22. Rivendell Nine to Five: 2
Today is the day when all the Fiommereth ornaments magically appear on lamp posts and in department store windows all over the city. I swear, they must hire people to work in a twelve-hour marathon of festivity. Our government building suddenly says "HAPPY HOLIDAYS" in green and red lights on the north side. I have an enormous twinkling P in my office window. Today I didn't mind so much, because I had a bag of leftover candy to distract me, but I know it'll eventually drive me mad. Probably long before the 25th of December.
We only had fifteen trick-or-treaters all of last night, and not an original costume among the lot until a vanload of smart-mouth youths showed up at nine. One of them was dressed as a Tetris block, so I gave him two handfuls of mini bars. This made his friends complain, but as they were wearing nylon witch hats and rubber masks, they got no prize.
I must have eaten twelve mini bags of Cheetos though, because by the end of the night there were only three left out of a box of thirty. Those things go quickly.
Elrohir is not allowed to watch any more scary movies. He had an Event Horizon nightmare, and woke me up at five this morning to tell me he thought he heard intergalactic hell warp noises coming from the furnace room. I punched him in the sternum and told him to go away and dream about something better, like an iguana sanctuary. He came back an hour later in tears, saying he'd had a dream about iguanas being sucked through an intergalactic hell warp. I had to let him sleep in my bed until I got up at seven thirty. Then he sat in the den, protectively clutching his iguana and watching bright, happy toddler cartoons. He is a moron.
The P is starting to get annoying. I can hear it buzzing behind me.
I had an email from Glorfindel today, with about fifty pictures of Elairon's first Balathin. He was the only baby in his Mums and Kids playgroup dressed like an orc. All the others were cute things, like kitties and bunnies. Aralindë looked very proud, holding her little orc up for the camera. I noticed she's looking much better now that she's not so skinny and no longer wears tiny shirts and jeans that only cover half her bum.
Elairon's first birthday is coming up in a few weeks. I should probably send a present now, and with any luck it'll get there only two months late.
Just after eleven this morning at work, when the twinkling P was annoying me more than usual, I got a collect call. I picked up the phone, and a thickly-accented Gondorian lady on the other end of the line said, "Good morning, sir, would you like to accept a collect call from," then there was a brief pause before a whiny male voice said, "Manwë." Only the way he said it sounded like a question. "Manwë?" I waited until I could hear the Gondorian lady breathing again, and I said, "No, of course not." She said, "Thank you sir, you have a nice day."
Why on earth would I accept a collect call from somebody pretending to be Manwë? That just annoyed me and put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. But then when I got home, I started to think, what if it really was Manwë on the line? Am I now important enough to warrant a telephone conversation with Manwë? I mean, everyone knows he does talk to Elves sometimes, though usually not through collect telephone conversations.
I rang dad and asked if he'd ever talked to Manwë over the telephone. He said, "No, why would I have done that?"
So now I know for certain it wasn't really Manwë on the line yesterday, and I can relax again. If he never talked to dad, he'd certainly never want to talk to me. That's a relief. I had trouble sleeping last night because of the nagging worry that I'd hung up on a Vala.
Had another collect call from "Manwë" today. I informed the Gondorian operator that I was very busy with important work and therefore could not accept. Really I was playing spider solitaire at the time and loudly listening to the radio so it would drown out the sound of the P, but she had no way of knowing.
The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced "Manwë" is another word for "Elrohir", or possibly "Orophin".
Told Elrohir about the Manwë phone experiences in a vague, roundabout way as we sat around at home and enjoyed the civic holiday. He sounded very impressed that Manwë would bother to contact me. A little TOO impressed, maybe...
Got an email today from what I think is Manwë's secretary. Oh crap.
From: "Ingwë Orozer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: important document for reader
Dear master Elladan Peredhel;
We have tried now twice for speaking with you by
telephone but are unfortunately with no luck
here. However we are finding your email address
from the website of your government. We have hope
this will not be greatly an inconvenience on you
but is highly necessary that we are communicate.
