By Sarah “Lindir” Bloy
I woke up at 5 in the morning on October 26th, 2002,
the day of Ring Game. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a miracle
of biblical proportions. I'm still wondering how I managed to do
it, but dammit, I did it.
A shower, hair styling, costume donning and whatnot later, I got my Elf ears on at 6 in the morning. They wouldn't come off again until around 12:30 or so the following night, which must be some sort of record. The right one went on fine, but the left one refused to cooperate. I finally had to wake up my mother to help me get the darned thing on.
This was the first instance of a piece of my costume rebelling. Little did I know that it would become a pattern throughout the day.
Spirit Gum thoroughly matted in the left side of the hair on my head, now, I feverishly packed everything into the car, my parents' Saturn and the car that I had dubbed The Elf Express. The previous day's nervous energy had produced a sign to go in the back that declared as much.
The previous day's nervous energy had also produced the costume of Red Eye Orc number who-knows-anymore, otherwise known as my friend Creighton. He hadn't planned on going and had decided to at only about 2 in the afternoon on Friday. He was going to run around as a water distributor, but Dark Elves Megan, Caroline, and Kelly (AKA the three Skittles) had talked him into being an Orc.
6:30 in the morning and I was on the road. Noting that it was still dark out, I cracked open my bottle of Dr. Pepper in an effort to make myself fully conscious. This, I would find out later, was a bad idea, since it turned out to cost me some of what precious little I would have to drink during the game. But, at least I didn’t crash into a tree or a parked car or something on the way over.
I picked up the water-orc and we made our way down to the Madison campus to rendezvous with Megan's Car of Doom and begin our convoy. Carolyn was there already, dressed to kill... er... bounce as Goldberry and Sarah the other Elf of Rivendell (AKA Glorfindel) showed up an instant later. Caroline, Andrew, and Kelly weren't far behind.
"So, guess what!" Caroline exclaimed. "Andrew was late this morning. But you'll never guess why."
"I got stopped by a cop," Andrew said, carefully lowering his rather hefty Gimli ax to the ground, "they saw I had a big ax and they wanted to know what I was doing with it."
This puzzled me. There was no WAY you could call the thirty pound behemoth a concealed weapon. But, oh well.
Megan and Margaret showed up in the Car of Doom not too much later and we divided the group into the good guys and the bad guys. Off we went, to Governor Dodge park. Music tastes varied greatly between cars. I had mixed a CD of happy, semi-Ring Game themed and semi-woods themed music to create a nifty mood. The Car of Doom... listed to "Kidnap Sandy-Clause" and "the Doom Song." Looking back on it, I felt kinda sorry for having banished Creighton to the Car of Doom after he tried to ride in the Elf Express. But, what can I say? He’s the one who chose evil last minute.
Our mini-convoy was the first to arrive at the judging area at 8:30 in the morning. That's either something to be proud of or something to fear. I'm not quite sure yet.
We all finished putting on our costumes, eating something that resembled breakfast and got in the lines to be judged and given our points. Once again, just as had happened in the previous month’s Second Age Game, my large stick was just a few inches short of being counted as a staff. Quite maddening. I thought for sure my new broom handle walking stick was long enough. I rolled my eyes, tapped the thing against my forehead lightly, and let that suffice for a show of annoyance.
I finished working my way through the line, Carolyn nearly immediately after. Together, we milled about for a while, seeking out other good team members and trying to find the guy appointed as Tom Bombadil for the game. We were having a conversation near the back side of the picnic shelter when a particularly off-tune belting to the tune of Hokey-Pokey floated out over the remaining judging lines.
“I like to sing and dance, I like to sing and dance, I want to be a pirate like the Pirates of Penzance. Wear my silver buckle clippers and my tight, shiny pants. Whoo! I like to sing and dance!”
The members of the singing group, decked out in pirate’s garb such as one might find in a stage production of Peter Pan, were the Corsairs of Umbar trying to curry favor with the judges. Briefly, I wondered if the number was going to inspire the Car of Doom riders into performing their Kidnap Sandy-Clause piece, but I never heard it grace the currents of the park air.
