Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Hobbit of Mars

Observant readers of my blog might have noticed that two of my favorite books are The Hobbit and Gods of Mars, my favorites of the Middle Earth and Barsoom books respectively.  But what, I recently wondered, would a mash-up of both of them look like...

Ch. 1 An Unexpected Party on the Arizona Hills
Flip Bancroft is a midget (4’6”), late of Virginia where he served as a Confederate cavalryman, now living in a prospector’s shack in Arizona with his partner of all of three weeks, James Gandell. On the 21st day of their partnership, James reveals that he is not from Richmond, but from another world and has invited six Indians, who are not really Indians, to join them for dinner. One of them is Princess Oakah Thorishield. Gandell wants Flip to go with them.
Ch. 2 Roasted Dead
Flip and the six “red men” (5’ tall with reddish skin) set out to find a cave that serves as a portal to the planet Aik’joom, only to be beset at the cave by a throll (savage green men almost 10’ tall, with third arms) cooking one of the “red men” they had left behind.
Ch. 3 A Short Rest and then Adventure
Flip and company are rejoined by Gandell in the hills on Aik’joom, with Gandell revealing himself to be a magician. Gandell wants to lead them to a town of thelves (like throlls, but only 8 ½’ tall and with average intelligence) hidden in the hills, called Korandell. However, on the way there they are ambushed by 10 thelf sentries.  Flip accidentally critically injures one because, unbeknownst even, seemingly, to Gandell, Flip has extraordinary strength and athletic ability while on Aik’joom.  Despite Gandell’s protestations, they are taken to Korandell as prisoners.
Ch. 4 Prisoners under the Hill
While in the hillside prison of the thelves, Gandell reveals more fully to Flip their purpose here.  In the home of the thelf leader, Tars Tarrond, they hope to find a map showing the secret entrance to the princess’ home city of Erebor. The Thorishields always ruled Erebor until years ago when a great Martian dragon took it over. To prove his worth to Princess Thorishield, who has been skeptical of, if not hostile to, Flip from the start, Flip breaks out to find the map himself.  He befriends a thelf named Sola (and her six-legged hairless dog, Woola) who gains him an audience with Tars.  Impressed, Tars offers to let him see the map.  But he has no intention of releasing his prisoners and has Flip returned to his cell.  But Gandell and company have managed to spring themselves by then and they all race into tunnels from the prison to escape.  The thelves don’t follow because the tunnels are where the white goblins live.
Ch. 5 Riddle of the Watch Dog
While fighting their way through the white goblins, Flip is separated from the others and encounters Woola again.  At first he can’t imagine how Woola found him, but he soon discovers that Sola and Woola were hurled into the caves via a pit for having aided Flip.  Sola is injured from the fall and sent Woola for help.  Flip and Woola come to Sola’s rescue just as a creature called Gollum is about to attack her.  Despite Gollum’s ability to turn invisible, Flip beats him up and takes the ring that allowed him to do so. 
Ch. 6 Out of the Fight and into Friendship
Flip, Sola, and Woola are reunited with Gandell, Thorishield, and the others and escape the caves to daylight, only to find that Tars and a company of thelves have been waiting for them.  It turns out that they had intended for Flip and company to enter the caves, as it serves as a gauntlet for criminals to prove their innocence by surviving.  Tars allows them all to go on their way, with Sola and Woola joining the company.
Ch. 7 Lodgings and Child-Rearing
Gandell takes them next to the hall of Beorn, a shapechanger.  Beorn has seven children and is amazed at how good Flip is with kids.  Tenderness and compassion are lost skills in child-rearing on Aik’joom and Beorn asks Flips to stay behind as his nanny.  Gandell, at this point, leaves the company, as Beorn has told him about business to the south that needs his attention.  Beorn uses shapeshifting to fool the princess into thinking Flip has changed his mind about staying, and then impersonates the princess to fool Flip into thinking they don’t want him anymore.  Luckily, Woola helps them see through the deception and Beorn, ashamed, allows them all to leave.
Ch. 8 Captives of the Spiders
While traveling on the lightly-wooded plains, Flip and company (still missing Gandell) are accosted by another tribe of thelves, this one led by Lorquas Ptomel, that uses trained spiders.  All but Flip, who eludes them invisibly, is captured.  Later, while freeing her, Thorishield speaks openly for the first time and Flip learns that the princess likes him and respects him, but that her culture does not openly display such feelings.
Ch. 9 He Learns about Barrels
While snooping around in the thelves’ caves, Flip discovers a way for them all to escape via an underground stream.  Initially, he hopes to hide everyone in barrels, but there is no way to fit Sola in a barrel and Woola cries when stuffed inside one.  Unwilling to leave either of them, Flip comes up with a new plan.  He tricks the thelves into getting drunk, springs the others, and then they only have to fight their way out past the spiders to escape.
Ch. 10 Welcoming the Champions
Flip and company reach Lake-Town, the first community of red men Flip has seen.  The princess gains an audience with the townmaster, only to discover both Tarrond and Ptomel are already there ahead of them.  The thelves don’t want to make waves, as they need Lake-Town for trade (and, although this is the smallest lake Flip has ever seen, it is the biggest lake the red men and thelves have seen), but over the next week that Flip and company stay in town to stock up on supplies, the thelves try to discredit the princess until the townmaster asks them to leave so as not to make trouble.  Flip and the Princess are now friendly with each other, to the shock of all other red men.  She makes Flip her personal champion.
Ch. 11 On the Doorstep with Oakah Thorishield
Flip and company cross the desert around Erebor and, en route, Oakah tells Flip more of the planet’s history.  How it had once been an arid desert world, barely inhabitable, until her ancestors in Erebor invented weather controlling machines.  The machines have not been maintained since the dragon came and chased everyone out and Oakah fears the environment is already suffering from droughts caused by machine failure.  Little do they know, though, that Tarrond and Ptomel are sneaking after them along with five of their best warriors, including the more throll-like Tal Hajas .
Ch. 12 Prisoners with Information
Flip and company reach Erebor and settle into the outer city to make camp and quietly fortify against the dragon.  The thelves meanwhile, have had a disagreement.  Tarrond only wants to observe from a safe distance how well the company does against Smaug, but Ptomel means to sneak in to the inner city ahead of the company and warn Smaug himself.  Tarrond and the two warriors loyal to him withdraw while Ptomel moves on, only to be captured by the dragon Smaug in the inner city.  Ptomel, of course, squeals like a pig to save his life.

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