Lights flickered across the board, jerking the young woman slumped across the controls awake. "SHEISTE!" yelped Jay. (Oddly enough, Jay couldn't speak German, let alone think in it. This is what happens when you fall asleep listening to Rammstein.) Her yelp attracted the attention of the room's other occupant.
"Ye gods, Jay, what's happened?" demanded Acacia.
"Sorry!" Jay stopped to catch her breath. "Urgent report. Urgent warranting a bloody-loud beep report. A woman named Joan sent it." She let the Words flicker across her eyes—and immediately collapsed in a semi-seizure.
"Good grief, that bad?" muttered Acacia, heading across and looking at Jay.
"B-b-bad... bad grammar..." Jay whimpered. "Make the bad grammar go 'WAY!"
"Oh, grammar," said Acacia. "From your reaction, I thought maybe she was sleeping with Elrond or something—" She ducked just in time.
"That's not funny." Jay pouted. "Besides, we all know how you'd be acting if she were mucking about with Boromir—"
"That's no excuse for throwing the chair at me."
"Bite me." Jay looked haughty.
"Well, anyway, it seems we've got another assignment," said Acacia, sounding inappropriately happy about this.
Jay rolled her eyes, and pressed the button to set their disguises.
"VERDAMMEN!" Jay screamed, yanking her hand away from the crackling electricity.
"... What... the hell... just happened?" Acacia asked, looking worried.
"Mft msrtted!" Jay said, somewhat hampered by the fact that she was sucking on her fingers. Fortunately, Acacia was quick enough to catch it: "It shorted!"
"Well, THAT'S helpful!" Acacia snapped. "How do we run the mission without it?"
"Well, I suppose we can try to fix it," said Acacia dubiously. "I mean, we're not just calling it off..."
"We should report to Upstairs," Jay said. "Or grab Makes-Things and make him fix it..."
"That'll take forever! Gods know how badly the canon will be screwed up by then. We can send him a message, and it'll probably be fixed by the time we get back, okay?"
"... All right..." Jay looked warily at her partner. "We'll have to wing this one." She reached out, and quickly tapped the portal button, jerking her hand away just in case. There was no spark, and the portal appeared faultlessly in the air. Jay relaxed and sighed.
"Well, the portal looks fine," said Acacia. "Must be working anyway." She caught Jay looking askance and added, "Come on, at worst it just won't work and we'll turn up as ourselves."
"We KNOW we'll turn up as ourselves. I'm just worried about getting lost between dimensions." She shook her head, and grabbed her knitting—if they were stuck in a timeless abyss, at least she'd have something to do. "Come on, then."
Acacia stepped through the portal and looked around. Jay hadn't arrived yet. She looked down at herself... and stared. There was nothing there.
The portal flickered, but nothing came out—but then, "Acacia? Acy? Where are you? This REALLY isn't funny..."
"Of course it isn't damn well funny," snapped Acacia with a slight edge of hysteria to her voice. "Have you looked at yourself?"
"... WTF???" Jay managed to pronounce three consonants without vowels. "Oh, this is good. This is reeeeeally good."
"Could have fooled me," said Acacia sourly.
A piece of grass uprooted itself and was thrown in her general direction. "So now what? I mean, the Fellowship just didn't get knocked out by invisible pixies in the book..."
Acacia suddenly stood up stock still. She'd just had an Idea. "Not pixies, no," she said, "but... invisible...?" An evil grin crossed her face, which was rather a waste of expression since no one could see it.
"I mean," Jay went on, oblivious to her friend's smile (not hard), "we—we're freaking Dei ex machina, we're plotholes—"
"Not exactly," said Acacia impatiently. "Tell me... do you have any idea where we can get black bedsheets, or something like that?"
There was a moment of silence. Then, "Oh, sorry. I was staring bemusedly in your direction." Another pause, in which Jay was pointlessly looking thoughtful. "We're near Rivendell. I just don't see the elves as being into black bedding... we can check."
"Okay," said Acacia, grinning invisibly.
"Where are you?" Jay moved forward, cautiously sweeping the air with her hand. Of course, according to the Universal Laws of Narrative Comedy, the hand missed completely and she tripped over Acacia.
"Right here," said Acacia, trying not to laugh.
There was a moment of fumbling, then something was thrust into her hand. By the feel of it, it was the end of a piece of yarn.
"Hang on to this."
"Would you like to get separated and wander around lost in Middle-earth?" Pause. "I mean, not that it doesn't have its appeal, but—"
"Point," Acacia conceded.
