For once, it wasn’t a beep that set things in motion: it was a knock on the door. I sighed, put my book down (did you know the Musée des Univers Perdus will loan you copies of Tolkien’s The Lost Road? It’s kind of cool if you think about it) and climbed out of my seat to see who it was. “I wish they’d tell me before you got here,” I complained as I pulled the door open. “It’d be nice to have a chance to- oh. Terri?”
“We’ve had a call for a specialist,” Terri Ryan told me with no preamble. “The Bonsai Mallorn wants you to handle it – Legal only knows why, I’ve seen your training file.”
“All… right.” I blinked. “So when’s my partner getting here?”
Terri gave an exasperated sigh. “I said a call, Agent Huinesoron. As in, from someone in the field? Here.” She handed me a piece of paper; the inelegant scrawl of Latin script spidered its way across the page. “Try not to take too long getting there, please. You know what happened last time.” And she walked away.
Yeah, Terri’s our archivist. She can be a bit… blunt when she has to leave her files behind. I still don’t think there was any call for bringing that up, though.
And of course, ‘quick’ was kind of stuck on foot compared to the chore of puzzling out the nonsensical alphabet so popular on Earth. Oh, I can do it, don’t get me wrong – but I much prefer not to have to. The one saving grace here is that universe codes and portal coordinates can usually be entered letter by letter, just on appearance.
The console threw up my target information (thankfully translated into a proper writing system): Middle-earth, during The Fellowship of the Ring, just as the hobbits leave Bree. There was a little flag in the information telling me that I would be dropped into a synchronised agent timeline – basically Upstairs’ fancy way of letting me know that every second I wasted was another second my almost-partner would be wandering around all alone. So, no time to check his or her information (or name), no time to set disguises (the system would pick one to match my partner), no time for anything other than grabbing a standard Middle-earth kit bag (along with both types of CAD, this time), shoving a spare mission badge into a pocket, and stepping through the inviting blue portal.
So they moved out of the peaceful village of Bree and of to Imladris or Rivendell but of course the hobbit didn’t know that he was leading them to Rivendell.
“… what.” I had appeared on the outskirts of Bree, dressed as a distressingly dirty inhabitant of said town. Commentary on my disguise aside, I had a badfic to deal with. “What was that?”
“‘That’,” said a voice from behind me, “was ‘Of Wolves and Fellowship-The Fellowship of the Ring’. Good, isn’t it?”
I turned round to stare at the owner of the voice, only to see… nothing. There was an impatient cough from below my eyeline, and I looked down at a tight-wound bun of black hair.
“Oh, kneel down, will you?” the voice asked. “I don’t feel like staring at your hips all conversation.”
And so I sat down in the mud of Bree, barely even realising what I was doing. “You’re… my partner?” I asked.
The hobbit woman folded her arms and snorted. “No – you’re mine,” she corrected me. “Which one are you?”
“Which… uh, Agent Huinesoron,” I said.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Kaitlyn, but which department are you from?”
I blinked. I didn’t particularly like being put on the defensive, particularly when I was still trying to get into the mission mindset. “Don’t you know?” I demanded. “You called for a specialist, after all.”
“Oh, I called for lots of specialists,” Kaitlyn corrected me. “I had, let’s see, Displaced Flora and Fauna, Technical Errors, Geographical Aberrations, Out-of-Character Hobbits-”
“Wait, you asked for help from DOOCH?” I would say I couldn’t keep the incredulity out of my voice, but honestly I didn’t even try.
“Most of the bigger departments stopped listening to me weeks ago,” Kaitlyn explained. “I don’t think Personnel have gotten round to realising my partner’s in FicPsych yet, so there’s never anyone to help me out when I get back from Intel…”
“Can we go back a little in this conversation?” I pleaded. “Who are you?”
“I asked first,” Kaitlyn pointed out.
“DOGA. I’m from DOGA.” There didn’t seem any point in arguing.
“And I’m with the DCPS.” Kaitlyn held out a hand, and I shook it warily. “I’m not usually a hobbit – well, not in HQ. But whenever I can, you know?”
“Not really,” I admitted. “D-C-what now?”
“Department of Character Protective Services,” Kaitlyn said slowly. “I’m caseworker for Merry and Pippin, specifically. So whenever my friend in Intel – the Department of Intelligence? – gets a particularly bad fic for them through, she tips me off. Only my partner-”
“-is in FicPsych,” I recalled, and honestly I could guess the reason. “So you just… keep taking missions?”
“What’s the alternative?” Kaitlyn demanded. “Just let those cute little hobbits get their adorable fuzzy feet molested by Sues or whatever? I mean, really!”
I know it was rude, but I had to know. “Are you… high?”
“What? Oh.” Kaitlyn actually laughed. “It’s the disguise – being a hobbit always gets me this way. I mean, come on – I have feet covered in black hair. Also, they served mushrooms in The Prancing Pony last night. And there were leftovers…”
“… shall we start from the beginning?”
“We did that once already.” Kaitlyn sighed and adjusted her pack on her shoulders. “All right. Do you want a summary?”
