2. Act II
As we left them, our heroes are in the lounge, waiting uncomfortably and generally avoiding eye contact. The Mary Sues have started up a constant chatter next door, and it's putting everyone on edge. The hobbits are sitting on the floor, while Aragorn, Boromir, Gimli, and Legolas stand close by, still ready to fight if they have to. Only Gandalf seems to be pretty much at ease. He's lit up a pipe and is pacing slowly around the room, trailing clouds of smoke and muttering to himself.
Inevitably, the hobbits start to whisper to each other.
MERRY: Where do you suppose they come from?
PIPPIN: Who's to say. They seem to be Men of some sort.
SAMWISE: A queer sort, to be sure. But their faces!
PIPPIN: Do you think that's what you'd look like, Frodo? If you were a Big Person?
MERRY: Shhh! They'll hear you!
Frodo looks decidedly uncomfortable. After a moment, he gets up and slips over to Gandalf.
FRODO: Are we quite safe? I am uneasy somehow, as if I have been here before.
The wizard puffs his pipe thoughtfully.
GANDALF: Yes, there is a distant memory of this place, for those who have the awareness to see it. I do not believe us to be in danger. But be wary, and do not take these tales too quickly to heart! All is not what it seems here.
Murmured conversations continue throughout the room. Elijah has calmed considerably, though he still looks a bit shell-shocked. Orlando taps him on the shoulder.
ORLANDO: [whispering] Hey. Elijah. You all right?
ELIJAH: Huh? Oh. I'm okay. I think. [notices Orlando's ever-present lack of shirt] You cold?
ORLANDO: A little. I'll be fine. [shaking his head in disbelief] Unreal, eh?
ELIJAH: [sneaking a glance at Frodo] I've had saner days.
ORLANDO: God, I still can't even figure how we got here. What happened to you?
ELIJAH: I'm... not sure.
ORLANDO: What's the last thing you remember doing?
Elijah thinks for a moment.
ELIJAH: I think I was... eating a sandwich... maybe.
ELIJAH: Yeah. Ham and cheese.
ELIJAH: Eh. What about you?
ORLANDO: I might have been getting ready to go to sleep... or already asleep... I don't know! Everything is kind of foggy, and then all at once I'm waking up here and there's a wizard and an insanely perky woman and a bunch of little people....
ELIJAH: [laughing despite himself] And there's a dead witch under the house, and everything's in color....
ORLANDO: Heh, yeah. Left my ruby slippers at home, I'm afraid. Maybe if we knock our skulls hard enough?
Elijah pauses, considers, and obligingly whaps him upside the head.
ORLANDO: [amused and indignant] Ow! You git!
ELIJAH: Well, so much for that idea.
ORLANDO: [grabbing him by the scruff of the neck] No, no, I'm sure it'll work fine. Here, I'll just pummel your head into the coffee table.
Pippin, who has been watching them for some time, tugs on Aragorn's cloak and whispers audibly.
PIPPIN: What are they doing? Is something wrong with them?
ARAGORN: [wryly] I wonder.
Annoyed, Elijah shrugs Orlando off. Legolas, who has remained silent thus far, is staring at them with that unnerving Elvish focus of his, trying to work something out. Orlando notices, tries to ignore it for a few seconds, squirms, and finally snaps.
ORLANDO: May I help you?
Orlando is talking to Legolas. Very weird. For perhaps the first time in his immortal life, Legolas looks flustered.
LEGOLAS: [almost to himself] This is beyond my understanding ... still I fear deception, and yet no dark forces can I perceive....
ORLANDO: [withering] Ohhh, so that bit with the trying to kill me was just precaution. Thanks, I feel so much better.
LEGOLAS: [slight smile] Had I been "trying" to kill you....
Orlando could kick himself; he of all people should know that Legolas doesn't miss.
ORLANDO: Yeah yeah yeah. Stop staring at me. Hell, I invented that stare.
In the middle of this, there's a scuffling at the larger door. In a moment, the Secretary elbows it open, her arms laden, and peeks inside.
SECRETARY: Could one of you be a gentleman and... [delighted] Oh! You're mingling!
ELIJAH: That's one word for it.
SECRETARY: Well, goodness, don't let me interrupt. But could someone get the door? Hands a bit full here.
Being the Gallant Knight type that he is, Aragorn automatically goes to help her. That chivalry seems comically misplaced when she hands him two six-packs of Pepsi. He stands there for a long beat, staring at them in confusion and looking foolish.
SECRETARY: I'm sorry we're running low on proper food these days. All I could find was some leftover sodas and Doritos from the last time Dawson's Creek paid a visit.