It is of recent come by the attention of us that
your father Elrond Peredhel is left Ennor and come
for living permanent in Aman when you and your
siblings remain still there. By decision long ago
from Manwë was said to your father that he may
choose being Elf or Mortal for living in Ennor and
when he choose Elf it is for his children also
this deciding. When he is now left Ennor for Aman,
the time for decide is come to you and your
brother. Your sister we know has been decided for
choose Mortal after her last year marriage with
King of Gondor Aragorn Elessar.
When you have convenience for your time please be
contacting our office and arranging speaking with
Manwë or Eönwë on this decision making. You and
your brother will to have until end of this year
for choose being Elf or Mortal. If any questions,
we have email or also telephone at this office from
eight until six.
Please forgive us our mistakes when we write
Sindarin. It is not usual we are using your
I'm divided on whether or not I believe this is actually an email from the office of Manwë. It looks official, but then, Elrohir has been known to go way further than one might expect in his pranking. To be safe, I forwarded copies to dad and Glorfindel to ask their opinions before I take action.
Now I just know I'm going to worry about this all night. Great. Stupid Manwë!
The first thing in my inbox was an email from dad.
From: "Elrond Peredhel" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Fwd: important document for reader
I'd say it's legitimate, but why don't you try the
telephone number and see what happens?
I should have thought of that on my own. The second email, from Glorfindel, said mainly the same thing but in slightly more detail.
From: "Finwë Lauron" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Fwd: important document for reader
It looks real to me. The area code on the telephone
number is from Valmar, so if I were you, I'd try to
communicate with them via telephone. But get Elrohir
to do the talking. Nobody in Valmar can speak
Sindarin, as you probably guessed from the email.
It seems as if Glorfindel is implying that my Quenya sucks. He's right, but it still annoys me that he has the nerve to say so!
Elrohir talked to this Orozer person on the phone. I understood very little of the conversation, but it sounded about as professional as can be expected from Elrohir. When he disconnected, he said, "Okay, Manwë's coming on Saturday so we can do our deciding thing."
I feel ill. Manwë is coming to my house. Manwë! My house! My horrible, messy house with décor left over from the Second Age! A basement full of junk! An uninspected furnace! MANWË!!! On SATURDAY!!!
We have some serious cleaning to do.
Took yesterday and today off work to make everything nice. Yet nothing looks clean. Actually, the house looks worse than before. And Manwë will be here tomorrow.
The front door frame looks particularly bad, and that's going to be the first thing he sees. People keep leaning against it with their dirty hands and mucking it up. And the moron who painted it used eggshell paint, which grabs dirt and sucks it in like nothing else. Even I know to use semi-gloss on doorframes and skirting boards, and I suck at everything DIY! The dirty doorframe also led to me cleaning around the light switch, but the paint there was so filthy that the clean spot showed up loud and clear. I ended up having to clean in a wide circle and fade out gradually, since I'm not about to take to the whole wall with a bottle of Windex Multi-Surface.
I am tired and frazzled and sick of cleaning. Elrohir is doing very little to help. All I asked him to do was wash the lino and vacuum the living room, but I don't think he got either task done. Right now he's in the kitchen doing shots of lemon juice. I don't see how that's helping at all. And yesterday I asked him to toss the pumpkins and take down the plastic pumpkin Balathin lights over the door, but he didn't do that either. I had to do everything myself. And I see we now have a pumpkin stain on the drapes from Sauron going mushy and collapsing sideways! This is just great. Now I bet Manwë's going to say we're too pathetic to be Elves, and force us into mortality. The way things have been going, I wouldn't be surprised.
To try and calm down, I rang grandpa and asked what I should do in this situation. He's the only person I know who's been on familiar terms with one of the Ainur. He was no help, though, because he didn't understand what I was talking about. I had to practically scream, "MELIAN!" into the receiver before he got it. Then all he said was, "Well, that's different, she was pretending to be a regular Elf all that time, so we treated her like one of us." That really didn't make me feel any better.
I think my only hope now is to take some sleeping pills and watch telly until I'm too stupefied to care.
Manwë did not come. Eönwë came instead. That was a bit less stress-inducing. Now at least I don't have to worry about Manwë noticing the peculiar smell coming from our front closet. I'm sure Eönwë is used to peculiar smells. He does all of Manwë's dirty work.