"Let's try not to wrap it round any trees. Just hang onto an end." There was a sigh. "This is going to make the Duty damn hard... Come on, let's look for some light-deprived beddery."
"On the bright side," Acacia volunteered, "we can watch this Sue's rendition of the Council from up close. I mean, it's not as if even the non-canons will see us."
Jay nodded. Then, feeling like an idiot, she said "Sure. Good idea." She started towards Rivendell, tugging on the string, and felt the slack as Acacia followed.
"Nobody here seems to go in for black bedding, Acacia," said Jay after a cursory search of the more accessible and currently-unoccupied bedrooms.
Acacia sighed. "Well, we need to find something," she said.
"Don't look at me." Embarrassed pause. "Err... you know what I mean." Jay's invisible shoulders drooped. "Maybe we can hang around the ford and trip her when she crosses? Death by stupidity is fairly valid..."
"Could be—" Acacia began, and stopped. "The ford... do you know how much further downstream it is 'til there's really, really shallow water?"
"Wasn't in the books. Wanna look?"
"Yeah," said Acacia. "Besides, it's been a couple days, if I recall correctly, so we may be able to find the place by the smell..." Jay gave her general vicinity an odd look, which was wasted.
"Right then." There was a slight tug on the string which was probably Jay shrugging. "It's a pretty ford, anyhow. Lead the way!"
"You think I've gone nuts, don't you?" said Acacia conversationally, as they reached the ford and started tracing the river downstream.
"A bit." There was a sharp tug on the yarn as Jay stooped to pick up an interesting rock.
"Don't tell me you haven't guessed yet," Acacia continued.
"I'm sure it's a wonderful idea. Re—what the heck?" There was a jerk on the yarn and a splash as Jay tripped over something.
"That's twice, now," said Acacia, with a smile in her voice.
"Shut up and untangle me."
"This is getting ridiculous," said Acacia as, after a few embarrassing false starts, she succeeded in helping Jay upright. "I'll be so glad when we get this over with and get that damn thing fixed."
"It's your own fault... although I'm going to throttle Makes-Things, too, just for grins..." The water splashed as she kicked at the black material that had tangled her feet. "Yugh. And what is that smell...?"
"How was I supposed to know this would happen?" demanded Acacia. "But you're right about the smell. Something's rotting here. Waaaaiiit... what was it you tripped over? Hah! Found it! This is what I was looking for!"
Jay thrust her palm into her forehead. "Okay. I feel stupid now."
Acacia grinned again and, realizing this was wasted effort, laughed out loud. "Just find another one, Jay, there should be eight more in the area. Sopping wet, but what else are we supposed to do?"
"I'm already wet. I don't mind." The cord was jerked out of her hand, and the large black cloak was slung into the air and over an invisible body. "Just stick in eyeshot of me."
"At least we'll be able to see one another. Well, where we are, anyway."
"Right then. OOH! SWORD!"
"Fun," said Acacia happily. "Get me one, too."
"Yeth, Marthter." Jay's black cape gave the Igor Lurch™ a whole new dimension. "Kahnife... kahnife... kahnife hilt, watch out for Wraithlike fishies... ah. Sword." She held it up.
"Thank you," said Acacia, picking up the sword and looking around for more gear. Unfortunately, most of this was closer to the horses, which after several days were getting somewhat ripe.
"Poor horses. Should we bury them?"
"Sure," said Acacia mildly, "what were you planning on using for a shovel?"
Jay sighed. "Whatever. Found anything?"
"If you want souvenirs, sure," said Acacia, "but nothing we're likely to want to use."
"There were eight more... only two more without the char marks." Jay splushed across and pulled away something tangled in a tree root. "Oops. Gonna have to settle for the char—now come on, the Council will be starting soon."
"All right," said Acacia.
As the pair trudged up the winding path to Rivendell, they noticed four women, almost as dark as their black horses, riding serenely up the hill.
Jay waved an arm. "Oh. Wow. It's Wonder Woman and her three pals... an essential part of canon."
"I'd say you ought to get out your Analysis Device, only we can't see anything we brought through the portal with us," sighed Acacia. "This mission is going to get very difficult very quickly."
Jay fumbled around her back, and there was an unzipping sound. The black robe waved a stiff arm at the party, and there was a
Second member of the party—
The last, youngest, and most lovely and vulnerable...
The taller black cloak ducked behind a bush. "Acy? Hello? They can see you?"