It was around that time I heard a shot of gunfire echo off the mountains of the park, reminding me of why we hadn’t been camping out the night before. Due to the state’s problem with Chronic Wasting Disease in the deer population, a special hunt had been scheduled, shutting down all the group campsites until noon. This also meant that none of the citadel flags and other place markers had been put in their proper places yet.
Carolyn and I continued to cast about for Tom Bombadil until introduction time drew near. But, he never showed up. So, as she was Goldberry, she was upgraded to Tom Bombadil.
At one point, I met up with Creighton to see how many points his “costume” had managed to get him. As it turned out, he managed to get five costume points for the sign that read “water” in English, Elvish, and Dwarvish. I couldn’t help but laugh my butt off as it had taken me about ten minutes to make the previous day. He had managed to nab a few more points for the Red Eye emblem shield and the sword he borrowed from our Ring Game veteran friends.
Soon, our whole Madison Campus group found each other once again and we began formulating plans for costumes for future Ring Games. It has been decided that, at some point, we are all going to go as the Band of the Hawk from the Anime Berserk. Creighton has called rights to Griffith, Caroline to Caska, and I to Judeau. If we can manage it, we’re going to get our friend John to go as Pippin… the really big guy named Pippin. We figure very few will get the joke, but dammit, we’ll be rolling on the ground with laughter if we can pull it off.
Soon, Gandalf and Sauron called their respective teams together and Goldberry/Tom, Glorfindel, Gimli and I bid farewell to Bill Ferny, the Dark Elves and the Red Eye Water Orc for the duration of the game. As good all wandered over toward the swing set under, Gandalf the Grey kept looking back at the marching hoard.
“Look at all of you!” he kept exclaiming. He ordered us into a circle, gave us a pep talk, told us the secret, good team password was “Maethor,” and marshaled a cheer out of us in defiance of the evil team's cheers.
Gamemaster Jeff came up to him just as we were finishing.
“You wanna hear a final count?” he asked the wizard.
“Sure,” Gandalf replied.
“Good, forty-four, evil… ninety-nine.”
My jaw dropped. I knew we were going to be out-numbered, out-pointed, and out-experienced, but more than two-to-one? Holy cow!
“Doesn’t matter,” Gandalf said with confidence, “they still gotta find us.”
Introductions passed and after making certain Goldberry/Tom had someone to get her to her starting place, Glorfindel, Gimli and I hooked up with Legolas for the ride over to Rivendell to start the game.
And here came another case of my costume rebelling. My sword refused to come off my belt, so I had to pretzel myself in and out of the car without taking it off. Quite uncomfortable in a place I will not mention. I don’t recommend it.
Elrond, Arwen, and the third Elf Warrior of Rivendell were in a car behind us with the Elf city’s citadel flag. We all trudged up to the starting spot by the big horse barn and looked for a place to put the flag.
“Should we be obnoxious?” asked the blue-clad Elrond who was carrying it. “Put it up in a big tree or something?”
“We probably shouldn’t,” said Glorfindel.
“Yeah, the ref’s will probably get mad at us,” I agreed.
So, it was decided that we place the flag against a tree slightly up the hill. A few small pieces of twine later, the task was accomplished and we all struck up conversation, waiting for game time to come at 12:30. The subject quickly turned to how many points we had all ended up with. Mine was twenty-one-and-one-quarter.
“I got me some sexy points,” Elrond stated, “they said it was armor, but it was sexy points.”
I sighed inwardly, cursing my existence as a normal human being rather than as an Anime character. I very much wanted to have a massive sweatdrop hanging off my forehead right then.
Game time hit and we immediately struck off into the woods, cross country and out of sight, as per Gandalf’s orders. We were to meet up with him and his group at Bree. I flopped my green cloak over my shoulder in an effort to keep it from tangling on bushes and brambles, but it didn’t seem to help much. By the time we had made it over the hill, evading a group of Orcs in the process, it had wrapped around my neck at least three times.
Yes, this was another part of my costume that was rebelling.
The problem was that this rebellious costume element was actually rather dangerous. In twisting around my neck several times, the cloak had carried along with it my leather pouch necklace. Together, they tightened until I was having significant trouble breathing. I managed to get myself untangled with Glorfindel’s help at one point when we paused to hide from evil again, but the problem came back when we once again struck out over the hill.