He showed up on our front step shortly after breakfast. I noticed, when I answered the door, that he had no car. Do Ainur travel in vehicles? Planes? Or do they just randomly appear places? Eönwë looked sort of like he'd just randomly appeared, so I wonder. He was wearing comfortable clothing and practical shoes. I invited him in, and Elrohir offered to make tea. The three of us sat around the kitchen table talking about how much colder it is here than in Valmar while we drank tea and ate biscuits. I would have offered him leftover Balathin candy, but it seems Elrohir and I ate it all some time ago. Then it was down to business.
Eönwë stated the facts, that long ago dad had been given the choice of kindreds and he chose Elves, and now we were given that same choice. Then he went into listing the pros and cons of each race. He talked about Elvish history, and how the Gondorian economy is doing right now, and why it's important to carefully consider all aspects of the decision before leaping into anything. "Now I want you both to think carefully about this," he said, "because your decision will stay with you for the rest of your life. If you need a little longer to decide..."
"Elves," Elrohir and I said, quickly and at the same time. Eönwë looked at us in surprise. "Alright then," he said. He punched a few keys on his Blackberry. "I think that's everything. You should hear from our office regarding the finalisation of this agreement by the end of next week."
And that was that. I showed Eönwë to the door, and he walked away down the driveway. I was sort of hoping he'd poof away in a flash of light and prove my theory of random appearances, but no such luck. He walked away like a regular person on his way to the bus stop. How boring.
I also forgot to ask why Manwë's office rang me collect. Now I will probably never know.
The following email arrived just as I was getting ready to leave work for the day:
From: "Ingwë Orozer" <email@example.com>
Subject: congratulations status of Elladan and Elrohir
Dear masters Elladan and Elrohir Peredhel;
It is very much pleasing for us to informing of you
that you have new status of official Elf given by
Manwë effective now. It is now open to you,
travelling to Aman and living here when you are
wanting. Thank you for this most quick deciding and
choosing being one with us kindred.
Well. I am now an Official Elf, authorised by Manwë. I'm sort of disappointed they didn't send me a stamped and signed certificate of Elfness to frame and hang on my wall. Or maybe an ID card to put in my wallet.
To celebrate officially becoming Elves, Elrohir and I went out for supper to the Great Buffet of Ossiriand, affectionately known as the Grease Buffet of Ossiriand, where we filled up on cheap pseudo-Nandorin food. Elrohir tried to get me to bet that he couldn't eat twenty spring rolls, but I know better than to bet against Elrohir's stomach. I've seen him in action. And even without the bet, he still ate twenty spring rolls just to prove he could, and two bowls of hot and sour soup, and a plate of ginger beef. The Nandorin family at the next table, who had filled their plates with mashed potatoes and pizza, stared in disgust. As expected, he sicked up in the car park on the way out.
When we got home I lay in the bath for a while and tried to see if I felt any different, any more Elvish, but the only thing I noticed was that I had a slight pain in my left knee and that my toenails need clipping. Otherwise, I appear to be the same as always. Being an Official Manwë-Approved Elf isn't as exciting as it sounds.
Nobody at work noticed or commented on my new Elf status. I am sorely disappointed. And nothing at all happened today, apart from the P's buzzing getting a bit louder. I looked around for a way to disconnect it, but it is on the outside of the building and my window doesn't open, so I have no access to the stupid thing. I hate that P.
Had an email from Glorfindel containing seven words and four megs worth of pictures from Elairon's first birthday party. Elairon wearing a paper hat, Elairon sitting in front of a cupcake, Elairon sticking his hand into the cupcake, Elairon smearing the cupcake over his hair, Elairon smearing the cupcake over Aralindë's hair, Glorfindel wiping smeared cupcake from Elairon's forehead, Elairon smearing cupcake residue onto Glorfindel's tie, Elairon having a bath in a sink full of cupcake crumb water, Elairon tearing the wrap off of presents, Elairon eating the wrap, and so on. After twenty minutes of looking at the photos, it felt rather as if I had been there and had cupcake smeared over my own hair.
Also felt like a turd for forgetting to send a present. I will have to remember for Fiommereth. I settled for sending him an email back telling him that Elrohir and I are now officially Elves. Also emailed dad. This seems like the sort of thing he'd want to know about.