"Whoops... sorry, I'd gotten a bit too used to being invisible." Acacia scrambled behind the bush as well. She rummaged in her own rather disorganized pack until she put her hand on something that felt like her own Analysis Device, waved it in the direction of the two nearest canonical characters, and was rewarded with beeps loud enough to require a fumble for the volume control. "Well, actual numbers or no, I think we know there's a problem," she said, noting Frodo's rather unfocused expression.
They shed their cloaks and, yarn in hand, made their way up to the dais. The four women took four extra chairs very conveniently set out.
"Nice," Jay said, turning down the volume on her device.
Acacia, having turned hers off entirely and put it back in her pack while wishing fervently that there were some way to hook headphones up to it, agreed totally.
The Council went amazingly authentically, although obviously Movie Based... except for the four women whispering amongst themselves. Jay wished vainly for some popcorn to throw at them. "Shut up. I wanna hear Elrond."
Acacia tried not to make audible signs of amusement at that.
It had been a long time since Acacia had been to the Council up close this way, for fear of being noticed by the non-canon characters, and she was rather enjoying it, even though Legolas and several other characters were smiling faintly at nothing in a way that had become depressingly familiar to her. She had to be careful not to laugh out loud at some of the things the Mary Sue and her relatives said, but this was not too difficult.
"Gimli doesn't like her," Jay whispered, probably grinning. "Funny how they leave him alone."
"Yeah, he's really one of the luckier characters," muttered Acacia. "I have yet to see one who doesn't ignore him."
"Except this one insults him." The young woman was shy and modest—when not saying various blistering things about Gimli—and so, when Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir were proffering their respective instruments of destruction, her sisters volunteered her. She made a show of protesting, but naturally let herself be herded into it.
"You ten shall be the Fellowship of the Ring," Elrond said, softly—then blinked. "Ten...?" he said, as if to himself. "Must... be symbolic somehow—ten..." As the members of the Fellowship talked amongst themselves, the elven lord was staring hard at them and trying to count.
Acacia sighed. "You know, if there was ever a good reason for having more than nine, I wouldn't object so much," she commented sotto voce. "Nothing ever makes sense."
Jay didn't seem to be listening. The other assassin was, presumably, turned toward the bemused Elrond and wearing an aghast expression. "Acacia?"
"This one's mine."
"You had the last one," said Acacia. "If you get this one, I get two. And... wait... how are we going to get all of the non-canons? The Sue leaves with the Fellowship and the rest stay."
"We'll cut their throats in the night." Jay had blood in her voice. "You can have the next three, I don't care. But no one... and I mean NO one... messes with Half-elven."
Acacia looked approvingly at where Jay presumably was. "Okay. If you want the Mary Sue, I'll take the bit-players."
"All yours. Really. I'll sort out the gear to dry while there's some light left."
Acacia nodded, caught herself, said "yes," and they left the winding-down Council to retrieve their cloaks and put an end to this embarrassing business of neither one being sure where the other really was.
Through a plothole, never in short supply around a Mary Sue, the contents of their gear packs were visible once pulled out. Except the analysis devices and yarn—they'd gotten them out before they'd hit a plothole. "Invisible yarn," Jay said approvingly. "Hell of a scarf."
"Beats me how you'll ever find it."
"Visible yarn, too... that'd be nice... it could be in patches, or have visible tassels..." Jay smiled, and tossed her head to show willing. "Now, do you want to go up alone?"
"Yeah, but not quite yet. Wait 'til they're asleep. I wish we'd got those longbows, you don't even have to get close, but I suppose we have to work with what we've got now."
Jay nodded assent, and they both looked at the Words intermittently for a while. The time between checking whether the bits were asleep was passed by Acacia teaching Jay to play Cripple Mr. Onion with the cards Jay had pilfered from Orthanc during their last visit to Middle-earth. They were halfway through a game when Acacia noticed that the bits were asleep, grabbed her salvaged sword, and headed up to Rivendell proper.
After searching for awhile, she discovered the room where the bits were sleeping. The Mary Sue, for some reason, wasn't there, which made her job that much easier—a cursory glance at the Words showed why she wasn't there and more than Acacia had really wanted to know about what she was up to with Legolas. Poor elf.
Cutting throats was easier with a dagger than with a sword, but Acacia managed quite well.
Jay was fast asleep when she got back, but her sleeping bag had been laid out for her. She climbed in, and was asleep quite soon. Slaughter was tiring work.