Finding evil rather heartily about, Elrond decided we needed some speed to evade them, so we returned to the road.
“Okay, we need to get to Bree,” he said, “we’re going to have to either run or walk fast. Can we all do that.”
I shook my head. “Running is not going to be my strong point right now,” I gasped out.
“All right, just go as fast as you can. You set the pace.”
About thirty seconds later, I found that Elrond’s definition of me setting the pace was to run ahead and expect everyone to follow at the same speed. I tried and failed and, thankfully, Glorfindel hung back to help me out with my once again obnoxious cloak and necklace.
The other five Rivendell folk all zipped off into the distance, but they remained in sight down the road.
It was about now I found sill another part of my costume to be rebelling. The shoulder-flap thingies that were attached to my belt kept falling off my shoulders and restricting the movement of my arms. In frustration, I pulled them off my shoulders and tied them into a knot near my belt where they wouldn’t get in the way, hoping that it wouldn’t be called altering my costume.
Elrond suddenly turned his group back toward us. “Evil’s over at Bree,” he said as we regrouped, “we’re going to have to go back over the hill or get boxed in.”
And so, we went cross-country once again, pushing through brambles, vaulting a creek, and trudging back over the hill we had already gone over at least twice. A little bit later, we found that evil was coming at us from that direction as well, so we turned back toward the base of the hill to try and evade them, too.
Elrond once again took off at ridiculous speeds and once again my cloak had reached that point where it was restricting my breathing again. Finally, it happened.
It was a couple Barrow Wights, one of them Stacey, who had found Glorfindel and I as I stopped in my tracks gasping for air and clawing at my cloak. Elrond and the others continued onward. Rather than revel in the bounce, the Barrow Wights were nice enough to be concerned for my respiration and waited to resolve the battle until I wasn’t in danger of fainting. When it was resolved, I was dead and Glorfindel went off with them as their prisoner. It was the last I saw of her until the very end of the game.
“Oh yeah, and you can tell the Dark Elves to pay you the bounty,” I called after them as they left. Megan, Caroline, Kelly, and Margaret had put one out on me for the pun-filled smack-talk I had sent to the e-mailing list.
So, I sat on the ground for fifteen minutes. I used the time to swallow a pull from my bottle of Doctor Pepper, figure out a way to keep my cloak from choking me (it finally ended up in an elaborate configuration of knots on my shoulder and under my armpit), munch a few wheat thins, and stuff my leather pouch necklace into one of my belt pouches.
By the time my bounce session had worn off, it was already 1:30. Completely alone and with no inkling of a plan, I decided that I should start heading for Mount Doom. Gandalf wanted us south of the mountain by 2:30 and I had nothing else to do. So, when I stood up, that was the direction I started going, once again cross country; I had decided to keep in mind Gandalf’s mandate to keep out of sight.
For about ten minutes, I stumbled my way through the rather dense underbrush until I heard a considerable rustling from somewhere to my right and further ahead. I crouched down in the nearest bush and kept quiet until the other people in the woods had come close enough that I could identify them. They turned out to be Arwen and the third Elf Warrior from Rivendell.
“Allohoho, Elves!” I called to them, fairly softly so as not to catch the attention of anyone else who might be in the area. “You guys get bounced?”
“Yeah, but the others managed to get away, I think,” the warrior answered.
“Any idea what we’re supposed to be doing now?” I asked. “Is there any plan or anything?”
“Oh, plans always get blown out of the water,” he said.
“We’re on our own,” said Arwen.
I looked at my watch. “Well, it’s getting on toward 2:00. I was going to head over to Mount Doom.”
“Good idea as any,” said the warrior.
So it was agreed and so we struck out back toward Rivendell. It saddened me to think of all of what we had gone through only to end up right back where we’d started the game, but c’est la guerre.
My costume had one last rebellion to make.
We paused about three-quarters of the way back to Rivendell to grab drinks out of our various drinking implements and I offered the other two some wheat thins. However, I reached down to grab the belt pouch that had them in it only to find that it was no longer there. In fact, both bags were gone, calculator, leather pouch necklace, green knit gloves and all.
“Wait, were they two little green bags?” Arwen asked. “Because I saw two bags laying in the path a while back near a tree. I didn’t know whose they were.”
