"Allrighty. Checklist time... potato chips?" Acacia held the clipboard easily, a pen in one hand.
Acacia nodded. "Ladies and gentlemen: we have barbecue!"
"I'll get an all-call for anyone off duty," Jay said.
The acoustics of the PPC facility are positively maddening. Consequently, the all-call over the paging system was not only annoying, it bounced from the walls, hid in the closets to leap out at people, and was otherwise deafening.
When she was sure it was over, Acacia, who hated loud noises, came out of the fetal position, took her hands off her ears, and tried to reclaim some dignity.
"Also—I think I made some sort of promise to Miss Cam to invite her."
Acacia considered. "How're you going to contact her? Drop in at OFUM again? Do you know how much trouble I got into once for unauthorized use of a portal to visit the Discworld?"
"You did? No, I was going to send a letter. Via portal, I'll admit."
Acacia shrugged. "Might not get in trouble if you don't go through. But if you do, I had nothing to do with it."
"Of course. Do we want to invite"—Jay's tone took on a dull tone—"the Creatrix herself?"
"You remember. Meagan the Creatrix? Newest recruit? I understand that you'd've blocked the memory out, but..."
"Yes, I remember her. Unfortunately."
"I think she's busy, at any rate."
Jay nodded. "Somebody sent us a horse. They didn't sign the delivery, and I shan't ask. Alice is most offended."
"I imagine so."
"Ava didn't mind, however..."
Ava, the falcon formerly known as Kes, was enjoying herself in the care of Kai, who'd (for some bizarre reason) volunteered to take care of the newly rescued pets.
"If it keeps up at this rate, there'll be a PPC menagerie by the time Upstairs realizes what's happening," Acacia predicted.
"We're here! Is it important?!" Robyn looked as hunted and high-strung as ever she did.
"We have flames." Acacia held up the parcel. "We're having a barbecue with them." She looked around. "Incidentally, where's Ranger?"
Ranger slid through the same door Robyn had. He'd wisely taken his time getting there, and was therefore not out of breath.
"Ah. There he is."
"And there come others behind me, who are not so foolish and eager as my partner." Ranger sighed, and massaged the bridge of his nose. "Incidentally, Acacia, you were right..."
"Of course I was." She considered. "But which particular instance are you referring to?"
"I scoffed when you told me that there were Mary Sues worse than my late siblings. That was foolish." He turned on his heel and walked away.
More, however, soon arrived to take his place.
Kage and Sakira didn't pause to talk—too busy sniping at each other. Kat (short for Katana, a name which earned glares) came in dropping textbooks, and competing with Robyn for title of "most harried-looking deputy." Others there were too, among whom Acacia could have sworn she saw a mindflayer. Okay, what's that about? And there was—
"ARCHY!" Jay bounced. She had a talent for finding annoying nicknames.
The spy gave her a slightly disturbed look.
"Are you feeling better, Architeuthis? Huh? Huh? Areya?"
"Jay, lay off her. And," Acacia raised her voice, "whoever's making that odd tapping noise, if you value your life, please stop."
It stopped, and Karen (called Kaz) sneaked away behind Kazra.
Jay shook her head. "Wow. I don't remember all these people. I'm having trouble keeping up with their names..."
Acacia shrugged. "I normally don't try. So, Architeuthis..."
"WHEEEEEE!!!!!!" Jay bounced across the lawn with much energy, flinging random punctuation.
Someone had let her into the caffeinated soda.
Acacia just rolled her eyes. She had finally finished harassing a detailed account of recently-investigated fics out of Architeuthis, and sworn to think of something really horrible to do to Clefe and Ash if they were assigned to her.
After some time, Jay stopped bouncing, and went to attacking the leftover ribs. It's remarkable how much mess they can make...
"Jay. Stop. Go. Shower." Acacia frowned at her partner.
"Yes'm." Jay sighed and headed inside, panting.
Most of the Protectors that had been there had by now been called back on duty. "Jay! Come back!"
Jay froze halfway to the door.
"Help clean up. THEN shower."
While Acacia had said "help," she was adept at pretending to work.
So it was that Jay doused the grill, threw away the wrappers and various paper plates, and re-clipped the bags of potato chips. It was only when she was halfway out of the courtyard with a cargo of sodas that she realized how little help Acacia was being.
"Oy! You! Come carry."
"I'm doing this." Acacia was, in fact, using a fork to scrape burnt unidentifiability off the grill. Nice thought, but completely unnecessary, and a nice way to avoid real work.
"That doesn't need done. THIS needs done. This—HELP!" A three-liter bottle slid from her grip, plummeting towards her feet—
—and was caught.
"Oh, hello, Cam," said Acacia brightly, choosing to address this new issue instead of the one that was a nascent argument not going her way.
Miss Cam raised an eyebrow. "I see I'm late. I was busy."
"Students being difficult?"
"Among other things. Of course, I'm finding ways to deal with them." She gave a flat, frightening smile. "Saved anything for me?"