A little red, Aragorn puts one pack on a chair and gives the other to Merry, who examines it with great interest. Elijah and Orlando watch, bemused.
ELIJAH: That's messed up.
ORLANDO: [deadpan] Whereas you playing basketball in full costume looked perfectly normal.
ELIJAH: Hey, I did that once.
The Secretary walks into the room carrying a few large bags of chips and the rest of the soda. She waves Samwise over to help her pull the coffee table to the center and sets the snacks down, chatting amiably all the while.
SECRETARY: I just realized that I completely forgot to introduce everyone. Gandalf, Aragorn, everyone, this is Elijah and Orlando. Elijah, Orlando, this is Boromir, Gimli, Samw— oh, silly me, you knew that already.
ARAGORN: These are strange names.
ELIJAH: [under his breath] Okay, "Thorongil."
GIMLI: Hmph. And how is it that you folk know so much about us, when we know nothing of you? Answer me that!
ORLANDO: [wondering how the heck he's going to explain this] Well, we've, um, heard of the whole Quest thing.
ELIJAH: Yeah. It's big news back home.
BOROMIR: [worried] And this is what our secrecy is worth! Is there now a spy among the Fellowship?
The members of the Fellowship eye each other warily.
SECRETARY: No no, silly. They've just read the book.
MERRY: [unnerved] That book again! Are you saying some... Tolkien bloke just made us up?
GANDALF: [amused] Or perhaps was wise enough to grow aware of our existence.
MERRY: [pleased with this idea] Oh!
SECRETARY: See, it's all in how you look at it. [clapping her hands] Okay, everyone. Take some snacks if you want them and get settled. We should get this over with and send you all back home as soon as we can.
That sounds like a great idea to everyone present. There's a general bustle as chairs are pulled up and food laid out. Elijah and Orlando each get a soda and sit down; the Fellowship watches them closely, and when they don't keel over and die after the first mouthful, a few of them (the hobbits, mainly) take some as well and examine them curiously.
As he goes back to his seat, Boromir tries to open his can with a dagger. It explodes. Startled, he drops it, and soda starts fizzing onto the floor. Quick check; amid the idle chatter, no one seemed to notice. He brushes himself off and surreptitiously kicks the can under the couch.
Soon, they're arranged in a semi-circle with the Secretary at its head, an unconscious parody of the Council of Elrond. Orlando ends up sitting in a chair next to Legolas (because it's funny, that's why) and they both look uncomfortable. After a moment's hesitation, Samwise and Frodo climb up onto the couch with Elijah, giving him plenty of room. Mustering up a polite smile, Elijah casts about for some way to make conversation and becomes rather interested in Frodo's furry feet.
ELIJAH: So do you really groom those or what?
FRODO: [defensive] I left home in a great hurry. There was no time to find my brush.
ELIJAH: No, that's not – no! They... um... they look good. Great, even.
ELIJAH: I mean it.
SECRETARY: [clearing her throat] All right, everyone's set? Are there any questions before we get started?
Orlando raises his hand.
ORLANDO: May I have a shirt, please?
SECRETARY: [offhand] No.
ORLANDO: [sighing] Right, then.
She retrieves her clipboard and starts flipping through the pages, making occasional notes with a pencil. In between notes, she keeps the pencil tucked behind one ear, giving her a busy and professional look.
SECRETARY: Anything else? No? Okay, I suppose the first thing to do is explain the situation. Mr. Wood, Mr. Bloom, you'll know most of this already, so bear with me here. [falling into a meditative tone] I could go on for hours about Tolkien and his works, but for now all you need to know is that many years ago, this man from the distant land of Great Britain wrote a book about the peoples of Middle-Earth, and in particular, the Quest of the Fellowship to destroy the One Ring. That would be about the nine of you, of course. And before anyone asks, no, I can't just tell you how it ends. Regulations and all, you understand.
Though I will say the book was a brilliant success. For decades, millions of people have fallen in love with the story and the fascinating world behind it. They are the admirers – the fans. [with a flourish] And where there are fans, there are fan fiction writers. People who want to create their own stories about that world – which means taking the characters of one tale and placing them into another. Easily done for a person with an imagination and a pen, but for the actual characters involved in the story, meaning you fine people? Much more complicated. You have to be transported between parallel universes and across time and space and all sorts of weird multidimensional complications.
SAMWISE: How dreadful!
