Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings belongs to The Trustees of The J.R.R. Tolkien Settlement. This is nonprofit fan fiction. No copyright infringement intended.
Lengthy introduction: This is a sequel to my LotR spoof "What They Fear." You don't need to read it to understand this one. In the prequel, the Fellowship was camping in the Woods of Lothlórien. Little by little, their fears and phobias were revealed: Frodo has arachnophobia, Gimli cannot share his belongings with an elf, and Legolas is afraid of his manic fan girls. Aragorn has lost his nerve because of sock puppets, and Boromir because of Aragorn. The Lady Galadriel spoke to Boromir in Lothlórien about her vision that before Boromir's death, Aragorn will kiss him. Now, Boromir tries his best to avoid Aragorn, and Aragorn his best to get close to Boromir, since he has been warned about Boromir's lust for the One Ring.
Notes: In "What They Fear," the characters were out of character. This has not changed. During that fic, they were still recognizable as characters created by Tolkien, and rational thinking had not abandoned me. This has changed. I am still using the characters—and possibly some events from LotR—but this is no longer any part of the real Lord of the Rings. What we have, instead, is a meeting of Balefire Society, a sort of "Problems Anomalous" (this is how I honor the legacy of Alcoholics Anonymous), and the Fellowship dealing with the phobias revealed in What They Fear.
What They Fear II: Dealings with the Fear
Part 1 of 2: Getting to B.S.
After that one disastrous day back in the Woods of Lothlórien, the Fellowship held an emergency meeting. They could almost unanimously agree that they needed professional help to deal with their fears before their fears would put the quest in irreparable jeopardy. However, once they began discussing the actual type of treatment, the world fell apart.
Boromir, who had claimed to fair well all along, was adamant that they would not seek help from Men since rumors could be detrimental to his reputation. Legolas refused the aid of Elves for the very same reason, and gave a firm no, thank you: he would not see an intellectually-challenged dwarf, either. Gimli refused to hear another word of seeing a fellow Dwarf or especially about having "a cursed Elf poke around his head." Four pairs of eyes turned to the hobbits, but the tentative inquiries were met such murderous glares that the idea of seeing Hobbit consultation was never spoken aloud. Things seemed to have come to a dead end, until Aragorn opened his mouth and told about a treating he had heard of on his journeys.
"There is an option: the Balefire Society. It is a kind of 'Problems Anomalous:' a meeting where men with problems meet and share their difficulties. The audience merely pays attention and possibly gives advice. It is the talking on its own that is supposed to be therapeutic. The problems can concern anything; the things you hear there..." Aragorn trailed off.
"You have been to these meetings, Aragorn?" Boromir asked incredulously.
"I was merely an observer," Aragorn replied all too hastily. The others gave him the look, but none dared to pressure the ranger; he had been slightly on the edge since "the incident," and the idea of Aragorn crawling out of his skin was not worth the temptation.
"I think this meeting is the best offer we can get, and I suggest we take it. There is no fear of rumors spreading: the B.S. is known for its discretion or, to be more precise, it is not known because of it."
"Why does this Balefire Society have such a curious name?" Boromir asked, still doubtful.
"It is just a remnant from their old witch-hunt days, when they were known for their narrow-mindedness and intolerance. Their image has changed afterward, but they have kept the name."
There was a long, uncomfortable silence. It was surprisingly Gimli, who decided for all:
"I say we go and try this B.S. out. Any objections?"
The silence continued.
"Good. It is settled, then."
The Fellowship left the Lórien and followed Strider along dangerous paths and uncharted territories of Middle-earth, their previous quest concerning the One Ring blissfully forgotten. After many moons, they finally arrived at the secret meeting place of the Balefire Society.
One would think that they could have solved their problems during the months of travel, but that was not the case: the problems had grown worse. Aragorn grew more irked by the day because Boromir avoided him, and Boromir grew more agitated because the ranger tried to get close to him. Legolas was jumpy and feared for another fan girl ambush, since it is a known fact that these dangerous creatures dwelled where you least of all expected them. Gimli was avoiding Legolas, and the hobbits were just avoiding everyone and everything in general. Altogether, it was amazing that they were able to travel as a Company. As they got closer to the meeting place, tempers began to rise.
"I still think this is not a good idea." That was the there-is-nothing-wrong-with-me Boromir speaking.
"What do you mean by 'still?' Why couldn't you say something a few months ago?" snapped Aragorn.
"I thought you realized."
There was silence.
"Besides, this is not necessary. There is nothing wrong with me."
