A/N: The song Aragorn sings is from Book III of The Two Towers. Also, this is my first real attempt at humor (usually I do dark, depressing stories) so let me know what you think!

A New Torture

The Company awoke slowly. Legolas had been keeping watch, and when Mithrandir awoke the Elf swiftly disappeared into the woods while the Wizard lit his pipe. Aragorn got to work starting a campfire, Gimli unloaded cookware, and Merry and Pippin yawned and stretched while waiting for breakfast to cook.

It was a beautiful morning, the likes of which the group rarely saw these days. The grass was soft and green, the mountains were bright and blue, and the rising sun painted the sky hues of pink and orange that contrasted pleasingly with the black clouds hovering over Mordor. This, combined with the fact that they were only a day's journey from Gondor, put Aragorn in remarkably good spirits. Even the thought of impending doom did nothing to dampen his mood; in fact, if he was to march to his death, today seemed like a perfectly lovely day to do it.

"Nothing like a good breakfast to start the day off," said the Ranger happily as he laid strips of rabbit meat into the pan and set it over the fire.

"Mmph," agreed Merry sleepily.

As the rabbit started to sizzle, Aragorn burst into merry song.

Gondor! Gondor, between the Mountains and the Sea!
West Wind blew there; the light upon the Silver Tree
Fell like bright rain in gardens of the Kings of old.
O proud walls! White towers! O winged crown and throne of gold!
O Gondor, Gondor! Shall Men behold the Silver Tree,
Or West Wind blow again between the Mountains and the Sea?

The rest of the Company stared at the Ranger. Aragorn, for all his kingliness, possessed no ability to stay on key, so the song itself seemed rather tuneless. The Dúnadain's voice rose to a shrill pitch that could have shattered mithril, and Gimli winced and fingered his axe. On the other side of the camp, Gandalf ripped two strips of cloth from someone's unfortunate shirt and nimbly fashioned them into earplugs. Aragorn was now adding verses to the song, and as he was not as talented at songwriting as Bilbo or Frodo were, his verses seemed to consist mostly of nonsensical neologisms. Pippin, finding himself unable to bear the horror any longer, fled into the trees. The rabbit meat in the pan started to smoke.

Meanwhile, Legolas was wandering through the woods, gathering berries and listening to the whispers of the trees. None of these trees had ever seen an Elf before and were very pleased that he was treading through their forest. They murmured to each other of the Elf's beauty and grace; it was very good for Legolas' ego, and more than once the Elf blushed at the trees' compliments. Suddenly the pleasant whispers were overlaid with a truly awful wailing that sounded like a cross between a Nazgûl screech and a cat being trodden on. The sound was emanating from the direction of the camp and the Elf paused and grabbed an arrow, unsure of whether to go back to the camp to see if the others were being attacked by fell beasts. This certainly did not sound like any fell beast he had ever encountered...

The pattering of hobbit feet distracted him, and a mere second later Pippin flew from the trees and almost crashed into the Elf.

"Peregrine!" cried Legolas. "Are you hurt? What is that horrible screeching at the camp?"

"Aragorn is singing," said Pippin ruefully. The Elf nodded knowledgably.

"Ah. I am sorry."

There was a pause then Legolas tilted his head, his nose twitching. "Is something burning?"

The Elf and the hobbit arrived back at the camp just as Aragorn finished his song with a drawn-out "Gondooooooooooor!" The rabbit was fully charred by now, Gimli seemed to be staring longingly in the direction of Mordor, and tears of despair were falling freely from Merry's eyes. Aragorn noted the hobbit's tears and beamed at Merry. "I am glad you were so moved by singing."

The poor Halfling wiped at his eyes. "Yes. It was very moving, after a fashion."

Mithrandir dug out his earplugs and glared at the Company. "Now that the caterwauling is finished, it is time for breakfast." He looked down the char-filled pan and frowned. Aragorn looked wounded.

"Arwen says my singing is wonderful."

Legolas scoffed. "Truly. As are your cooking skills."

The Ranger stared at the pan. "It is not so bad. We can simply scrape off the burnt bits."

"There would be nothing left to eat," countered Gandalf. Merry's stomach rumbled. Aragorn sulked.

"Everyone is against me. You, Sauron..."

"Do not forget Saruman," added Pippin.

"Thank you. My heart is greatly lightened by your help."

In spite of the torment the Ranger had just inflicted on the Company Gimli felt a spark of pity for him. "Now, laddie, it is not all bad. We are almost to the White City!" The group gazed contemplatively over the plain at the distantly gleaming walls of Gondor, then looked forlornly back at their inedible breakfast.

The silence was broken by Legolas. "I have some berries and lembas" he offered hopefully, holding out a handful of the plump crimson fruits. The hobbits brightened considerably, the Man and the Dwarf grumbled but accepted that rabbit would not be on the menu anytime soon, and Gandalf poured the charred meat onto the firewood and stowed the pan.

It was going to be a very long day.


Miles away, an Orc scout was standing rooted to the spot, a look of terror splashed across his face. There was a rustling of leaves and heavy footsteps and another Orc appeared. He stopped and stared at his frozen companion.

"Kirbag? What is it? Do you smell Men?" His eyes flashed greedily at the thought of feasting on some nice Gondorian Men for breakfast.

Kirbag shook his head and, looking sorrowful, turned to the other Orc. "No, Gik, I heard something quite unlike anything I have heard before. I do not know what it was, but it was awful." He shuddered.

"Oh," said Gik helpfully. "Well, it is gone now and we must not keep Vikor waiting. It is time to leave."

The scout left with Gik to go back to their camp. Later that day the group came upon the campsite left by the Company, and Kirbag was despondent to learn that the ghastly shrieking he had heard had come from this very camp.

Kirbag managed to survive the War of the Rings, but, more than anything else, it was Aragorn's singing that haunted him for the rest of the days.

The End