I opened my mouth to spout a choice word, but quickly thought better of it. The result was that I sputtered for a response instead. “Where’d you see them?” I finally managed out, coherently.
“A ways back, kinda by a tree.”
That certainly narrowed it down.
The warrior waited while Arwen and I went back to look. After about ten minutes of searching and an incident where I literally got stuck in waist deep brambles, we decided to call off the search. It annoyed me, but there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about it.
As we regrouped with the warrior and began making our way to Mount Doom, I recalled Caroline’s description of her day as Gothmog during Second Age Game; “One big long practice in frustration,” she had called it. Now I understand.
Finally, around 2:00, we made it to Rivendell. It had been sacked, of course, leaving us with no where safe, per se, to stop, so we pressed on. We decided that time was of the essence, wanting to get to Gandalf’s meeting point on time, so we went on the roads.
It was eerie. There was no one around as far as the eye could see for quite a long time. No good, which was the point, but no evil either. I can only conclude there must have been a lot going on down toward Gondor, because there was no one.
No one, that is, except for the Menace.
Now, the thing about the road that goes by the Misty Mountains is that it runs through a prairie. Long grass was all we had for cover. So, as soon as we saw and recognized the Menace, we dove into it and started praying.
Wonder of wonders, it worked. The Menace either never saw us or decided we weren’t worth the trouble. He went away without bothering us, shockingly blue shoes breaking a trail through the grass on the other side of the road back toward Gondor, or so we figured.
Menace dodged, we left the grass and continued on our way again. The top of Mount Doom (no, this time it really is Mount Doom, Sarah, stop calling it Barad-Dur) finally came into sight. There was no movement on top, which we decided was a good sign; Mouth wasn’t up there just yet.
We came to the crossroads that lied at the intersection of the Iron Hills, the Misty Mountains, and Mordor and who should we come across but a Ranger. At first, I thought she was evil, dressed in blacks and grays and freely walking along the road. But then she told us who she was and joined our merry band. She had been lost and had spent a good deal of time on the road between the crossroads and Mordor and I attributed her un-bounced status to her ambiguous costume and the general lack of players in the area.
Mighty numbers now four, we pressed on. We came to a path near the bridge that went over Long Lake and went down it for a few meters, then left it in favor of going cross country toward the general good team meeting spot south of Mount Doom. We got a little off track, though, and ran into red streamers.
“Don’t… cross that,” I whispered back to my companions.
“Wait, is this Mount Doom?” Arwen asked.
“Yes, we need to go south,” I answered, “very, very quickly. Evil’s going to be here rather soon.”
And so, we did, finally ending up in another field of long grass where we saw a figure in white with a very large stick.
“Oh that is not Saruman,” I whined as we all crouched down. But, he had seen us. There wasn’t much we could do but try and find out just who, exactly, for sure, it was, so we stared him down across the field. Finally, enough time had passed that I decided it was getting ridiculous. “Maethor!” I called to him.
“Yeah, whatever, just come over here,” was the answer. Inspiring.
“Maethor!” I repeated.
“Maethor!” he called back. Still, he had heard it twice and still could have been an evil deciding the word had meaning. So I told the other three to hang back while I scouted. Worst that could happen was I got bounced and the others ran like hell.
The guy in white actually turned out to be two guys in white; the hockey-player Rangers and the guys with the gag costumes for the game. The large stick I had seen was his hockey stick. Radagast was hiding in the brush with them. I waved to Arwen, the Warrior, and the Ranger to join us.
We were now south of Mount Doom, right where we were supposed to be, and it was almost exactly 2:30.
However, we appeared to be the only ones there… at all… in the whole area.
“So…” I ventured, “did the game end and nobody told us?”
New York Ranger number one shrugged. “Not as far as we know. But we figure this would make a pretty good gathering spot for the good team, so what we need is someone to go back the way you guys came to gather people in.”
The Elf Warrior did that and the regular Ranger went down in the other direction to do the same.
However, Warrior was a little skiddish. So, understandably, when he saw a group of Dark Elves all heading our direction in a big group, he zipped back to us. The move had the unfortunate side effect of… well… getting their attention and leading them straight back to us.
However, with two Elf Warriors, two NY Rangers, and Radagast, I figured we could take them out. That wasn’t to be, however, as they had achieved the objectives to become Sauron’s chosen.