Now that it is December 1st, the Fiommereth season can officially start. Now I won't mind the explosion of decorations and holiday cheer. I didn't even mind the P so much today. It was still buzzing, but at least on a pitch that complimented the holiday muzak coming over the office PA system.
Snow today. I hope this stuff stays. I suppose it's nice and seasonal that a good snow comes at the beginning of December, but I'm a bit annoyed that it chose to come on a Saturday. I was hoping for a weekday, so I'd have an excuse to stay home from work. "My driveway's full of snow and I can't get the car out" is a good one. Nobody can argue with that. It was nice to sit by the fire and eat cookies with hot chocolate, but it would have been far sweeter to know I was missing work to do so. Oh well.
Somebody decorated my office with tinsel and plastic holly over the weekend. Granted it does look festive, but the tinsel got caught in my electric pencil sharpener this morning and created a bit of a hassle. Also, it is hard to get anything out of my in-basket for all the sharp plastic holly leaves. I have scratches all over my hand and wrist.
After work, Elrohir and I discussed what we want to do for Fiommereth. Elrohir wants to spend the holidays with grandpa, either here or in Lorien, since neither of us wants to go to Gondor to be with Arwen and Aragorn. I would rather go to Lórien. If grandpa comes here, then all the burden of preparation and food-cooking is on us. But if we go to Lórien, we get to be the guests and have a free ride the whole time. Elrohir agreed to go, but only if he could bring his iguana. I pointed out that we should probably ask grandpa what his plans are.
I rang him in Caras Galadhon and outlined our plan of coming to visit, and he said, "That would be very nice, Elladan, but unfortunately I've already been invited to spend Fiommereth with Thranduil in Mirkwood."
Well that's just great! Dad's not here, Erestor's not here, Glorfindel's not here, grandma's not here, and grandpa's going to be in Mirkwood! Now Elrohir and I are going to have to spend the holidays by ourselves! Or possibly with Lindir, but that really doesn't even warrant consideration. He is about exciting as black socks. I broke the news to Elrohir, and he started fussing. He has no intention of spending Fiommereth just with me. He was on the telephone to Legolas within five minutes, and by eight o'clock had secured us an invitation to join the festivities in the forest.
I guess this means we are going to Mirkwood too.
Plane fares to Mirkwood (or anywhere, really) are frightful this time of year. It's going to cost well over a thousand dollars for two round trip tickets! And the airline prohibits the transportation of reptiles. Elrohir is not going to like this.
We leave on the 19th at 5.15 in the morning. Ouch.
As expected, Elrohir had an enormous fuss when I told him he'd have to leave his iguana at home. I assured him he would be able to find a competent iguana-sitter somewhere, but he said that wasn't the point. The main problem, in his eyes, was that the iguana would be all by itself and without him on days when family and loved ones are supposed to be together. He stroked the iguana lovingly as he said this. It sneezed on him. I almost said that the iguana likely can't tell the difference between him and anyone else, but I tactfully refrained. I didn't want to make him cry.
I told dad that Elrohir and I were going to be spending Fiommereth in Mirkwood, and he said, somewhat surprised, "They're letting you go?" I had to ask what he meant by that. He launched into a lengthy explanation of how he had never been allowed to go to Mirkwood for more than two nights in a row, due to worries over him being kidnapped by Silvan extremists and held prisoner for something. He was too irreplaceable for something like that to happen. I said, "Oh." I never asked anyone if it would be alright if I went to Mirkwood. I just assumed nobody would care. Dad said, "You'd better discuss things with the Minister of Defence on Monday."
I never should have said anything. Now I have this to worry about all weekend!
Worried all weekend about the upcoming trip to Mirkwood. I am starting to hate being a world leader. I have a buzzing P in my office window, and it's suddenly become a major security issue for me to leave town. I liked it better when I was an unimportant university student. True, the pay wasn't as good, but at least nobody cared what I did. Except dad.