"Ask Jay, she's picking it up."
"Yes. There's a multitude of food left. And make Acacia help me!" In Jay's eyes, there WAS no higher authority than the mini-Balrog trainer.
"Nyet, ya kashka." This meant "No, I'm a cat," and was not meant to make any sense; Acacia, though not fluent in Russian, had seen it in a signature somewhere and thought it was fun.
"Yes, you are," Jay said with a sniff, unloading things to find some food for Miss Cam.
"I got your message. May I congratulate you on your aim?"
"Aim?" said Acacia.
"What, the brick?"
"Yes. It hit a student squarely on the head."
"Miss Cam's invitation. I tied it to a brick and tossed it through the portal."
Acacia laughed. "Fun."
Miss Cam accepted a plate of leftover chicken and munched amiably. "I can't stay long, of course. The tortu—ah, the schooling must continue."
"We know," said Acacia with an evil grin.
"They're going to give me Elrond fics," Jay said sadly. "I heard the Intelligence agents talking about it."
"You said mission before last that it would be a nice change," pointed out Acacia, who had a treacherously good memory for things like that.
"Yes. And I accept it. But I don't LIKE it, and that's a fact."
Miss Cam looked moderately sympathetic. "Poor dear." With that, she stood briskly, brushed down her gown, and snapped a portal in the air. (Never shalt thou underestimate the powers of the Headmaster or his underlings.)
Jay sighed mournfully, picked up the sodas again, and started away. "Carry, Acacia."
"Don't want to."
"You're almost done—"
Jay scowled. "You are a mean person. I hope they inflict something truly terrible on you."
"Of course I'm a mean person. And they've inflicted lots of truly terrible things on me already. If they give me anything much worse than Aria, just remember you'll have to share in the suffering."
"Yes, I know."
"So why are you wishing for horrible things? You're only doing it to yourself."
"Because I'm daft. Now HELP."
"But I'm lazy!"
"I shall do horrible things to you. Carry!"
"Fine." Acacia picked up a single soda can.
Jay glared and trudged away under the weight of much caffeine.
Acacia put her single can away. "There. I helped."
"I hate you. I will read to you aloud the Story of the Hairdryer in Middle-earth."
Acacia blinked. "Hairdryer?"
"Hairdryer. And batteries. And the unknown language of Middle-earth, Frodo."
"Why haven't we been assigned it?"
"It's going through the motions of being nominated for GAFF status."
"Ah." Acacia considered. "If it's as bad as it sounds, have the MSTers got hold of it yet?"
"I only wish. It's under wraps, though, until the GAFF judgement comes through."
"Good. I hope they take a very long time."
"Yes. More time to torture me with Elrond's vampiric lovers and traumatized fawners-on... at least I know he's married!"
"I seem to remember one in which his wife was named Mithalphien and died when an orc pushed her into a river because she didn't know how to swim."
Jay turned to her, wide-eyed. "She... didn't... know... how... to... swim? Her mother-in-law could FLY and she couldn't swim?"
"I hope we get that one. I do. It would be a pleasure to enlighten her."
Acacia shrugged. "That wasn't the Sue. The Sue was her daughter 'Galenvagoriel'."
"Galenvagoriel..." Jay twitched. "I hope we get her anyway." She shot a last look around the courtyard, and shook her head. "Back to the response center."
They could hear it from all the way down the hall. It was a sound like the scream of a machine: the wrench and tear of the fabric of reality... it was...
[BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!!! BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!!! BLOODY BEEEEEEEEEP!!!]
Acacia blinked. "Suddenly it's beeping in words?"
"Do you think it's been beeping and we just haven't noticed?"
"I think so. Poor thing."
"It's a machine, Jay."
Acacia blinked and looked at her strangely.
Acacia just groaned and headed for the response center.
Jay clamped both hands firmly over her ears. "We're here! But we're not coming in unless you shut up!"
The computer shut off midbeep.
"Good," said Acacia. "Now, let's see what's going—" She stopped suddenly, having caught sight of Jay's screen.
Acacia replied with a few incoherent squeaky noises.
"Acacia! You're channeling me."
The opportunity to argue could always be relied upon to bring Acacia out of a stunned and/or sickened state of mind. "No, I'm not!"
"Good girl. Now, what's wrong?" Jay moved around her, and raised an eyebrow. "I've never seen a Mary Sue/+Deville code before..."
"The spy in question wasn't sure," mumbled Acacia, slumping into Jay's chair.
"Pan... gaea? All Earth? Wasn't that a supercontinent?"
"It was. What kind of idiot uses the name of a landmass?"
"She says..." Jay scanned. "She says it's Greek, and so we shouldn't make fun of it."
"I'll make fun of whatever I want to make fun of," said Acacia sourly. "More so if it patently makes no sense."
Jay had been reading ahead, and her lips began to tremble with suppressed laughter. Acacia, who wasn't paying much attention, didn't notice. She did, however, when Jay began to snort uncontrollably.