“It would help,” I allowed. “Oh, and before I forget – here.” I handed her a DOGA mission badge.
Kaitlyn frowned at the golden badge. “It’s a… metal… okay, Huinesorrow, I give up.”
“Huinesoron,” I corrected wearily. “It’s a mission pin. Shows that you’re working with DOGA this mission. No?”
“Er… no, not a clue.” She shrugged and pinned it on her cloak. “Do they make DCPS ones?”
“You’d have to ask Agent Kayleigh,” I said. “She’s in-”
“Oh, I know Kayleigh,” Kaitlyn laughed. “Everyone knows Kayleigh.” She shook her head, amused. “All right, now that’s over with… shall we portal? That way we can get… well, to your job.”
“No problem.” I pushed myself upright, grimacing as I realised the damp ground had soaked my trousers entirely through. Still, at least now I was back on familiar territory: a mission.
By midday they were getting closer to a patch of woodland.
Kaitlyn beamed at me. “And that’s why I called DOGA in.”
I blinked, confused. “Why?”
“Woodland? Near Bree? They should be in the marshes, right?”
“Well, no, actually.” I rummaged through my pack and pulled out a well-worn map of north-western Middle-earth. “See, Aragorn took the hobbits up towards Archet – to trick any spies in Bree – but turned east into the Chetwood once they were out of sight. They don’t reach Midgewater until they’re three days out.”
“… oh.” Kaitlyn frowned. “Well, that’s… oh. I guess you’d better go, then.” She unpinned the mission badge and held it out to me.
I waved her off. “Keep it,” I said. “I might as well- I mean, since I’m here, I’ll stick around until the mission finishes. It’s better than sitting around in HQ, after all.”
“Really? Well, er, thank you.” Kaitlyn looked slightly taken aback, and possibly a little as if she didn’t believe me – which was unfair. It was true enough, as far as it went. The fact that I also felt a fair amount of kinship with her – left without a partner, struggling through by herself – helped, I suppose.
As they approached the woodland the sound of hooves came racing towards them from the woods. The Hobbits turned and started to run but Strider stood still and said to the horse," Moréfindiel!"
I raised an eyebrow. “I assume that’s supposed to be ‘Daughter of the black hair’… well, actually I assume it’s meant to be ‘Black-haired girl’. Either way, it’s wrong – it would be ‘Mori’.”
Kaitlyn positively beamed. “Wow, you’re perfect! Who needs SIELU when you’re here? Um, her author’s note says it translates to ‘Keira’ in English?”
“I’ve no idea,” I admitted, “but that sounds like one of those internet things, not an actual translation.”
“I’m not sure I can charge for ‘sounds like’.” Frowning, Kaitlyn fished through her pack and produced a book, which she proceeded to leaf through.
“… you brought a book of name meanings?”
She glanced up. “It’s more common than you’d think in hobbit-fics. Here we are… huh. Apparently ‘Keira’ does mean ‘black-haired’. Do you think I should change my name?”
“I don’t know,” I said tolerantly, “what does ‘Kaitlyn’ mean?”
“No one knows,” Kaitlyn replied immediately. “It could be ‘both of them’, or ‘pure’, or even ‘torture’ or ‘sorceress’. The last is my personal favourite.”
“It’s certainly more… nuanced than ‘Keira’,” I mused. “Why do you want to change it?”
“Oh, I don’t,” she replied, “I was just making conversation. Now, here’s a thing: Aragorn earlier insulted Bill the pony in the process of saying they had no horses. Now, they do. Charge?”
“I don’t know. He does ask ‘where have you been these past few years’, so he doesn’t seem to have known Keira-horse was here.”
“Then there’s a charge for stupid coincidences,” Kaitlyn said triumphantly, writing it down. “And a horse couldn’t just wander Eriador like that – it’s dangerous out here, especially for helpless hobbits…”
I coughed. “You’re getting distracted again. They- oh, sercë urco! What?”
"Because she is descended from the Black Horses of Morgul, the horses used by the Nazgul, except they only use the stallions as the mares are too hard to control. The horses of Morgul are also able to sense the ring."
"Oh" was all Frodo could say.
It wasn’t all I could say. Kaitlyn looked faintly impressed by the range of my vocabulary – though, since it was mostly Quenya (with occasional choice bits of Sindarin), I doubt she understood a word I was saying.
“And,” I finished, dropping back into English, “the stupid horse has, and I quote, ‘not a single hair on this horse was out of place, not a single twig was caught in her mane or tail nor leaves caught in her fetlocks’. It’s a Valar-forsaken equine Sue!”
“I think the accepted term is ‘Glitter Do’,” Kaitlyn supplied, “unless that’s just for My Little Pony. He wasn’t very clear. So does that mean you want to kill her?”
“She’s a magic evil horse who can sense the One Ring,” I pointed out. “I don’t think we have a choice.”
“Shame,” Kaitlyn murmured, “she’s quite pretty… but I suppose that’s the point. All right. Hey, do you know what time it is?”