And just my luck, Megan, Kelly, and Caroline were with them.
Bounce. And this time, I wouldn’t live it down.
Having thoroughly stomped us and having taken Radagast over to Sauron to do her hour of service to him, we all sat down to wait out our fifteen minutes.
“Well, I don’t think this is going to work as a gathering place,” NY Ranger number one said. The rest of us agreed and when our bounce time was up, we headed east where we stumbled out into a path only to find the entire good army gathering there.
“Now that is a beautiful sight,” I said as we trudged up to join them, “the first descent sized group of good army I’ve seen since Rivendell.”
“Good, that’s what I wanted,” Gandalf responded.
We milled about for a while as Gandalf planned with the few people he entrusted with his whole plan. Finally, he called all the “newbies” of the team (which I figured included me since the only thing I had played had been Second Age) over to him and sent a smaller group with two of the Hobbits off around the mountain.
“Here’s the deal,” he said, “our job is to distract. So, when I call ‘freeze’ and put my hand up like this,” he made a fist and jabbed the air with it, “yell ‘Gondor’ as loudly as you can. This is important. Don’t mess it up. C’mon, let’s go.”
Gandalf led the sizable portion of the good army of which I was a part into the woods and when we approached the area where evil had set up their defense perimeter, had us crouch down in the bushes and sent a small team off to do some maneuvers to lure evil in.
We sat in the bushes for at least seven minutes, not a single one of us making a sound but all of us able to see and hear the evil team running around in the woods.
“Hobbit!” someone would shout every once in a while. And at least two of those calls happened when evil mistook Bard for a Hobbit. Perfect.
Finally, Gandalf decided it was time. “Don’t mess it up,” he told us once more for emphasis, then stood and led the army toward the perimeter.
A lot of evil had gathered. Somewhere amongst the all the craziness, a tag happened.
“Freeze!” Gandalf shouted, stabbing his fist into the air.
“Gondor!” we all shouted at the top of our lungs. We repeated it over and over for at least a minute.
Two refs appeared out of the… ahem… woodwork, points were tallied, and…
And then, nothing happened for at least ten minutes as well all milled about. I caught up with Caroline, Creighton, and Margaret and we exchanged a few game tales while we waited for some order to come down. Finally, Sauron called his team together to give some. He was ordering them to encircle Mount Doom once again when it happened.
“Daddy! Daddy!” came an excited voice as a figure in gray came crashing through the woods. It was Gollum. He pushed his way through the crowd of evil to Sauron and handed him something. Then, Sauron put his fist in the air.
From it dangled the One Ring token.
A great cheer went up from the posse of evil and with that, Scott (our Sauron for the day) won the “Triple Crown” of Ring Game.
Gandalf called the good team together and he told us that he was happy with the way we had played, that we had done everything exactly as he had hoped. We were close, but didn’t quite make it.
It wasn’t until the rest of the players all fumbled their way toward this massive battle ground that we found out how close. The Hobbit who had had the Ring had been within sight of the Crack when Gollum and his group had bounced him, according to reports.
Finally, I met up with Glorfindel, Gimli, and Goldberry/Tom, who I hadn’t seen in hours on end. I gave Caro-chan a hug since I hadn’t seen her since intros and asked what had happened to each of them.
“I was kinda lost for a good part of the game,” Carolyn confessed, “then I got killed a bunch of times.”
“I was with him the whole time,” Sarah said, motioning to Andrew, “and I died, and I died, and I died.”
Finally, our entire group found each other at the base of Mount Doom. Megan told the tale of what Gollum had done after they had bounced the Hobbit with the Ring. “It was great!” she exclaimed. “He just took the Ring and dove right through some brambles. Didn’t even hesitate or anything. Just dove right on through.”
I shared with them the tale of how I lost half my costume. Not only had the bags been casualties, but I had somewhere along the line lost the sharpie-colored tin foil “pommel” to my prop sword. The poor thing’s tin-foil wrapped blade was shredded, showing the wood beneath and the twine on the grip had half come off and tangled.
I was a complete mess, but still, nothing could have lowered my mood. If I was going to lose, at least I was losing this way; with a great big grin on my face.