Acacia blinked. "Who or what is Honey-bump?"
Jay was laughing too hard to answer.
"Jay...? We can hardly go on this assignment if you refuse to stop laughing long enough to go." She considered this statement. "Actually, laugh as much as you like."
"No, no, I'm better now."
"Sorry. But perhaps we can use this opportunity to try out Enting."
"What, in her Spontaneously-Popping-Up Enchanted Verb-Named Wood?"
"Fine by me."
Jay blinked. "You're... agreeing with me. That scares me."
"Why?" This time she was joking; she sounded as if she were trying to suppress laughter.
Jay's eyes widened. "You're frightening me..."
Jay went through the pre-jump motions quickly, keeping half an eye on Acacia. Something was very probably wrong.
Acacia stood up, giving a sour look to the screen, and started to gather together her gear.
"First we need the actual portal, Jay."
"Oops." Jay, not turning away, fumbled for the switch. "There. After you."
She stepped through without bothering to reply.
There was a moment of silence. She looked around. Jay was nowhere to be seen. "Where arrrrrre you...?"
"I'm a tree! Hurrah!" Said tree revealed itself to be more humanoid than first suspected.
"Ah." Acacia looked down at herself; she seemed to have turned out with thorns.
"An acacia. Cute." Jay was a rather tall pinish-looking Entmaiden.
"What else would I be?"
"Nothing at all. Mind telling me what's got you so happy?"
"Where exactly did you get that impression?" asked Acacia sourly.
"You giggled. You agreed with me."
"When did I giggle?"
"You suppressed giggles."
Acacia considered. "Stress reaction?"
"What uh-oh?" Acacia sighed, and sat down. "And when you're done explaining that, do you know when I last slept?"
"I mean uh-oh as in 'bugger, she's REALLY scary when she's stressed,' and you last slept sometime after I did."
"That is not very helpful."
"Would you like to nap?"
"Is anything important about to happen?"
"Nope." Jay scanned the words. "I actually hit a plothole and missed first contact by about two hours."
"Good," said Acacia. Curling up was rather difficult in their current forms, but she managed it.
Jay propped herself against a tree and attempted to doze. It must have worked, because when she woke up some time had passed.
"Oy!" She prodded Acacia with a foot.
"I AM awake."
"It's time." Jay pointed one wooden finger. "They meet over there, I think."
Acacia groaned and got up.
Jay grinned. "Wonderful ideas have just hit me. C'mon."
"So, what are the wonderful ideas?"
"I think trees that follow her around might unsettle her mind."
The Fellowship wondered on, tired and hungry. (What they were wondering about, the Words did not say.) Pippin and the other Hobbits fell to the back, heads down, feet barely rising up off the leaf strewn forest floor. "We have to rest." Boromir persisted as he had so many times before. (Perhaps the author had meant "protested"—unfortunately, it just manifested as Boromir speaking in a slow drawl.)
Acacia scowled, but said nothing.
"Not here. There is a bad feeling about these woods. I can feel it! The trees are talking in hushed whispers." Legolas looked about them, fearful of what he might see.
He wasn't speaking metaphorically, either. Jay was keeping up a running commentary on the story's poor grammar—this was a bad sign, considering it had only advanced a few paragraphs.
"He's not generally so unwilling to meet a Sue," said Acacia mildly.
"It's his kid sister or summat. I'd avoid her if I were him."
Acacia looked at her sideways. "I'd avoid her if I was anyone but me. Or you. Or some other assassin."
"But at least we can deal with her," Jay said.
The Fellowship had walked through the forest for days on end, resting only when necessary, but Strider refused to spend another night in that evil wood.
"Come now Pippin, we are almost through." He said soothingly, trying to urge the young hobbit on.
"I am nearly through you mean." His normally lively voice was crushed and quiet.
"We cannot rest here. It is but a few leagues to the other side."
"The dialogue's almost right, is the sad thing," remarked Jay. "If only she could've kept it up. And added some commas."
"I am yet unimpressed," sniffed Acacia.
"But a few for me, you or Legolas, but the little ones are spent, let us rest, if only for a short while."
"Boromir, we cannot. This is the land of the Maiden." A look of wonder and fear spread across the elf's face.
"Another elf?" Sam raised his head in hope.
"And it plunges into idiocy."
"It was never far," said Acacia sourly. "I mean, how did this whole big enchanted wood just pop up out of nowhere? Where is it?"
"It's in the Magic World of Sue." Jay sighed. "'Aniron.' You shouldn't name a wood a verb."
"You shouldn't name anything a verb."
"It can be interesting. But... have you looked at WHY she named it Aniron?"
Acacia squinted. Author's Notes, unless left undifferentiated from the actual text, were more difficult to read than the normal Words, but it was still possible. "... It sounds cool? Good grief!"
Legolas was just getting finished describing the Maiden. "..protected by animals of such size and strength that they have enough power to rip a man apart."