The sudden change of subject rather took me aback, but I glanced up at the sky anyway. “Just after noon?” I offered. “Why? Oh, this isn’t one of those hobbit food things, is it?”
“Now you come to mention it, it has been a while since breakfast,” Kaitlyn mused. “But no. Check the Words – Aragorn’s already looking for a campsite.”
I stared. “That’s a… what? Isn’t he worried at all by the threat of the Nazgûl?”
“He probably thinks they won’t notice him,” Kaitlyn suggested. “He has got one of their horses, after all…”
By this time, the hobbits (and Aragorn, and Mary-Horse) had headed further into the woods. Kaitlyn squinted at the Words.
“So if he’s planning on camping already,” she mused, “that must mean the next scene is only a little further on…”
“I suppose so,” I said dubiously. “Why?”
“Just making sure the canon knows what’s what,” the hobbit said cheerfully, and skipped – actually skipped – off after the characters. Shaking my head, I followed her.
"How do we know the Strider is a friend of Gandalf's I mean come on his horse is a black horse of Morgul?"Merry questioned Frodo.
“That’s a really good question,” I noted. “Since we’re in-” I couldn’t suppress a grimace “-Movieverse, there’s no letter or anything… just Aragorn’s word to go on.”
Kaitlyn shot me an irritated look for some reason. “I think it’s quite clever,” she disagreed, “taking canonical lines and recontextualising them. The ‘look fairer and feel fouler’ line works really well when you take the fact that Aragorn’s a werewolf into account.”
“Wait.” I held up a hand. “He’s a what?”
“A werewolf,” Kaitlyn repeated. “You know, human who turns into a wolf… it’s not a particularly unusual concept.”
“Eleni Cuivieneno,” I muttered. “Did you think of mentioning that?”
“I did!” Kaitlyn protested. “I gave you a summary of-”
“No, you didn’t,” I said firmly. “You talked about departments, I gave you a mission badge, and then we portalled to your mistake about Chetwood.”
“… oh.” Kaitlyn frowned. “I could have sworn… right, well, ten second rundown: Aragorn and Pippin are werewolves because reasons, and the fic before you arrived far pretty much followed the movies – except where one of those two does something wolf-y.”
“That wasn’t even ten seconds,” I pointed out.
“Well, we’re only halfway through Chapter One,” Kaitlyn shrugged. “But you see my point about the feeling fair line?”
“Vaguely,” I allowed, “but there’s a problem: werewolves are evil. They’re Sauron’s underlings.”
“Oh, I’m not saying I like the story,” she said hastily, “just that one line. Unlike, say, this one…”
"Curse wolfish hearing," muttered Pippin
"I heard that young Garaveg," Strider called out to him.
"What's a Garaveg? "Asked Pippin
"Garaveg means Lowell which means ... well it means something to do with you young Hobbit," He replied.
“Gosh, I wonder what that could be.”
“If it were garavath, it would be Sindarin for ‘werewolves’,” I observed.
Kaitlyn nodded. “So it’s pretty close?”
I snorted. “Not even. The singular is ‘garaf’.”
“That seems like a strange way to make a plural,” Kaitlyn commented, and I bristled.
“Not as ridiculous as refusing to change the word at all – sheep,” I snapped.
Kaitlyn blinked. “Right. Well… right. So what does ‘garavath’ mean?”
“Garaveg,” I corrected, rolling my eyes. “It could maybe mean ‘little wolf’, if you didn’t like Sindarin very much – but only in the same way as claiming ‘Lo-well’ means the same thing.”
Kaitlyn pulled out her baby name book again and flicked through it. “Apparently, it does.”
Scowling, I turned and walked away. “Coincidence,” I muttered to myself, and deliberately lengthened my stride. “Come on, keep up.”
We walked – well, I walked, Kaitlyn jogged - through a clearing, and I happened to glance up. Anar was riding high in the sky, but inexplicably, next to her, Isil shone brightly.
“What.” I shook my head. “I haven’t seen such a thing since the First Rising.”
Kaitlyn glanced at me, then followed my gaze. “The… full moon, at midday? That’s… right, clearly I should have called the Department of Temporal Offences for this one. With this and the whole ‘three days to cross Midgewater’ thing we’ve got coming later-”
“No, that’s accurate,” I pointed out.
“Really? It doesn’t seem that way from the films.”
“Oh, well, if you trust those,” I snorted. “Next time, read the book – or just look at the maps.”
“… right.” Kaitlyn glanced down at her charge list. “And what about saying the journey to Rivendell would take twelve days by foot – or ten on horseback? Am I stupid for thinking that’s wrong?”
“No, you can have that one,” I allowed. “It’s more like twenty days walk. A horse could make it in less than a day – except for the minor fact that it would die half an hour in. To actually survive the journey, you’d be looking at… well, a week to ten days, so that at least is right.”
“Brilliant,” Kaitlyn muttered, and then, with a strangely intense look at me, added, “Thank you.”
“It’s nothing,” I said dismissively. “Ah… where have they gone?”
