards, or demons walking arm-in-arm with angels. He nudged his way through the crowd until he found a likely spot, then spewed an unending commentary to the slab of crystal in his hand as the parade chugged past at a leisurely pace. As the last stormtrooper walked past waving, the parade was finished; the orderly streets became a wriggling mass of humanity as everyone struggled to get back to their rooms, or to meet up for a late breakfast. When he finally got back to the hotel, sweaty and tired, he found that the automated people lifter located in the lobby was backed up to the point of madness. So he did what any sensible dwarf would do; he walked the eighteen flights of stairs to the company’s room. Maybe it was the amount of fun he was having interacting with the crystal slab, or maybe the heat had gotten to his head, but he didn’t realize he had passed his floor until the stairs stopped at twenty-two flights. Sheepish was his return.
The company had not been idle in Doug’s absence. Justin was out sharing “The Beginner’s Guide to the Silmarillion”, a panel of value to most, if not all, Ringers. Ryan was practising his best grumpy wizard faces in the mirror, and Katalena was putting the finishing touches on another one of her disguises. Doug and Ryan left in no time at all to haunt the Gaming Hall; a vast cavernous space used for the decimation of foes, the building of camaraderie among parties, and general magick mischievery. Ryan set up the crystal slab to stream, while Doug set up The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to play with passer-byes. There they spent a lion’s share of the afternoon, teaching fellow gamers how to play this most excellent of board games. When the mood struck them to play something else, they pulled out the old classic: Epic Spell Wars! Ryan loves this game, for what do wizards love more than pretending to cast the spells they already know? They even learned a secret technique called “The Cooty Bomb” from a fellow wizard named Cooty. If you wish to learn this technique contact Wizard Ryan in his lofty, secluded home.
They wrapped up their table with many a hearty handshake and warm words of friendship; it’s amazing how quickly one can bond around shared interest. They then prepared for the night. Just like in nature, when the sun goes down diurnal creatures go to sleep, and the time of the nocturnal has arrived. The evening before was a genteel evening in Bree; lined up for this evening? A Rowdy Dwarven Dance Party, dj-ed by TheOneRing’s own staffer deej! “They’ve Taken the Hobbits to Isengard” isn’t a tune for everyone, but when all of Middle-earth is dancing to it, and you can pick up Hobbits and pretend to take them to Isengard – well, you simply have to join in the wild rumpus. Justin was up on the stage hyping the party. Katalena was sneaking through the crowd, presumably cutting purse-strings or some such thing. Doug was by the water barrels, chugging some after every dance, and growling at anybody who got too close. Ryan was, well Ryan was channeling all of his arcane power into his insane dance moves.
In all the long-winded histories passed down from master wizards to apprentices, there has never been such an unleashing of magic via dance moves as there was that night. It’s as if the protective layer of grumpiness surrounding Ryan hadn’t been a defense mechanism at all, but a way of storing incoming energy to be unleashed at the time of his choosing. He chose that night. He danced with “Party Thranduil” til Thrandy had to take a breather. He then moved to “Party Sauron”, complete with “Party Eye of Sauron”, and danced with them until they bowed out and mumbled something about being too tired to search for the One. He even danced with Thorin and Co. until they left with smiles and shakes of their heads, saying they needed to “save their strength for the dragon”. He danced himself straight into bed, where he promptly fell fast asleep; for no one could shake him awake.
Doug had started a game of “The Hobbit” out in the lobby with some Ringers he had met up with in the dance party. They made a tremendous Thorin and Co., getting through the Misty Mountains without a hitch.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 1ST
An exasperated “UGH” woke them up that day. It was Katalena, and she had tread upon the vile territory of the coffee carpet in her socks. Though it had been cleaned, the damage was too deep to be wholly erased. The sticky coffee had ingrained itself into the fabric of the carpet, and even as the company watched it continued to spread as if alive. Something had to be done, lest every article of clothing they held dear end up with dreaded coffee stains. Springing forth like a man who had not danced for four hours straight the night before, Ryan grabbed the components capable of holding back the sludgy tide. Pixie sticks; “Only sweet can hold back the bitter!” he exclaimed. With three jumbo pixie sticks blessed by the sugar priests of “Sweet” Hollywood, he formed a triangle of imprisonment around the vile stain, keeping it from moving past those artificially sweet borders. He then sealed it with a wrapped Twinkie in the center, completing the ritual.