Acacia sniggered nastily. "Despite being called Honey-bump?"
"And he's scared of that? He lives in Mirkwood! Big-arse-spider central!"
"Who does she need protecting from? It seems that it is us that are in want of protection." Gimli drew his axe. "If one of them man eating beasts even try to attack, my axe will cut them down."
"What, all by itself?" wondered Acacia.
"Now, now. Metonomy happens."
"Metonomy. Referring to something by evoking a closely related image. Like Gimli and his axe."
"But... oh, fine." Acacia subsided just in time to hear a particularly insipid part of Legolas' little speech.
"These trees are older than time itself and anything held within their reach is believed sacred."
"If it's evil, how can it be sacred? And how can anything be older than time? I mean, by definition, nothing could age until there was time, so the oldest thing around must be exactly as old as time, or else time itself. And—"
"Too much Thief of Time for the Acacia. No more Pratchett until you get it out of your system, young lady."
"How do you intend to enforce this?"
"Am I supposed to be afraid of large sticks?" said Acacia, indicating the number of large sticks—branches, in fact—now attached to her.
"Ah. Mm. No." Jay considered. "Threat of taking pictures of you and making you 'Ent Playmate of the Year' in Play-ent?"
Acacia sulked. "Fine."
"People are already accusing us of being alt.pratchett denizens, anyway."
"Is that so."
"I'm afraid it IS so."
Acacia just shrugged, and went back to watching the characters.
Sam was just saying "But say I accidentally trod on a bug? The Maiden will be out to get me. I don't want no curse followin' me for the rest of my days."
"Bitchy Maiden. Eternal PMS?"
"I wonder what elf PMS is like," mused Acacia. She considered this for a moment. "Let's not have that conversation, though. Please."
"Indeed. Although it might go a way towards explaining Luthien..."
"I said let's not have this conversation."
"Not having! Not having!"
"Legolas." Jumping silently from his elevated perch, Legolas landed beside Strider. "Have your bow ready, I saw something move up ahead. Can you see it?"
Surveying the ground before them, Legolas shook his head. "Nothing."
"Poor thing. Better vantage, and a human saw it, and he didn't—his eyesight must be off." Jay cocked her head and looked worried.
"Charge list?" suggested Acacia.
"Boromir, protect the little ones. Gimli, Legolas, you come with me."
"I want to come." Frodo said drawing his blade. "I have fought many an orc before, you need more than three."
Jay raised a ponderous eyebrow. "How cute. Bloodthirsty Frodo."
"This is just sad."
"Besides... by their own logic, how could there be anything harmful, here?"
They watched as Strider, Legolas and Gimli disappeared into the trees. (Apparently the author had forgotten Aragorn's real name.)
"I should never have sat down." Sam said dismally.
"And why is that my little friend?" Asked Boromir.
"Because. Now that I have sat down, I have no will to stand back up again. So you will have to leave me here as I lay."
Jay blinked. "He's... sitting, and lying down? At the same time? Hoom."
Things took a fascinating left turn, all of a sudden...
"We would drag you by the hair if it was the only way to get you to move." Pippin laughed.
"Struggle as we may. You have had one too many pints Mr Gamgee." Merry said opening his eyes.
"Not as many as you Meriadoc Brandybuck. If I remember rightly it was you and your pints that almost got us butchered."
"You don't," said Acacia. "It was Pippin. Really. I think we have another author who can't tell them apart. It's not that hard..."
"Sam doesn't drink. And... butchered? When does that happen?" Jay was slowing down. This was a nice change from bounce-thee-off-the-walls hyper, but still odd.
"I think they mean in Bree." Acacia shrugged.
"When did that happen? There wasn't really much in the way of butchery, at least related to drink."
"That's what I mean. But that's the only place that comes to mind where a hobbit does a stupid pint-related thing, so."
"Bother them all."
"Better idea. Kill them all."
"Only the Sue."
Acacia sighed. "I meant Sues. Bothering them's just not enough."
"C'est vraix," Jay mangled.
"Now, now boys. You had better end this before you say something that you'll regret." Boromir had stopped pacing to listen to the argument, quickly resumed his wearing away of the forest floor, growing more restless with every minute that passed.
There was an afterimage as Boromir appeared to both stop pacing and resume pacing. Jay's eyes watered.
"Boromir as mother figure. Good grief," said Acacia sourly.
"At least he's not in an apron."
"Still sounds like someone's mother." She considered. "Only cheesier."
"Poor thing." Jay patted her carefully, avoiding the thorns. They watched as the hobbits finally did something in character (falling asleep), and Sam went off to talk to the flowers.
"Does he really think they're listening?" Acacia wondered.
"Overexposure to Sues must make people's sanity degrade." She shot Acacia a look. "Don't even say it."
"Say what?" asked Acacia innocently.
"SAM! Behind you."
For some strange reason, Frodo screamed "Sam," and then calmly added "behind you."