Kaitlyn scanned the Words. “Not a clue. Aragorn said they needed to make camp, then ‘as the moon began to rise’ he wandered off into the woods. No word on whether they actually camped. The next scene is… oh, you’ll like this.”
“Something in your voice tells me otherwise.”
Kaitlyn pouted. “You know me too well. Come on!” She flicked open a portal and jumped through. Shaking my head, I followed at a more sedate pace.
I found myself in a break in the Chetwood – a large open space surrounded by oak and birch. There was a lake at the centre of the field, surrounded by willows, but the water looked… strange, somehow.
“This is… well, it has two names,” Kaitlyn whispered. “It’s usually called the Moon Clearing, but according to the text, its full name is ‘the Moon Clearing as it was known to the Rangers as on full moons the moons light reflected back on the still lake in the centre’.”
“Bit of a mouthful,” I observed. “Maybe they say it in Sindarin? I Lant Ithil ben Dhunedain esta din; ir Ithil síla bant i galad Ithil... no, still much too long.”
“They could shorten it,” Kaitlyn suggested. “Like, Ilithendunes-?”
“-no,” I said flatly. “And don’t… don’t do that.”
“Er, sure.” She gestured at the lake. “Did you know it only reflects the full moon?”
Ah. That had to be why it looked strange. No point in saying that, though – she’d obviously noted it herself. “Maybe it’s like those moon-runes the dwarves use,” I offered instead. “Seems like the sort of ridiculous thing they’d do.”
“Could be,” Kaitlyn agreed shortly. “Oh, here we go…”
Aragorn walked into the Moon Clearing Etcetera and crossed the flower-strewn grass to the lake. Then, out of nowhere: wolf! I grabbed for my sword, visions of the slaughter the Enemy’s minions could inflict flashing through my mind, but Kaitlyn caught my hand.
“It’s Pippin,” she whispered fiercely. “Werewolf, remember?”
“Right… right,” I muttered. “Oromë preserve me from people who think werewolves are nice… all right.” I shook her hand off. “Sorry.”
"Hello Pippin," Strider said softly to wolf. Then Pippin started growling at him. Saying nothing the Ranger turned back around and looked up at the moon, then turning back to Pippin kneeled down on the grassy floor of the clearing and let the moon turn his grey eyes to the yellow of the wolf and his veins black before changing his shape to a largish dark brown wolf with a scar across his chest and scars across his back.
“You know,” Kaitlyn said in a chirpy tone that was probably meant to distract me from the servant of Morgoth appearing in front of me, “I get the feeling this scene is meant to be dramatic and moving – but it has absolutely rubbish flow. ‘Aragorn spoke to Pippin. Then Pippin growled. Then Aragorn looked at the moon. Then Aragorn turned into a wolf.’”
“See Pippin grovel,” I supplied (so apparently the distraction worked). “Grovel, Pippin, grovel.”
Kaitlyn hissed softly in her throat. “Right, because Pippin would totally engage in a classic wolf submission display.”
I blinked as Aragorn did… something. “What… was that?”
“That,” Kaitlyn assured me, “is how you beckon ‘in a wolfish way’. Impressed?”
“Distressed,” I decided, shaking my head. I’ve never enjoyed having to watch things left vague in fiction – it makes my memories all fuzzy. “So where are they going?”
“Off to the next scene,” Kaitlyn shrugged, and sat down on the grass. “It’ll be five minutes; let’s take a break.”
I watched the two canons-turned-wolves head across the clearing. “Shouldn’t we follow them?”
“Nope,” Kaitlyn said. “They run for-”
“Lope,” I corrected her. “Wolves generally lope.”
“The Words say run, for the whole time in a dark cave. Not my idea of fun.”
“Fair enough.” I found a clear patch of grass and sat. Despite the generally bad plot and writing, the Moon Clearing Etcetera was quite relaxing. The willow trees reminded me of Nan-tathren, downriver from my home; a place where I had spent several of Beleriand’s more peaceful years. I nodded: yes, I could relax a little here.
Kaitlyn had pulled out her book yet again and was leafing through. After a while, she laughed.
“I’d forgotten,” she told me, “this is the PPC edition. You were right – Garaveg’s in here, and it means ‘Little Wolf’.”
“No, it doesn’t,” I corrected her. “At best, it means ‘Wolf dot’.”
Kaitlyn raised an eyebrow and looked at the front cover. “It was edited by Agent Lambda of SIELU,” she pointed out.
“Well, she was wrong,” I said. “I think I know more about Sindarin than some human, don’t you?”
“…” Kaitlyn abruptly shoved the book in her pack and grabbed her Remote Activator. “I’m portalling ahead,” she said bluntly. “You coming?” She flicked the blue door open and stepped through, leaving me to wonder yet again why she was so ratty.
The far side of the portal did not open onto what the Words had promised, ‘a lagoon that seemed to sparkle in the moons rays’ where Arawolf and Pipcub (I wanted to make that ‘Pippup’, but that would be inaccurate, and also sounds much more like a Pokemon) met three other wolves who would no doubt turn out to be characters. Instead, it was suddenly full daylight, and the group was walking through scrubby grassland.