I did force myself out of the house to go shopping yesterday, though. Now I know how dad must have felt going out in public to do mundane things like Fiommereth gift buying. Super Drug Mart was full of people who looked at me. Before, when they didn't know who I was, they ignored me, but now that I've been on television a few times they look. They look to see what brand of mouthwash I buy. They look to see how many boxes of cookies I get. They stare as I dig through the bin of three-pairs-for-$9 socks. They openly gawk at my selection of cheap chocolates, as if to say "somebody who has been on television should buy more expensive, impressive candy". Every time I turned around, somebody was either looking openly at me or looking at me while pretending they weren't looking at me.
I picked up a book of Deluxe Fill-It-Ins, an inflatable bath pillow, and a $7 Beach Boys CD for dad. Also a massaging car seat cover for grandpa. I had almost gone so far as to put a bottle of multivitamins for Erestor into my basket when I realised that maybe shopping exclusively at Super Drug Mart wasn't the best idea. So I went through the check-out, but picked up a miniature grooming kit consisting of tweezers and tiny scissors on the way. I can give that to dad too. His eyebrows have always been a bit out of control.
Across from Super Drug Mart was PetCetera, so I went in there and bought an iguana harness and leash set for Elrohir. Actually it was a kitten harness, but it looked about the right size for the iguana. I asked the apathetic-looking youth who worked there if they had any iguana accessories in, and he led me to a small corner of one aisle. I found: special tinned iguana food, a studded vinyl biker vest made for iguanas, and novelty lizard bath soap. All of it was on clearance, so I got one of each. Then when I thought not too many people were looking, I ducked into one of those lacy ladies' shops and bought a satin house robe for grandma. I wasn't certain if mum and dad are back together, or if we are on family terms again, but I thought I ought to play it safe. Bought her a pair of gel-bottom slippers, some aromatherapy candles, and a hairbrush that promotes environmental awareness. That left only Erestor's present.
I spent the rest of the afternoon lugging bags of crap from Super Drug Mart, PetCetera and the lacy lady store all over the mall, trying to find something for Erestor. He is the most difficult person in the world to buy for. By three o'clock I was tired and starving and just plain didn't care any more, so I went to one of those rugged men's shops (the kind that have fake screen doors covering pine tree wall murals in a hunting lodge sort of theme) and got him masculine (read: unfashionable) plaid pyjamas. I was looked at while I did. I wanted desperately to explain to lookers-on that the pyjamas were not for me but for my dad's illicit lover, who will hopefully wear them and therefore be decently covered in bed at all times, but I think that would have made them look even more.
Couldn't handle going to the food court for a snack after that. Couldn't handle the thought of being looked at while I ate congealing food court food. Instead, I went back to Super Drug Mart to buy a Mars bar. I think that place must be enchanted with some sort of consumer frenzy magic, because I left with a Mars bar, a three-roll pack of holiday foil wrap, four litres of Coke, a roll of film, and a pine-scented candle in a festive tin. My mistake was picking up the basket at the door. If you pick up a basket, you feel obligated to fill it with Things.
When I got back home I remembered about Glorfindel, Aralindë, and Elairon. Bugger! I have no desire to go back to the mall any time within the next ten years, so I may just have to buy something off ebay and have it shipped to them direct.
Organised a meeting with the Minister of Defence this afternoon. I explained my plans to go to Mirkwood, and she said that should be fine, provided I a) do not travel with my deputy-PM (easily done- I don't think Lindir has ever left the city), and b) I do travel with somebody reliable who can watch out for my well-being. I told her I would be travelling with Elrohir. She said that was good enough. Clearly, she has never met Elrohir.
I rang dad when I got home and told him everything was arranged for my trip and there were no problems. He sounded surprised and asked about five times if I was sure there wasn't some mistake, because they'd never have let him go. I assured him that I am hardly as irreplaceable as he was, and that my being kidnapped by Silvan anarchists would hardly cause the government of Rivendell to collapse into chaos. It might cause a minor fight over who got my ergonomic wheelie chair, but that's about all I can foresee. So Mirkwood it is.
Elrohir and I are torn over whether or not we should decorate the house. On the one hand, it makes everything look nice and festive, and decorating can be fun. On the other hand, we'll be leaving in four days and won't be here for the entire holiday stretch to enjoy our handiwork. And we won't even be here to plug in the lights at night so the neighbours can enjoy our handiwork. It seems like a waste of time to bother setting up all the lights and things, but at the same time it seems like a waste of tradition not to.