SECRETARY: Oh, it's not as bad as it sounds. Most of the time you never even realize it's happening. You're plucked out, you experience the story, you're put back where you belong, and you don't remember a thing. At most, it might seem like a vague dream at the back of your mind.
ELIJAH: And this place is... what? Stuck somewhere in the middle?
SECRETARY: Yeah, it's this whole space-time continuum thing. I could explain it to you, but it would make your head explode. Just think of this Lounge as the fan fiction character's metaphysical truck stop. Somewhere to relax and get back to your old selves, if the stories you're put through get too bizarre. And your full-service gas station attendant and supplier of snack foods [sparkly smile] would be me!
GIMLI: Bah! Even if we accept this explanation of yours – and I'm far from that, mind you – it still does not explain why we have all been dragged here!
SECRETARY: Well, I'm not finished. If you'll allow me....
Gimli grumbles but quiets down.
SECRETARY: As I was saying. Up to a few years ago, it was all smooth sailing in your department. Being a book and a very long and complicated one at that, it was harder to write about than, say, a television show would be. To write a story, a person would first have to complete an immense novel, which means we were only dealing with a select few. Brainy college students and eccentric English professors, mainly – and no Internet for a long while either, so between fanzines and newsletters things would get rather slow. Even when it did get busy and fantasy became more popular, we'd often be able to palm your stories off to the Dungeons and Dragons department or something like that. We were spoiled rotten, there's no denying it.
BOROMIR: Strange. This actually sounds familiar.
ARAGORN: Yes, it's coming back to me somehow. [perplexed] But what happened? Why are things different?
The Secretary sighs and bows her head, the very picture of weariness.
SECRETARY: They made a movie.
SAMWISE: [gasp!] A movie! Oh no! .... What's a movie?
ORLANDO: What now?
SECRETARY: Oh, it's a good movie, I'm not saying it isn't. Very good, actually, everything a true fan could hope for. But there's the problem. You don't have to read the book to write a story anymore – you don't even have to pay very close attention. Almost everyone has seen it and loved it, and nowadays anyone with Internet access can write a story, and they do. The stories have been flooding in – it's too much! We were caught completely off guard!
Elijah is dumbfounded.
ELIJAH: Is that why Orlando and I are here? Because we made The Lord of the Rings too popular?
SECRETARY: Mainly, yes. Though keep in mind, there are plenty of stories about you out there. You're just as much a regular at the Lounge as any of them, Mr. Wood.
ORLANDO: [getting a kick out of it] What kind of stories does he get, exactly?
SECRETARY: Oh, they're usually harmless, if a little surreal. He starts out as a sulky disillusioned pothead, and then he meets some random girl, goes head over heels in three minutes flat and takes her to Cancun, and....
ELIJAH: Whoa, whoa, pothead? I'm not a pothead!
SECRETARY: Oh, you're not always a drug addict. Sometimes you're just clinically depressed.
ELIJAH: This is unbelievable! I'm twenty-one years old and I have the most satisfying career on the planet! Do I look miserable to you?
SECRETARY: [soothing] It's not that they think you're miserable, per se....
ELIJAH: Then what? They want me to be miserable?!
ORLANDO: [gleefully] You do look so adorable when you're brooding, "Lij."
ELIJAH: At least they let me keep my shirt on, "Orli."
ORLANDO: That's not funny!
SECRETARY: Gentlemen, gentlemen. You're missing the point. Since the movie came out, the Lord of the Rings department has been all but overwhelmed. A few stories a week, that's fine, but now suddenly it's every minute of every day! If you think you have it rough, imagine what Frodo must be going through!
Frodo is dismayed; the Fellowship stiffen.
SAMWISE: Bless me, if that Ring wasn't enough to deal with! What about Frodo?
SECRETARY: They won't leave him alone, that's what! People keep snatching him off for some epic or other, and I can never keep track of him! One moment the poor soul will be walking through Ithilien during some inner-dialogue story or something, and then BAM! He's been hobbit-napped, and now he's off in Moria doing a hurt-comfort romance story with Aragorn! I'm at my wit's end! [wearily rubbing her forehead] It's only a matter of time before some author goes and damages him, or even loses him entirely. The entire fan fiction community will be in an uproar, if Tolkien's ghost doesn't come charging like a mother bear and kill us all. And I shudder to think of the legal liabilities that will fall on your head if that happens, Mr. Wood.
ELIJAH: [still thrown by "hurt-comfort romance story with Aragorn"] I'm sorry, "legal liabilities"? I have legal liabilities now?!
SECRETARY: [apologetic] You wouldn't have to deal with it if you hadn't taken the part, I'm afraid. But you did, and that means taking some of the responsibility for him.