“What in the name of- did you skip us forward?” I demanded.
“Only to the beginning of the next chapter,” Kaitlyn said, already walking after the canons. “It wasn’t very far.”
“Oh, no,” I snorted, “only the rest of the night.”
“I was serious about needing the DTO for this mission,” Kaitlyn pointed out. “They spent five minutes run- loping to some lagoon, looked at it for a minute, then came straight back, in time for the sun to rise.”
I stared at her. “You must be missing a bit.”
“Afraid not. ‘After brief goodbyes Pippin and Strider made their way back to camp while the other three vanished back to the lagoon. They arrived back to camp just as the sun's rays peeked through the trees triggering the transformation back to human and hobbit.’ It’s unambiguous.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I scoffed.
“Well, yes; that’s why we call it a badfic.”
I shook my head, dismissing her childishness – even if she wasn’t actually a hobbit, she certainly acted like one. “So what else did we miss?”
“You could always check for yourself,” Kaitlyn said mildly, but sighed and skimmed the Words. “They have black blood… Aragorn confirms that Lowell means ‘Little Wolf’… and he gets Pip to pour water on Merry to wake him up.” Her expression turned into something between anger and pity. “Poor Merry… maybe I should go hug him.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t,” I countered, “what with him being a canon character and you being assigned to protect him.”
Kaitlyn sniffed. “In the good old days, the DCPS was a lot more fun. The Asphodel let us- well, anyway. That’s all gone now.”
“A lot of things are,” I murmured, and looked up at the Words, hoping for a change of subject. I got one.
After a short argument, and one piece of bacon each, they set off again for Rivendell. Before long the hobbit stopped and started unpacking the pony, which Sam had decided to call Bill.
"Gentleman, we don't stop 'till nightfall,"
"What 'bout breakfast?" asked Pippin
“Hang on,” I said, “that’s-”
“-that’s from the-”
“-the film!” I finished. “So we’re back in canon? Or at least as ‘canon’ as those things ever get.”
Kaitlyn glowered at me for some reason. “Yes,” she snapped. “But not for long. After the apple-”
Right on cue, an apple flew over the bush and landed in Merry's hand then another flew over and hit Pippin on the forehead.
“Exactly,” Kaitlyn said. “We get a timeskip to ‘a few hours later’. Ready?”
“Not-” I started to reply, and a few hours later, finished, “- really. Ow.”
Kaitlyn chuckled at my discomfort. Then a horrified expression came over her face, and she looked down in time to see her foot vanish into a bog. “My fuzzy little toes!” she exclaimed.
“Not so fuzzy any more,” I smirked, shifting slightly to ensure my feet were on stable ground. My intuition for the footing wasn’t as good as it was in my own body, but it was still, apparently, better than Kaitlyn’s.
I was treated to another glare, and a well-timed laugh from Arawolf. I blinked in surprise as Pippin called out, "Hey,it's not funny and I don't even know how you saw me falling into the stinky water,"
Aragorn claimed that he hadn’t, which invited the question of what he had been laughing at. The words revealed that it was:
“The memory of the Dead Marshes?! There’s no way he’d laugh about that!”
“It’s on the list,” Kaitlyn said. “And we have a… sweet Nienna. We may have to skip quite a bit.”
I frowned up at the Words. “Why? What’s coming?”
“In quick succession,” she told me, shifting uncomfortably on the soggy ground, “a three-hour timeskip, Aragorn heading off to hunt in a patch of woodland-”
“What, in Midgewater?”
Kaitlyn grinned. “Told you there were Geographical Aberrations. So he reaches the woods, where there is a deer – a juicy one. Then he changes into his ‘wolf form, his superior form’, and… actually, we should watch this.” She pulled out her Remote Activator, fiddled with it, and opened up a small portal at head height – or around my waist. There was something unusual about it, and I knelt to look closer – then fell back onto my hands at what I saw. Unlike the normal blue doors, this one was mostly transparent – a viewing window onto a woodland glade, where a deer stood peacefully grazing.
Kaitlyn saw my astonishment and winked at me. “Strictly speaking, it’s against the rules,” she said, “but the Asphodel doesn’t mind. Keeps us from being out here too long – there’s not really enough of us Character Protection, you know?”
I shook my head slowly. “If you can do this,” I said, “why do you go on missions at all?”
Kaitlyn laughed. “It’s not magic, you know!” she exclaimed. “Even the best portals are only barely stable. This thing lasts about a minute – and it’s absolute murder on the electronics.” She peered into the window, and added, “You can’t move it, either. Here he comes!”
There he came. A large brown wolf leapt into view, startling the deer, but it was too late to run. The wolf landed on its back, and used the knife in its mouth to stab the beast in the back of its neck. The deer stumbled and fell, and the wolf leapt down, transforming back into Aragorn. Between the trees, I caught sight of the Words:
Strider leapt off and changed back to a Dúnedan Ranger, even though he was still one when he was wolf, a human Dúnedan Ranger.