LATER: We compromised and did a half-arsed job decorating the front window only, with the two strings of lights that weren't tangled, and I nailed up the falling-apart old pinecone wreath. Elrohir also set up the porcelain Valar on the shelf by the piano, and put the mechanical trouser-dropping Aulë doll on the kitchen buffet. It took twenty minutes. Twenty minutes is the exact right length of time to decorate. Just long enough to be fun, not long enough to get tedious. It's over quick so we can move on to drinking cider by the fire and playing cards.
Last day of work for the year! I was one of about three people who showed up today. Lindir and I were the only ones on our whole floor. We took turns riding down the disabled ramp on our wheelie chairs. He fell off and cracked his elbow on the skirting board, but no severe damage was done. Then, when he wasn't looking, I used the postage metre to stamp all the parcels I have to send to Valinor. No way am I spending eighty dollars of my own money! I know full well they're not going to get there on time (or probably even until the end of January), but I cleverly backdated the stamps to the middle of November so they'll think I remembered to send things on time and the packages were just held up in the crummy overseas postal service.
By one o'clock even Lindir the model employee wanted to go home, so we decided to call it a day and headed down for drinks at the crappy little pub in the Dominion Centre. It was packed with what looked like the entire downtown corporate sector having early post-work drinks. The only free table we could find was directly beneath a speaker that was blaring bad country Fiommereth music. However, it did work out well for me, because I'm sure that whatever I couldn't hear Lindir saying was no more interesting than "Ye-Haw It's Snowing". The downside, though, is now I have that stupid song stuck in my head.
When I got home, Elrohir was showing Taleryn how to properly look after the iguana while we're gone. She yelled when it tried to climb into her hair. Elrohir tried to say encouraging things, but I could tell from the look on his face that he was starting to regret ever having the idea of getting her to care for the iguana. I give their relationship until the end of January at the most. Elrohir could never seriously date anyone who didn't share his love for impractical reptilian pets.
The flight tomorrow leaves at 5.15, which means we have to be checked in at 3.15, which means we have to get up at 1.30 in order to have enough time to dress, eat, drive to the airport, and find parking. Given that I should probably have eight hours of sleep so as not to be cranky when Legolas picks us up, I ought to go to bed at 5.30, which was just over two hours ago. Great. I still have to finish packing.
I just know this is going to be a bad, bad start to the holiday season. I just know it.
Valar save me, I am in a third world country. I know people always make snide remarks about the quality of life in Mirkwood, but I never actually expected them to be true! It is nine pm, and I am freezing and starving and about this close to death.
My room, which is more like a prison cell (made from cinder blocks and all), has no windows, no heat, no electricity, and no running water. There's a sink, but it doesn't work. There's some sort of button-and-dial contraption on the wall, but I'm not sure what it does. Heat, maybe? Electricity? I can't figure out how to use it. I'm stuck with whatever battery life my computer has and the few candles I could find in my nightstand drawer. I am wearing all the clothes I packed AND I am wrapped in the scratchy wool blankets that were on my bed, but it's no use. I'm pretty sure the temperature in here has to be at least -20. We've not eaten since just after noon, and even that was a substandard watery sausage soup.
Also, it's no help that I'm horribly, horribly tired. The flight was long and bumpy, and Lasgalen Airlines has cut every possible courtesy. I had nothing to drink or eat and couldn't rent a pillow the whole way because they don't accept Rivendell dollars and I didn't think to go to the currency exchange at the airport. I couldn't understand the safety features of the aircraft presentation because the flight attendant had such a bad Silvan accent. I couldn't get my seat to recline, and Elrohir couldn't get his to go back up after he finally got it down. They lost Elrohir's luggage, though I'm not sure how that's possible, as we checked our bags at the exact same time and mine arrived without incident. Actually the suitcase had a big oil stain down one side, but at least it was present and in one piece. Also, nobody bothered to tell me that there isn't actually any airport in Mirkwood. Apparently they share an airport with Dale, and it's an hour south-east in the middle of nowhere. Aggravation abounds.
I'm pretty sure I'm going to die tonight. Dad was right. I never should have come here. Why are parents always right? And why do children never listen to them?