"Frodo?" Turning, Sam stared into the huge belly of a brown furry creature. From their better vantage point, Jay and Acacia could identify it as a bear.
"Is this"—Acacia sniggered—"Honey-bump?"
"Yes, indeedy. Although the Fellowship shall not find this out until two chapters later. They do not, oddly enough, burst out laughing."
Sam had fainted of fright.
"This from the guy who takes on Shelob? Sure."
There was a fizzling noise from Acacia's pack, and she opened it up. Her Canon Analysis Device was smoking; apparently the sum total of OOCness in the area had passed the capacity of the Device to measure.
"Oh, dear. It's about to get—" Jay's eyes widened, and she ripped at her pack, got out her own Device, and flung it as far away as possible. There was a painful sounding [Zzzrt!] and a flash of light.
Acacia winced. "Ouch."
"Bugger. They've worn out. Too many Sues."
"I shall have to see if we can get ones that don't break."
"I pity Makes-Things."
"Whyever is that?" said Acacia sweetly.
"Because we keep breaking his stuff. And making him fix it. And breaking and fixing and breaking and fixing and here comes a Sue..."
There was a moment of confusion as time coiled angrily around itself, and the scenery shifted without warning. They were five minutes before where they had been, and in a completely different part of the woods.
"I hate Temporal-Spatial Distortions," Acacia complained.
"Owie." Just in front of them, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli were crashing through the brush.
"Are you sure that it was not just a branch swaying in the breeze?" Gimli puffed as they ran.
"Gimli's out of breath?" said Acacia skeptically.
"Gimli's out of character. It's a domino effect."
"I am sure it was not. Can you not sense a presence?" Strider asked as he stopped to survey the ground.
"I am afraid not."
"I sense only evil in this place." Legolas said.
"Sue... sense... tingling!" Jay whispered with a giggle.
Acacia sniggered. "Unusually perceptive."
"This way." Strider pointed to the east, sprinting towards a dense part of the forest.
"Come Master Elf, his lordship beckons."
"His lordship? When did Gimli ever express an attitude like that?"
Acacia, knowing full well it was a rhetorical question, nevertheless affected to consider it. "Nothing comes to mind."
Jay sighed. "This doesn't bode well."
"That he does. That he does."
Acacia rolled her eyes in disgust. "Redundant much? Redundant much?"
"Now, now, Acacia. Er—"
"Now, now. This redundancy thing is catching."
Something darted between the trees, forcing its way through the thick foliage, its pursuers following not far behind. Making as much noise as possible it tried to lure Strider and the others around in a circle, forcing them back to the edge of the forest, the plan was working, until—
Boromir paced up and down.
Jay read the words a few more times, still not liking what she saw. "Bugger all if I'm going to keep jumping around with them."
"I vote we stay here, let them do the running around, and just keep up with events by watching the Words," suggested Acacia.
"Yes. Until they meet. First notable breach of canon is"—Jay started scanning the Words—"when she accuses Legolas of destroying her life and then offers no proof. Not much to go on, but this is so consistently bad..."
"This forest is a canon violation," said Acacia darkly.
"Stupid verb forest." Jay kicked one root-like foot in the dirt. "I don't feel good."
"Probably because the Sue has 'linked her soul with the forest' or something equally melodramatic. Not sure why she'd want to do that, but it seems she did."
"We're tied up in Sue power? Yugh! No wonder I'm feeling off. Ents might not have been the greatest idea for this mission."
"It is annoying, yes."
There were a few more short, incoherent flashes, which finally culminated with everyone running towards the unconscious Sam.
Acacia blinked, fairly disoriented by all the Distortions. "So, where and when are we now?"
Jay furrowed her brow. "THERE is fainted Sam. THERE is the bear. HERE comes the Sue quicklooklikeatree!"
Acacia quickly stood up straighter and kept still.
"Okay. The'th patht uth. Edge back really thlowly..." Jay was already almost out of eyeshot of the Sue.
They were both out of sight rather soon and if anyone noticed that some trees had vanished, it was dismissed as part of the essential weirdness of "Aniron."
"Whew. Damn elf-Sues and their sneakishness."
"I hate them."
Jay was scanning the list. "Her pets are all normal, though—when she's gone, they can stay in Middle-earth just fine."
Acacia breathed a sigh of relief. "Good; for a moment I thought you would want to bring bears back to Head—" she stopped, and stared hard at Mary Sue. Her eyes were fixed on the hostage situation going on, i.e., Mary Sue had a blade to Boromir's throat.
"Calm down! She's not going to hurt him, calm down..." Jay grabbed her by the arm.
"Tell me," said Acacia in slightly strained tones, "Did Upstairs ever give missions to people based on how much it wouldn't bother them?"
"I don't think they judge. Really. Look, if it makes you feel better, I had it from Archy that our next mission is an Elrond Sue..."
"I'm sorry. Redundancy, catching."