The portal flickered closed as Aragorn knelt to tie the deer’s legs together, and I turned to look at Kaitlyn. “The knife…?”
“You’d think it was the Word World being literal again, wouldn’t you?” she said. “But no! It’s ‘the knife he had slipped into his mouth before changing’, straight from the fic.”
“… you were right.” Kaitlyn tilted her head quizzically, and I shrugged. “We really did have to see that.” I paused a moment as a smile appeared on her face, then added, “So why didn’t we just portal there?”
Kaitlyn sighed. “He goes straight back to camp, and I can’t be bothered to walk it. Then he butchers the carcass – after commenting that he’d normally eat it in wolf form, to avoid ‘leading any mongrel foxes to his camp’. If I wanted to watch things get ripped apart, I’d’ve joined the DMS.”
I stood up – my knees were getting even dirtier than my disguise already made them – and peered after the canons, who we’d let get some distance ahead of us. “I think you’ve come down from the mushroom high,” I said.
“Yeah, I’d noticed.” Kaitlyn kicked a sod of earth absently, and held up the Remote Activator. “I’m hungry. What say we go steal some venison and make fun of Aragorn’s taste in crockery?”
“That’s more like it,” I said. “Lead the way.”
Strider plated up the deer in the wooden bowls Sam brought and in his iron bowl, a gift from Elrond as he used to complain about getting splinters in his food from his wooden one and didn't have time to smoothen it out so Elrond made him a smooth iron one, remarkably light iron so he began to suspect mithril was mixed into it.
If we’d been in any doubt about whether Arawolf was a replacement or just OOC at that point, it was firmly laid to rest: no character replacement could possibly have missed us rolling on the ground, laughing our heads off.
Eventually we recovered enough that Kaitlyn was able to purloin some of the venison – of course she did, she’s a hobbit – and we settled down a short distance away to eat our supper. Kaitlyn pored over the charge list as she ate.
“I’m not sure how many charges that bowl is good for,” she admitted between bites. “There’s the idea that an elven-made wooden bowl would cause splinters, of course, and the picture of Elrond forging a new one…”
“Don’t forget ‘didn’t have time’,” I said. “Aragorn spends enough time in the wilderness with nothing but time.”
“Mm.” Kaitlyn scribbled a note. “And then there’s ‘used to complain’ – whingy Estel?”
“And the obvious fact that, even if mithril was still widely available, no-one would waste it on tableware.” I snorted. “Not that it would alloy with iron anyway.”
“Is that in the books?” Kaitlyn asked, glancing at me.
I shrugged. “Does it have to be? I was there when we first found out about mithril. The dwarves were very clear on what it could and couldn’t do.”
“I don’t think you count as a reliable source,” Kaitlyn murmured as Arawolf and the hobbits started to disperse. I saw her gaze linger on Pippin, - apparently They all sat down in different places [...] Strider a little way off and Pippin not far from Strider, after having accepting him as his alpha showed more respect to the Ranger than the other did. - and shook my head.
“More reliable than a badfic.” I put my bowl (perfectly serviceable wood, thank you very much) down and stretched. “If they don’t know the truth, they shouldn’t make assumptions.”
Kaitlyn muttered something which even I couldn’t catch, then turned on the spot to face Arawolf.
Before long The Hobbits fell into a peaceful sleep. Only Strider stayed up and started softly singing to himself
The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinúviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering.
I smiled, for possibly the first time on this mission. “Well, this is pleasant,” I commented. “Nice to have a moment of canon in a fic like this.”
Kaitlyn tilted her head, listening. “It’s not really my thing,” she admitted after a few lines. “I’m more partial to Bilbo’s walking songs.”
I sniffed. “I suppose I shouldn’t have expected you to appreciate Tinfang of Ossiriand’s work,” I said. “I mean, he’s only one of the greatest musicians ever to have lived – clearly it’s perfectly reasonable for you to prefer a scruffy little burglar’s work.”
Kaitlyn scowled at me. “I have had it up to here with-” She lifted a hand over her head, only to realise it came barely halfway up my chest. “Well,” she amended, folding her arms, “down to the tips of my fuzzy toes with your patronising, supercilious, self-righteous attitude! Do you ever stop to think about what you’re saying?”
I blinked. “Excuse me? Are you saying my facts are incorrect?”
“I’m saying there’s more to communication than being right all the time!” she shouted. “Sweet Nienna, how does your partner put up with you?”
I scowled. “Actually, until she transferred out, we worked very well together.”
“You’re doing it again!” Kaitlyn practically screamed, then glanced guiltily at the canons as Arawolf paused in his song. “You’re doing it again,” she repeated in a far more reasonable tone. “You’re treating me like a child. An inferior. Someone you can get away with patronising because they don’t really matter.”
“I’m not-” The words hung on my lips, an automatic rejection of her statement, because really, how would she know what I thought about her? Then I looked back on that thought, and my eyes widened in shock. Maybe there was some truth in what she was saying.