The two panels being showcased today were “Previewing The Desolation of Smaug” and “Hobbit Drinking Songs”. Justin left to make sure they were covered. Doug and Ryan went back to the Gaming Hall for another round of Cryptozoic gaming, Katalena joining them for a while, but disappearing when they turned their backs. They didn’t worry overmuch; she was more than capable, and dressed in another one of her hand-made disguises. Doug played games for hours, with Ryan interjecting advice and being the technomancer for the crystal slab. It was the final evening of DragonCon, so they made the best of their time in the Gaming Hall. Then they headed to dinner. Ryan had picked the restaurant, and surprise, surprise, wizards love jazz. With good reason, too; dinner at the Juke Joint left them all physically full and spiritually refreshed. They felt more than capable of handling the last night at DragonCon.
It was in the air, you could feel it vibrating through your skull as you walked the city streets. It seemed we had just gotten here, yet it was about to be all over. We knew that, and everyone else knew that too. Doug had a taste for drink that night, and a very specific drink at that. So specific he dragged Ryan, who had the crystal slab, through three different inns until he found the beer he had been looking for. When dwarves want a specific ale, they get it. Since they were already out and about, they decided to see the sights and sounds of the final night. The sights proved to be many and varied, and the sounds proved to be loud and overpowering. At one point a fire alarm was set off at one of the inns! For Doug’s first con it was quite the experience. Towards the end of the night they met up with some fellow ringers, and passed the time together. They split with promises to see each other the next year, and tales of what they were doing for The Desolation of Smaug later that year.
The company went to bed shortly after, with packing up heavy on the mind.
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 2ND
Justin and Co. arose sluggishly, knowing in their minds that it was over. All that was left now was the packing. In record time they had the room ship-shape, and were heading out to the elevators.
Once they got down to the vendor stall to tear down, Justin had to leave for one final panel, “Hobbit Guests Talk Tolkien & Beyond”. Ryan and Doug took a rare moment of rest to sit by the wayside, listening to music and people watching. Soon the last sale was made by TORn staffers deej, greendragon and Thorongil, who had been hard at work at the vendor stall all weekend, and it was time to tear it down. It didn’t take too long; there wasn’t much to pack up because of the overwhelming support the community had shown in the purchasing of merchandise.
Loading the truck and hitting the road was the order of the day. The open road once again calling them; this time, however, the company wasn’t fresh and bright-eyed. They were beginning to feel the toll their journey was taking on them. However, they had tackled the “There”; now it was time to handle the “Back Again” portion. What better way than to kick it off than with a twenty-four hour drive? – Albuquerque being the goal. Justin started off driving, and they drove deep into the night, and on into the next day.
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 3RD The sun starts to peep over the horizon, and three of the four passengers in Shadowfax start to stir. The fourth was already awake; he had been awake all night long, driving. He’d stayed up through sheer force of will and cussedness, but now he needed to rest. They stopped for breakfast and switched drivers, then continued to drive all day. The goal of Albuquerque was to be reached at 6pm that day, where they would camp for the night and head to Denver the next day to drop off Katalena. All was well until they entered New Mexico, and storm clouds were ahead. Camping was once again ripped from their grasp, and Doug was much dismayed. They entered into council together, and it was decided that they would drive the additional six hours to Denver that night; a tall order which, if they worked together, they could reach.
It was well into moon-rise when they dropped Katalena off. There was no fanfare, no pompous speeches nor grandiose gestures; only weary travelers dropping off one of their kind. She was overjoyed to be back, and they were overjoyed finally to get some rest. They went back to Best Western Denver to sleep amongst the dino bones.
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 4TH The dawn arose, and with it the original trio of Justin and Co. rose as well, with a steely determination in their eyes. One more twenty-four hour drive, one more push, and then home. Driving during the day isn’t so bad, as there are people on the crystal slab interacting, the sun keeps you awake, and your companions keep the talk interesting. The night, however, is the bane of all travelers. Ryan up until this point had been resting sullen in the back seat, lost in deep wizard thought, or maybe fond thoughts of home. He hadn’t driven much; however, when Doug said in the small hours of the morning that he could no longer drive, he leapt into action. Summoning from another realm the energizing tunes of the Aquabats, he assumed the role of captain and drove till past dawn.
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 5TH
Such was the last push of Ryan’s driving that it’s still happening when we meet back up with the company. Only when his strength began to fail dangerously did he give control over to Justin, who then brought them all home: There and Back Again.