The sun woke them. "Yagh." Jay rolled to her side, bleary. "Come on, Acy, they're leaving at dawn again." She packed her gear and dragged on her cloak. "Damn morning people."
"I am not an early person," Acacia complained.
Jay just grumbled slightly. They followed the Fellowship for a while, too bleary to contemplate bloodshed. They were not, however, too tired to converse.
"At least this one can use a sword. A warrior woman is a nice change."
"Yes. The dominatrix thing is nice and original."
"Now that you mention it... the whip..."
"Black leather whip. Oh no, that's not blatant eroticism at all. Were you looking at the Words last night? You've got to feel sorry for poor Legolas."
"I try not to read that sort of thing." Jay managed to hold her ROBES primly.
"Lucky you. I suffer from morbid curiosity. And 'suffer' is exactly the right word."
"Lessgo, eh? Waltz around the woods after them?"
"Yeah," said Acacia, who sounded as if she were yawning.
They walked. They walked. They walked.
"Dammit. This one can actually walk faster than a romantic stroll."
They walked some more. Acacia, one of those people who could walk and read books at the same time without tripping over everything, looked at the Words periodically, because walking was boring. At one point she burst out laughing.
"What's so funny?" asked Jay.
"Did you know... (snigger)... that Legolas is older than Gandalf?"
"What...?" Jay stared at her.
"Whoever is writing this," said Acacia, still laughing, "thinks Legolas is two thousand years older than Gandalf."
"SOMEONE didn't read the books..." Jay snickered. "Oh, yes, Gandalf is a babe in the cradle, he is. Just an average little human, oh, yes. I bet she thinks he dies in Khazad-dum..."
"And they got Aragorn's name wrong, too. It sounds like some sort of gas. Aragon?"
"At least it's a noble gas."
"Very funny—oh, look, they're stopping."
"Goody. But they aren't going to stay still for long." Jay started creeping forward quickly, trying to be as quiet as possible.
"At least we can sit down for a while. My feet hurt."
"Hush, they're saying something."
Acacia shut up and sat down, close enough to hear what was being said but not close enough to be heard herself.
"Oh, woe is me, I love an immortal," Jay said sotto voce. "How sad, and let me shed a tear."
"At least this Sue doesn't speak insanely eloquently," opined Acacia. "Hells, she can't even use proper grammar. 'It is us that has'?"
Jay just sighed. "Screw this. I'm tired, and I want to be visible again. Let's kill her, eh?"
"Absolutely," said Acacia happily. "We'll have to make sure nobody tries to stop us, of course; Legolas certainly will and Aragorn seems fairly gone as well."
"You can have the guys. Frodo will probably look on glumly... but he might try to be heroic, so watch out. Bet you could get Gimli on your side, though..."
"You mean he wouldn't be suspicious of someone looking like this?" Acacia wondered, but headed off to the other side of the Fellowship-plus-one from Jay.
"Explain it to him." Jay's robe shifted. "After all, she's changed him into a completely hostile jerk... and she hasn't 'won his respect' yet—" Jay realized she was talking to the air. "Thank you. S'much." It would be hard enough to deal with this one chippy—of course, she'd be a perfect fighter. She'd just wait for the chaos to start before she waltzed out.
"YOOHOO!" All eyes turned towards the bushes as a great black form crunched out of them. "Would Akasha kindly step to the front?" The Fellowship stared at Jay. Then they drew their swords. Acacia... come onnnnn...
"I recommend," said a rather conversational voice from the far side, "that you all put away your weapons. Trust me, it's in your own best interests, and—" there was a flash of metal— "not just because I have a sword too and will stab the first person who moves." And this was true. Non-fatally, but they didn't need to know that.
The Fellowship put on the Dauntless Hero Poses™ numbers 3, 5, and 7.
"Oh, fer Pete's sake!" the first Ringwraith said. "Gotta do this traditionally, DON'T we..." Its voice shifted down from a feminine tone to the voice of a recovering gravel addict. "My quarrel is only with the woman—will you meet me in single combat?"
"I will," said the Mary Sue bravely.
Of course, no amount of dramatic attempts at talking her out of it by Legolas were going to work, but this didn't stop him trying. The warrior woman stepped forward from the party. And the Wraith—ran.
She's faster than me, and she's stronger than me, and I don't have my damn bow... Jay, you are SCREWED...
Akasha pursued, and most of the Fellowship tried to follow—but Acacia, who could move very fast when she wanted to, blocked the way. "If anyone wants to be stabbed and slashed at in some very painful places, they're welcome to try and follow," she said—then, realizing this was playing the wrong game, changed tack. "Besides, surely you don't think she won't be able to handle it?"