Sweet Cuivienen, I thought, I’m still doing it. ‘Maybe there was some truth in it’? No, Huinesoron, admit it to yourself – she was right. The Atan was right. Now how to avoid admitting it?
… yeah, I know. I was still rather new to this introspection thing.
Fortunately for me, Kaitlyn broke the silence first, tilting her head to one side. “Your partner,” she said thoughtfully. “Was she an elf too?”
“…” My jaw actually dropped. How did she-? Oh, right, not supposed to be belittling her intelligence. I remember. “Yes, actually, she was.”
Kaitlyn smiled slightly, and then… said nothing. And kept on saying nothing, just looking at me with a smile that was becoming increasingly smug.
“… how did you know?” It hurt to have to ask that. I’m a Noldo, for Aulë’s sake – I shouldn’t have to ask- right, no, doing it again.
“The way you act,” Kaitlyn said, somehow managing not to rub in the fact that she’d just forced me to admit to a gap in my knowledge. “You act – and react – like someone who’s not spent much time around other races. Like you don’t quite see us as real people.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I scoffed. “I go to the Cafeteria, don’t I? And on missions, for that matter.”
“Yes, I imagine you do,” Kaitlyn said quietly. “And you just dismissed my words as ‘ridiculous’ without giving them a moment’s thought.”
I could feel my top lip trying to pull into a sneer, but ruthlessly slapped it down. Stars and water, was I really this bad? None of my previous partners had ever said- but then, mostly I’d only had one partner, and if – since – Kaitlyn was right, she’d shared my blind spots.
Or prejudices. Call them by their right name, Huinesoron.
“Assuming I accept…” I began, then shook my head. “No. I… apologise. I did not intend to… ah…”
I was hoping for another interruption – Hobbits tend to be rather jumpy about long silences, and that’s not prejudice speaking, just observation – but I was disappointed. Kaitlyn just kept looking at me, until finally I had to continue.
“… you’re right. I was arrogant. I’m sorry.”
Kaitlyn held my gaze for a few moments, then nodded. “Apology accepted,” she said, “provided you don’t just pick up where you left off.”
“I… will do my best.” I grimaced. “This isn’t easy, you know.”
“But it’ll make you a lot easier to work with.” Kaitlyn frowned thoughtfully, biting her lower lip, and then sighed. “Look, Huinesoron, I’m not asking you to change instantly. You’re an elf, I know that’s impossible.”
“Hey! What’s that supposed to-?” I stopped, seeing her grin. “Oh, very funny.”
“So now you know how it feels,” she said, smirking at me. “And you will work on it, yes?”
“… yes.” I reached up and tugged a lock of my hair, then snatched my hand away hastily – I thought I’d gotten over that nervous tic back when the Trees still shone. “So… Agent Kaitlyn.”
“Agent Huinesoron,” she acknowledged with a nod.
“I understand you’re in need of a specialist in geographical aberrations to assist in your mission,” I said. “Can I offer my assistance?”
“I’d be much obliged,” Kaitlyn replied, and smiled. “Now then… oh, how sweet.”
Her gaze had drifted to the hobbits, three of whom were curled up, asleep. I shook my head slightly.
“DCPS… you have a, ah, a different view of things, don’t you?”
“Only when it comes to our wards,” Kaitlyn said, her gaze lingering on Pippin. “Do you think he’ll be-?”
A voice boomed from the night sky. I know this is kind of the middle of the chapter but I am going to start writing in Povs. Mainly Aragorn, Pippin and Atlanta (When she gets introduced, which is soon.) Maybe a couple from Boromir, Frodo and Gandalf.
My eyes widened in horror. “First person!” I exclaimed. “Varda Elentári, and I didn’t bring a crash dummy.” I whipped my head round to Kaitlyn. “Have you-”
She was already digging through her pack. “A little more faith in your partner,” she chided, pulling out a yellow cube. She pulled the cord and chucked it casually at Arawolf’s head.
It never hit. The Ranger’s eyes flared up with sudden, canonical-looking suspicion, and then he fell straight down into a swirling urple hole. The crash dummy expanded into a decent copy of him, and fell into place by the fire.
Frodo fell asleep later on leaving me alone with my thoughts. I haven't been to Rivendell for about 2 years now only dropping by for 10 minutes here and there to see Her.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but Kaitlyn was looking suspiciously at first-person!Arawolf. “Did the timing there seem awfully convenient to you?” she asked.
“I’d never describe a sudden person-shift as convenient,” I pointed out, and remembered to add, “but how do you mean?”
“That ‘haven’t been to Rivendell except for ten minute makeout sessions’ thing,” Kaitlyn said. “It seems far more out-of-character than anything we’ve seen so far.”
“More so than being a werewolf?”
“Yes,” Kaitlyn shrugged. “That’s a physical change – one he can’t help. This one’s purely mental. And, well, look.” She waved at the Words, and I peered upwards.