ORLANDO: You know, she has a point. If you hadn't been all about the big-eyed pouty face routine, poor Frodo wouldn't be having this problem.
ELIJAH: But that's stupid! You can't blame me for that! [to Frodo, demanding] Can you?
FRODO: [big-eyed pouty face] I do not understand!
SECRETARY: See? See? Heavens, I want to run off with him now!
ELIJAH: But... [deflates] Aw, man.
Legolas is staring at Orlando's attire (or general scarcity thereof) and looking very worried.
LEGOLAS: Speak plainly – what fate befalls me in this place? I fear a great evil bends its thought toward me.
ORLANDO: [as Legolas] A great evil bends its thought toward me! Woe! Torment! [normal voice] Come off it, would you? Are you the one in danger of catching pneumonia here? No, I didn't think so.
SECRETARY: [unhappy] I'm afraid it's worse for him than you think, Mr. Bloom. They're ... they're coming for him.
A chill, like a breath of icy wind, seems to pass through the Lounge. Legolas trembles.
GIMLI: [nervously] "They"? Who are they?
She can't answer – but glances miserably toward the door of the Mary Sue room. As if they sense her thought, a wailing chorus rises on the other side. Even Gandalf gasps as realization sinks in.
ELIJAH: God, that's horrible!
BOROMIR: No! This cannot be!
The Elf lowers his head, his fair face shadowed in despair.
LEGOLAS: It is my doom, then. A tiro nin, Fanuilos! *
ORLANDO: [blankly] Oh my word. [to Legolas, sincere] I'm sorry, mate. I didn't know.
ARAGORN: You do not stand alone! We shall fight to the end!
GIMLI: But who are they? What enemy do we face?
SECRETARY: [Galadriel-spooky] You know of whom I speak, Mithrandir.
GANDALF: Alas! this being is a bearer of great evil. She has many names, many faces. One by one, all men fall to her darkness.
SECRETARY: I know! Isn't that annoying?
And with that, the ominous mood is effectively squashed.
SECRETARY: [glowering in the direction of the door] People have been writing these characters up by the thousands from the moment Legolas came riding into Rivendell and straight into the heart of every teenage girl in the theater. They show up all ethereal beauty and dazzling wit and sickening melodrama, and they're all determined to go messing with the storyline and have poor Legolas fall head over heels in love with them. I've never seen the likes of it – they don't even make sense half the time. We have Elven Maids, and Incredibly Strong But Nonetheless Willowy Female Warriors, and Long Lost Twin Siblings of Established Characters, and Gossamer-Winged Faery Races That Tolkien Somehow Neglected To Mention, and Guardian Angels, and Kata-Weilding Animé Ninjas.... [muttering to herself] Animé. Animé! Tolkien was about as Japanese as a hot dog!
ELIJAH: Huh. I wondered why Sailor Moon was in there.
SECRETARY: You saw them! You can only guess what we're up against! They go hopping into stories without so much as a by-your-leave, they keep leaving pixie dust stains in the carpet, and they've utterly ruined the potted plants! [near tears] My beautiful Lounge!
FRODO: Is it even possible to stop them? It seems hopeless!
SECRETARY: It's not hopeless yet. Legolas is safe for now – but it'll only get worse if we don't do something. Far be it from me to criticize someone as legendary as Tolkien, but I do wish he'd thought to write up a few more strong female characters! He was just begging for Mary Sues to show up when he left them out. And then, heavens above, there are the slash stories.
This is something new. The Fellowship looks puzzled. Elijah and Orlando are suspicious that they've heard of this before – and wonder if things are about to get entertaining.
PIPPIN: [dubiously] "Slash" stories? What is Slash?
MERRY: A weapon of some kind? A sword?
PIPPIN: [sudden realization] Oh, Sting, you mean! That's Frodo's.
MERRY: Yes. He has the Sting stories.
SAMWISE: And old Mr. Bilbo too, if you remember.
FRODO: [examining the runes on the blade] Or before that, perhaps? Many a battle it must have seen, wielded by the elves of Beleriand long ago.
SECRETARY: [wistful] Oh my, that's such a nice idea! But no, they aren't exactly Sting stories, and yes, Merry and Pippin, you actually get quite a few of them.
MERRY: We do?
SECRETARY: Hrm. Well. Yes. You see, in slash stories, two men, or two women – or, ah, two hobbits in your case, um, love each other.
ORLANDO: [wincing and grinning at the same time] Ouhh, here we go.
MERRY: What, me an' Pip?