Acacia sighed and leaned against a (real) nearby tree.
Jay distracted herself by writing down "really stupid names to name bears" in her notebook. She didn't feel like starting a scene.
"What idiot names a pet bear after her father?" Too late she realized she had spoken aloud.
"Same idiot who would name a forest after a verb or herself after a landmass?" suggested Acacia.
"Exactly." Jay began to scan again—and jerked upright. "WHAT?"
"I'm sorry. I just got the worst mental image—look!" Jay pointed out a bit of text. "Pangaea was lying on the floor still, Evenstar and Stormcrow sitting by her bare feet like guard dogs."
Acacia looked disturbed.
"Pet bears, thank the Lady."
"Oh." Now she looked relieved.
"But, bad, wasn't it?"
"Very." She scowled. "It's not even as if coming up with names not already used is that hard."
"Introduction now—must come, or we will miss charges."
Acacia nodded reluctantly, and stood up.
"You will not hurt her!" The voice commanded. Boromir came back into sight of the canonicals, a blade against his throat. "If you do then you will be one less on your quest of the Ring. Throw down your bow."
"Let him go." Legolas shouted.
"Throw it down or he dies." The blade pressed deeper into Boromir's throat. The creature had moved to Boromir's side, watching intently. "Drop it!"
"This is remarkably stupid. I wonder what she scores on the Sue litmus test."
"We can check when we get back," said Acacia airily.
"We can check here, actually—I never travel without it. I just don't use it often, for it be depressing."
"Do as she says Legolas." Aragorn (whom the author was still calling Strider at every mention) urged. The bow fell to the ground; Boromir was pushed to the ground.
"I hereby christen this the Stupid Redundancy Fic," Jay muttered.
All she got in reply from Acacia was a low growl.
Events eventuated. There was a flicker, and—
"Why is Legolas wearing a dress?" Jay's eyes widened.
"And why does he match the Sue?" asked Acacia, sounding a bit shell-shocked.
It was, in fact, the fault of a rogue description: "An elf, as fair and beautiful as Legolas with hair as blond as his came from behind the tree, her dress, the same as Legolas' in colour and style."
"Not that he doesn't look good in drag. Not as good as Elrond did, but—"
A quiet snicker cut her off.
"Why are you laughing?"
"Just imagining the probable result of your going back to OFUM and telling him that."
Jay's face went a darker shade of brown. "He'd feed me to Barlog. But he did look damn good. I'll have you know Hugo Weaving's ass is a national icon, in Australia."
Acacia just smirked.
"I'd tell Boromir what you thought of him in a tuxedo, but he's not nearly so mean."
"You will leave this place. You have brought an unthinkable evil here. Go and do not return." The Sue's gaze fell on Legolas.
"Hail, to the Princess Pangaea. Daughter of Mirkwood." Legolas said, bowing down and picking up his bow.
"When in doubt, flatter?" Jay asked quietly.
"I guess that's the reasoning."
"I am no daughter of Mirkwood." Pangaea spat, Legolas stood. (The rest of the Fellowship couldn't, being "rooted to the spot" by her beauty and the fierce creature, which had not yet been called a bear, by her side.)
The Sue's gaze shifted. "You all must leave here."
"Slightly ironic, really," Acacia murmured.
"Legolas?" Frodo looked into the eyes of the elf, searching for some reasoning.
"We are kin, Frodo. Pangaea is my sister."
"Was! I am of no connection to Mirkwood any longer, Legolas." Her eyes filled with anger. The creature, sensed her anger, roared and reared up on its hind legs again, teeth bared.
"She's trying to drown the Fellowship in commas! The fiendishness."
"Can we just kill her now?" wondered Acacia. "We can feed her to her bears. Poetic justice shall be done."
"They don't have much reason to eat her. She's not particularly succulent, and she keeps them well fed."
"Argh!" Sam was awake. "That thing nearly butchered me."
"That 'thing' is Honey-bump, my bear, and she was protecting her cubs." Pangaea turned her stared towards Sam, who cowered in the circle of Hobbits. "You got to close." She told him, her voice barely above a whisper.
"He got to close what? And shouldn't he know what a bloody bear is?"
"Don't look at me," said Acacia, "I don't know how Suvians think."
"We should give her to Beorn or his kids to use as a baseball."
Acacia brightened. "Hey..."
"They don't know baseball. But there is golf."
"Every kid in the history of the world has known instinctively how to play some variant on the theme of catch."
Jay's laugh bordered on a cackle.
Honey-bump returned her paws to the ground. "You are unsafe."
Acacia rolled her eyes. "Are they supposed to be safe?"
"You and that terrible evil that you have brought into my forest. She felt threatened." Pangaea pointed to a spot beside the flowers. There are cubs! They were hidden so that you could not see, but come, if you must see for yourself.
Cautiously, they neared a small hole in the ground. Honey-bump grew uneasy her eyes searching wildly around the circle of strangers. "It is okay Honey-bump, they will not be hurt." Pangaea used the Mary Sue Aura of Smooth to calm the bear.