Here we go again, Aragorn sighed. Why can't he just say what is troubling him instead of playing a cat-and-mouse game? Aloud he said:
"I dare disagree."
"Is it, now... Boromir?" Aragorn said softly and leaned toward Boromir, who suddenly decided that his place was not beside Aragorn, but rather by anyone else's side. He surrounded himself with all the hobbits he could find and grabbed, by accident, one extra, who happened to be an unlucky passer-by.
"I rest my case," Aragorn stated, more amused than agitated.
One night, they finally arrived at their destination.
The meeting was held in a secret hideout. The hall was crowded, as the regular visitors of B.S. knew to expect blood in the night's meeting, figuratively speaking. After the usual welcoming ceremonies, the female chair of the meeting welcomed the Company and introduced them as "travel-worn troubled warriors who have come to unburden their hearts." The audience mumbled approvingly and set out to see what kind of village idiots their guests were. Legolas was the first to rise to the stand.
"Hullo, my name is Legolas, and I have a problem."
"Hi, Legalos," greeted the crown obediently.
"... Never you mind. Call me Leggy."
"That you are," the wise guy in the crowd confirmed. Legolas chose to ignore him and carried on telling about his problem:
"Well, my good people, I have this problem. It took me some time to admit it, but I cope with it the best I can. See, I am an Elven prince from a distant realm, pleasant in looks, and blessed with a naturally gorgeous hair color. I also happen to have a good heart, a courageous personality, and I am one of the best fighters among my kind. I am unattached. My problem is that all the girls find me utterly desirable. They follow me everywhere and keep propositioning to me."
"Only girls want you, elf boy?" asked a man with a long hair and a single earring from the back.
"Well, women too. Women are the worst: they are resilient. You would not believe what suggestions they make. They have actually offered to—"
At this point, Legolas thought it best to stop and hear the advice waiting for him. The long-haired man left the hall with some of his mates muttering something that sounded like "blind" and "what a waste." The remaining audience stared at Legolas fixedly; women with dreamy looks on their faces, and most men with barely concealed hatred. Taking in their reactions, Legolas decided that he would not be getting advice, vacated the stand, and joined his companions. The chair broke the silence and asked for applause to the brave Elf who had ventured before them and shared his troubles. The audience applauded obediently, though without much enthusiasm.
The next to step up to the stand was Aragorn. He had been plucking up his courage, and now decided to give it a try before his resolve would fail. This was not going to be an easy task. He rose slowly to the stand.
"Hello, I am Aragorn son of Arathorn. I— I have a p-problem," he stammered awkwardly. Seeing his uncertainty, most of the audience softened and responded encouragingly:
"It is actually Aragorn."
The audience sighed. Why couldn't these strangers have normal names? "Argon."
"Never mind. Most men do not call me Aragorn, anyway. They call me—"
"Longshanks?" yelled the same wise guy.
Aragorn stared at him disbelievingly. "How could you know that?"
"Your name is Longshanks?" This was even better than the man had expected; the strangers were round the bend.
"Never mind. Call me Strider."
"Hi, Striker," greeted the obviously hearing-impaired audience. Grinding his teeth, Aragorn decided to let it go. He had to focus on resolving his plight.
"I have a phobia. I am afraid— I fear— I—" Aragorn tried to gather his wits, but could not bring himself to utter the word "sock puppets." Then his gaze fell on someone straightening his socks, and his breath was caught in his throat. The earlier commentator in the audience grew tired.
"Whatcha matter, Longshanks? Left your wits with the other socks?"
That did it. Aragorn couldn't take it anymore. He retreated to his seat and sought emotional support from the nearest person. Poor Boromir found himself being hugged tightly by the trembling ranger. Shuddering, Boromir tried to disentangle himself, but the ranger had him in a stranglehold, and Boromir had to choose between being constricted and staying in the embrace. Reluctantly, he gave up trying to escape and, instead, concentrated on doing what any self-respecting warrior would do: praying. Legolas, who sat on the other side of Aragorn, smiled sympathetically and sighed. He wasn't sure which one he should pity more. He actually felt slightly guilty for getting back at Estel for his joke: the man was a mess, now that old traumas had gotten to him.
"I'll avenge you, my friend," Legolas whispered, but he decided to wait until the meeting was over to deal with the pest. He glanced angrily at the wise guy, who remained nonchalant. What's the elf boy gonna do? Eat me alive? He knew nothing about Elves, but this individual seemed to be a rather harmless one: all talk and no action.
The chair felt it best to intervene before things got ugly and she urged the audience to applaud to Aragorn's brave try. After uncertain applause, she asked for the next speaker to step up.
Published August 31, 2002.