PIPPIN: Well of course we do!
SECRETARY: Yes, yes, but I mean you really love each other.
Merry and Pippin look at her like she's gone batty. (More batty.)
MERRY: [and...?] Yes, we really love each other. We're best friends, certainly.
SECRETARY: No, I'm saying you reeeeeeeeally....
SAMWISE: What do you mean? You either love someone or you don't.
SECRETARY: Okay, try to think of it this way. If... Strider, say, were to decide to leave Arwen to be with another man, then that would be a slash story.
MERRY: But he did do that. He's with eight men.
SECRETARY: No! That's not what I mean!
PIPPIN: Well, say what you mean, then! Really, you aren't making much sense.
And with that, her patience runs out.
SECRETARY: Oh, for Pete's sake! Do I have to draw you pictures?
MERRY: But if... [long pause] How would w— [longer pause] Oh, I say!
Elijah and Orlando have been sitting quietly throughout this exchange, trying to decide between collapsing with laughter and finding a hole to crawl into. The rest of the Fellowship is getting the concept and is in various stages of amusement and distaste. Gandalf, of course, seems rather unfazed by the whole thing.
GIMLI: Hah! There, young hobbit! That will teach you prudence, I'd wager!
SECRETARY: Now now, I wouldn't gloat if I were you. There are just as many who think you and our dear Mr. Greenleaf make quite the charming little pair.
Gimli does a marvelous rabid bulldog impression; Orlando and Legolas wear identical startled expressions.
ORLANDO: [bemused] What?
LEGOLAS: [astounded] What!
ELIJAH: Heh! [then, in response to Glare o' Brutal Axe Murder] Ahem. S'cuse me. Burped. [vigorously sips Pepsi]
GIMLI: I, Gimli son of Gloin, with an Elf! Treacherous! Vile! It is not to be borne!
SECRETARY: Well, you have it better than Aragorn, I'll say that much. It seems like the only stories he gets are slashy ones these days. Ones with Elrond, ones with Legolas, ones with Boromir, ones with Legolas AND Boromir (I try to keep you away from those), ones with Haldir, ones with Eómer, ones with Frodo.... now those Strider-slash-hobbit stories are a mite perplexing in the visual sense, I must say....
Boromir gapes; Frodo cringes; Elijah chokes on his Pepsi.
ARAGORN: Enough, enough! I shall be flung into tales of debauchery with any man I encounter on my travels, evidently!
SECRETARY: [snapping her fingers] Oo! Treebeard! Haven't seen one with Treebeard yet.
(Author's Note: If anyone reading this decides to go write an Aragorn/Treebeard story, I will shoot myself in the head.)
Pippin looks confused.
PIPPIN: Treebeard? Who's Treebeard?
SECRETERY: Don't worry, you'll find out. But with all due respect, Mr. Dúnadan, you can't go around kissing men's foreheads left and right and expect nothing to come of it. And with Arwen being practically the only female love interest in the entire book, and a good number of people trying to pair her off with Leg— oops.
ARAGORN and LEGOLAS: Arwen?!
SECRETARY: Oh, fudge, I didn't mean to bring that up.
ARAGORN: Ai, Undómiel! What ill tiding is this!
LEGOLAS: [appalled] Nay, Elessar, I swear to you!
SECRETARY: Now, now, there's no reason to get upset. People think you two Elves would look cute together, that's all I'm saying.
If ever an Elf could go red in the face....
LEGOLAS: Yet I know her not! And she has given her heart to another!
SECRETARY: Look, you know that and I know that....
ARAGORN: [calming himself] No, no, it is in fiction alone. Stay, Legolas. You have my trust. [grumbling] But the sooner I finish this Quest and marry her the better, that's for damn sure.
A lull falls. Elijah and Orlando, exhausted from restraining inappropriate fits of giggles, sit back and try to catch their breaths. Gandalf looks grimly determined; Frodo begins to wonder if the burden of the One Ring is so hard to bear after all; Legolas shoots Gimli a furtive glance, and shudders, and glances, and shudders, and glances....
Tentatively, the Secretary breaks the silence.
SECRETARY: It comes to this: if things continue as they are, this realm is in danger of being overpowered. We can only bend space-time and reality so much before boundaries weaken and rifts begin to open. If we don't want one too many Frodo Angst stories to collapse this entire dimension in on itself, we must find some way to deal with these stories and protect you all from great harm.
She pauses, her eyes searching each of them, pleading.
SECRETARY: So what is to be done?
Cue the cricket.
* "O guard me" or "O look toward me, Elbereth!"
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.