Acacia considered a moment. "I wish we could get a Sue for the Department of Fictional Psychology. I want to know WHY they name their Cute Animal Friends things like 'Honey-bump'."
"Because it's cute. And they think canon is a misspelled weapon."
Acacia sighed. "You know, if the authors can't write until they've passed OFUM, why are there so many like this around?"
"Black-market fic. They write anyway, learning nothing."
"Ahh." Acacia nodded.
"It's horrible. We should tell Cam."
"We shall. Right after we get back."
Sam jumped behind Boromir who along with the small Hobbit, had no desire to see anymore of the creatures. Merry and Pippin stood at the front, desperate to see another, all felling of tiredness lost in the wonder of the bear. Two, small, brown balls of fur tumbled from the hole, clawing and biting at one another.
"Evenstar, Stormcrow." The cubs stopped fighting. Evenstar lay on her back, paws in the air, looking at the company up side down. Stormcrow ran to his mother staying by her side, fearful of the strangers.
"I find these names stupid."
"At least 'Honey-bump' wasn't already in use," added Acacia.
"And not evocative of godawful mental images."
Pangaea plucked a flower and gave it to Sam. It was only to be hoped that this felt like plucking an eyebrow, what with her connection to the forest. She went on to explain how she'd heard everything they'd said.
"Pangaea is an elf of magic, Sam. As you believed we all were." Legolas said grimly.
"I've yet to meet a non-magical elf in this universe... how about you?"
"I think he means she's an elf that goes around using magic excessively."
"Creatures such as you have no right being here Legolas. You destroy life, I created it."
Acacia shook her head. "Is there even anything to be said to this?"
"I saw the right from the wrong in what our people were doing, but you...you were to afraid to stand up for what you believed in. You followed them and their ways, even though you were not completely comfortable with them. I had the courage to leave, to make it on my own. My 'creatures' belong here more than any of you do. They kill out of necessity, you have begun to kill for the pleasure."
"I don't lust after Legolas," Jay said with anger in her voice. "But that's just defamation of bloody character. Along with ALL the Mirkwood elves. HOOM."
"No trying to make moral points, Sue; we all know the reason you're doing this, no point in being sanctimonious while you're at it," Acacia complained.
With a low whistle, Pangaea made her way down the hill, Honey-Bump, Stormcrow and Evenstar following closely behind.
"We need to get away from these woods." Strider said, calling after her, a hint of anger in his voice.
Pointing north Pangaea said, "On that I can agree! It is three days in that direction that you must go."
"That is the way that we have come." Legolas pointed out.
"But I'm a bitch Sue and am going to complicate your lives. Dance, fools!"
"They don't want to be here, she claims not to want them here, we don't want them here, can we just make everyone happy?" suggested Acacia.
"Hang on," Jay said through gritted teeth.
"And that is the way that you must go. I will not have you bring that evil any further into the Woods of Aniron. Leave! War or battle shall not cross the threshold of my land."
"Let us go forward." Boromir pleaded. "We shall be out of this woods by nightfall."
She turned to look at them. "Not through these woods. It is another five days journey. Had you a better guide you would know that." She looked at Strider.
"That's just about enough!"
"The trees speak?" Legolas yelped.
The trees, one thorned and one unusually large evergreen, did indeed speak.
"I've had it up to here"—the evergreen motioned about neck level—"with your bloody sanctimony and insults! And your damnable verb wood!"
"What are you talking about?" demanded Pangaea anachronistically.
"And your stupid names," added the bethorned one.
"Pangaea, whose name does INDEED mean 'all the earth,' that's why they named a supercontinent after it: we've got some charges for you."
"Giving yourself, your forest, and your Cute Animal Friends really abysmally stupid names," Acacia began.
"Adding a forest where no forest can be—"
"Interfering with a quite unacceptable number of characters and burning out my Analysis Device—"
"Character defamation of the elves of Mirkwood in general, and Legolas specifically—"
"Threatening Boromir with sharp pointy things and then condemning Legolas for being too violent—"
"Screwing with the hobbits' heads—"
"Being Legolas' sister—"
"Creating a forest with godplaying powers—oops, we said that. Which brings me to my next charge, redundancy—"
"Conspiracy to be dramatically injured and require one or more canon characters to nurse you back to health—"
"And joining your soul to the forest, which is a) stupid, and b) annoying—"
"AND," Acacia finished, "mucking with Legolas' eyesight, not bothering to try to tell Merry and Pippin apart, and being an idiot Mary Sue."
"You—" Pangaea spluttered for a moment, then burst out: "It's GREEK, okay? You shouldn't make fun of my name!"
Acacia was, in the event, too busy laughing hysterically to kill her.
"THIS ISN'T GREECE, BRIGHT GIRL!" There was a sound like a large piece of wood impacting a cantaloupe as the sequoia brought a fist down heavily on her head.