Meanwhile, Akasha charged through the forest. There was a moment in which she lost sight of the cowardly wraith, but there it was—the great black cloak was hanging still in the air.
"Now you will stand and face me?"
The rasping voice seemed to come from all around. "Akasha... you are charged with—" there was a cough, then "Oh, screw the voice," in a clearer register. "Anyhow. You are charged with causing an unacceptable breach of canon, joining the Fellowship, altering the personalities of the canon characters, most ESPECIALLY Elrond, massacring Aragorn's name—that's A-R-A-G-O-R-N—and being a Mary Sue."
"I know nothing of what you speak. Now, will you fight me??"
There was a moment of silence, and then pain through her chest. "Not really, no," came a voice behind her. "I'm pretty cowardly that way." Blade through her chest, the Mary Sue toppled. Something invisible kicked her weapons away, then danced back and waited for her to be dead.
Jay retrieved the cloak, stared at the tall, muscular corpse, and decided not to give herself a hernia. Grabbing its feet, she dragged it slowly through the underbrush back up to Acacia.
Acacia was looking very relieved. "Let me just say I'm glad you got her when you did," she said breathlessly. "Do you know, I think this is the closest either of us has come yet to getting ourselves killed on a mission?"
Jay nodded fervently. "Next time, I'm going to take my bow, disguise or not."
"You were lucky, you were allowed to fight back. I could hardly kill any of them. I swear, Aragorn nearly got me. I take it all back, I'm not tired of being Uruk-hai, at least we get to pick them off from a reasonable distance..."
Jay sighed, and looked over at the vaguely dazed canon characters. "How are they doing? By the way—you know me. I didn't fight back, I ambushed her."
"Well, we've discovered what it takes to cause an elf to be sick," said Acacia, with a nod in the direction of Legolas. "But he'll be fine in a moment."
"So what do we do with THIS one? No orcs in sight, and I don't want to use the portal more then we have to."
"Letting her rot," said Acacia sourly, "sounds just fine to me."
Jay brightened. "Oh, what a pity there isn't a swarm of canonical carrion birds in this vicinity."
"Pity," said Acacia, without noticing the rather more cheerful note in her partner's voice.
Jay's hood turned towards her, and tilted inquisitively.
"Why are you looking at me like that? I mean, I assume you're looking at me," said Acacia.
"What, you don't WANT to feed her to carrion birds?"
"But there aren't any!"
"Where? I don't see any," Acacia said.
"We're not far from where the crebain are patrolling—they'll be coming this way, anyway, to spy on the Fellowship."
"Oh. Sorry, hadn't been paying much attention to where we were."
Jay's hood turned skyward. "What's up with you this mission? You that tired?"
"Yes," said Acacia. "I stayed up late last night killing bit-characters, and had to get up early. Is it too much to ask to leave at dusk?" she demanded, then added, "Besides, I've just nearly been killed. This does not put me in a good mood."
Jay patted her friend on the shoulder. "Poor Acacia. You really shouldn't get in the way of swords."
"Well, we couldn't very well have anyone rescuing her, could we? Can we go home now? I'm looking forward to being visible again."
Jay nodded, pushed the portal button carefully, and led Acacia through.
Acacia took off her cloak, breathed a sigh of relief at the fact that she could see herself, and stashed the cloak and sword in a cabinet as souvenirs. "Now, the sooner we can get Makes-Things in here to fix that damn thing, the happier I'll be."
"You get some rest," Jay said soothingly. She sat down and started to knit with her (oddly enough) still-invisible yarn. Acacia fell asleep quickly enough. Jay put her knitting down carefully, and crept out into Headquarters proper.
Five minutes later, a cowed young man was thrown bodily through the door, his tool chest after him. Acacia stirred, but didn't wake.
"Fix it," Jay said quietly.
[Acacia's A/N: Mary Sues these days. They're getting a lot more dangerous. Thanks to Joan who pointed out this fic to us along with a lot more, and congratulations to Maranogh who correctly guessed that I was using curare in the first chapter. We no longer have a famine of suggestions, but go ahead and send in yours anyway.]
[Jay's A/N: Wow! We almost got hurt! Scary. Jay got to be bloodthirsty—don't worry, it's not a trend. Hopefully, you'll be seeing more of Makes-Things. And if you want to write your own PPC... go for it! Boldly! It'd be great if it became a tradition.]