Acacia finished laughing, got her breath back, and picked up the Sue, incidentally lacerating her in several places.
"Oops. That looks painf—you have an arrow in your butt!"
"Really? I hadn't noticed."
"I take it back. This is a very useful shape to be in." Jay beamed happily, extracting the few arrows that Legolas had shot at her. She was starting to look like an acacia herself. "I've never been to Beorn's house before!"
Acacia looked around. "Think we should give the Fellowship a portal back to wherever they should be? I imagine this forest will cease to exist soon."
"All right, y'all. That way—that way, go that way. Uh-huh. You too. Keep your arms and legs inside the portal."
They had little trouble herding the shell-shocked canonicals through the portal; with all the bizarrity they'd just seen, a doorway in the air was very tame indeed.
"Righty now. Sue still knocked out?"
"Good. Does Beorn still live by what's-the-rock?"
"We can check."
"Hmm. The remote activator won't accept 'what's-the-rock' as valid input. You're the one with the disgustingly good memory, so here." Jay handed the activator to Acacia, who punched a few buttons, and another portal opened.
Acacia groaned. She predicted another round of sightseeing fairly soon.
"CAMERA!" Jay produced said item, holding it carefully in overlarge hands. It took about ten [click] FLASHes before Jay noticed:
"We left the body."
Acacia handed her the activator. "YOU get it."
"Moo. You take good pictures or I shall hang you from the ceiling." Jay opened the portal and stepped reluctantly through.
The Sue was gone. "Daaaaaaaamn."
She portalled back to Acacia. "Did you take good pictures?"
"You didn't leave me the camera. Where's Pangaea?"
"Gone. Hiding in the woods. I feel really stupid."
Acacia groaned. "You are really stupid!"
"It's—in Mordor, right?"
Acacia shrugged irritably. "How should I know where she put it? You lost her, YOU go get her."
"I'm not going to bother. I'm going to burn the bloody thing down."
"Fun!" This last was very enthusiastic, as Acacia was in fact slightly pyro.
"Let's pop out and make sure it's not next to anything inflammable, yes?"
"Edge of the wood?"
Jay opened the portal, and stepped through.
Acacia's eyes watered. This wasn't even the vagueness caused by sparing description, this was the kind of absolute nothing you should not get inside a world.
"I love the smell of flames in the morning," Jay misquoted. "Smells like..." She heaved a flame jar grenade-style into the wood.
Acacia, less efficiently, just held one up to a leaf.
From the wood, there was a scream of pain. Jay didn't seem to care much, oddly enough.
It had apparently been Pangaea. The Generic Undefined Landscape vanished, depositing the assassins randomly in Middle-earth.
"Yep." Acacia sighed; Jay was of course going to insist on sightseeing here as well.
"Theoden's hall! Let's go see!"
Acacia just rolled her eyes and followed Jay.
"Ooh! The royal morgue thingy!" Jay's zeal was greatly degrading her vocabulary.
"Jay. You are taking pictures of a graveyard. That is strange."
"It's spooky and cool!"
Acacia rolled her eyes. Again.
"My pardon. Its sepulchral beauty and echoes of past greatness cry out to be captured on film. Better?"
"Why not? Don't you like art-babble?"
"It makes you sound like a tour guide."
"Ah." Jay looked down. "I'm out of film, anyway." She opened a portal silently, and motioned Acacia through.
Acacia stepped through, and when Jay did as well it was to the sound of extremely creative swearing.
"The arrow!" The transition from wood to flesh, as well as into a smaller body, had shifted the arrow some, but it was still lodged in Acacia's skin. "Bugger! Do you want to go back through and pull it out? Or do we take you to Medical?"
"Medical Department," hissed Acacia. She then continued to swear, despite the fact that she was beginning to repeat herself.
"Can you walk?" Jay offered her a hand up.
"Yes!" Acacia snapped, despite evidence to the contrary.
"Don't make me fireman-carry you."
"I'm not going to!"
"Stand—there you go, just lean on me—you're distracted, we'll be there in no time."
"You're paying attention! Don't pay attention!"
[Jay's A/N: Neither hail, nor snow, nor lowest common denominator fic sites... Aah. I ceased to be bitter about this some time ago, and just view it as INCENTIVE to get our mirror site up. We'll tell y'all when it's there, of course. If you write PPC and want it archived, please send it to me.
Yes. I'm being sadistic. I'm very fond of Thranduil, and Pangaea insulted him. The bears are fine—more sense than their owner, they could leave the forest.
One last note: PPC is getting redundant. Un-fun. Jay and Acy need a change of pace, and so (after an Elrond fic, just to be fair), some major changes are getting made. Muahah.]
[Acacia's A/N: What, you thought a little thing like banishment would stop us?
Big thanks to Joan/the Philosopher at Large for hosting us pro tem, and profound *lack* of thanks to the FF.N webmaster and whoever got us deleted.]