My thoughts then drifted back to Elladan and Elrohir and all the pranks we pulled on Glorfindel when we got bored, Elladan and Elrohir teaching me sword fighting and of course when we stole Erestor's clothes he was going to wear to dinner so had to wear his torn robes as we had torn up all his clothes.
I grimaced, tugging my hair again. “The Trickster Twins,” I said. “You know, I almost wonder if those two are actually wandering Character Replacements, who hop into random stories in order to ruin them.”
Kaitlyn chuckled. “Popular fanon characters as roaming monsters? I can see that. And behind them, a host of minor spirits, possessing characters and forcing them to serve their whims.”
I laughed softly. “The Blood Brother wraith, forcing Aragorn and Legolas to share heart’s blood – and then sleep together.”
“The Ethereal Washing Machine,” Kaitlyn supplied, “leaping in to provide an unnecessary explanation for Gandalf’s change of robes.”
I was grinning openly now, and not keeping my voice low. “The-”
Arawolf’s head snapped round, and I threw myself down. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kaitlyn pull out a CAD and point it at the possessed dummy. “No!” I hissed, but it was too late.
The [Bip!] of the CAD was clearly audible amid the night-sounds of the forest-slash-marsh, and Arawolf started to stand up to investigate. We were only saved from being discovered, and having to end the mission early, by the story suddenly catching up with us.
"What are you laughing at Strider?" Frodo asked me.
Arawolf cast a long, concerned glance in our direction, but ultimately the drive of the story was more powerful than his residual canonical instincts.
"Just a memory about an elf having to shown up to dinner in torn robes," I replied to him and gave another laugh," Also when we dyed another elf's hair purple, and when we nearly set the library on fire," I told him.
“If I’d waited a minute longer I wouldn’t even have needed it,” Kaitlyn hissed at me from where she lay, and tossed the CAD in my direction. It bounced once on the soft ground, and landed with its screen facing me. I may not be good at Latin letters, but ‘CHARACTER REPLACEMENT’ is pretty easy to recognise.
“Great,” I groaned. “So we have to kill him.”
“He’s a werewolf replacement of Aragorn,” Kaitlyn said. “I can’t see him being too welcome in HQ.”
“You’re right there.” I sighed, and looked over at Arawolf. “What about-?”
"Frodo how about you wake the others up and we get an earlier start so as we can get to Rivendell slightly earlier if we have no delays," I told Frodo
“Oh, come on!” I scowled at Arawolf over the mossy grass. “It’s been ten minutes since they went to sleep. This is ridiculous.”
“This is Arawolf not knowing what time’s for,” Kaitlyn corrected. “I think we can-”
"How to I wake them up, just shake them,"
"No, pour my water skin over Pippin head, no Sam's head cause I don't want to see Pippin reaction," I told him as the worst that could happen was that Pippin would wolf out and he had told me on the full moon that no other hobbit, not even his parents, knew he was a Wolfblood.
So Frodo did as I requested
“Oh no he didn’t!” I didn’t know a hobbit could move so fast. Kaitlyn seemed to levitate to standing, propelled by nothing more than hobbitish fury. “Frodo Baggins, you stop right there!”
Frodo froze in place, eyes even wider than normal, and as I got to my feet Kaitlyn snatched her CAD back and aimed it at him.
“Just as I thought,” she snarled, tapping the readout, and then turned on Arawolf. “You sent him 30% OOC just by getting him to agree to that!”
“Who are you, what are you doing here,” Arawolf… well, ‘asked’ isn’t really the right word, but it was meant to be a question.
Kaitlyn looked back at me, her eyes darting to the knife I was still pulling from my pack, then turned back to Arawolf and held up her notebook like Eönwë with his sword. She took a deep breath. “We’re from the PPC,” she said, “and we’ve got some charges for you.”
“We’re killing him now?” I hissed, finally freeing the blade.
“DCPS, remember?” she whispered back, then fixed her glare on Arawolf. “Don’t you move,” she cautioned. “Aragorn the Wolfranger, your very existence is a menace to canon. You’re so far from being the real Aragorn that you had to shove him in a plothole to keep him away, and you have a Mary-Sue horse. You’ve spent your entire time bullying and otherwise ruining the lives of these poor hobbits, and yes, I am including turning Pip into a ‘Wolfblood’ in that list.”
“I don’t understand,” said Frodo, who was still holding the water skin, “what are you saying about Pippin, is it true.”
“No,” Kaitlyn snapped, “it’s his invention, to give himself a story to play in. And I haven’t even mentioned the way you’ve mucked with the geography and timeline of all of Middle-earth.”
“You have now,” I pointed out. “This is a very unorthodox charge lis-”
“You want ‘orthodox’, you do the writing,” Kaitlyn retorted. “Now then, Arawolf – any last words?”
Her only answer was a snarl. Arawolf changed form in mid-leap, and the dark, scarred wolf knocked Frodo aside as he landed. Even as the Ringbearer fell to the floor, his supposed protector and guide took a second leap, lunging for Kaitlyn’s throat.
She should have been killed. She was a defenceless hobbit, he was a raging werewolf, and her only defence was a mucky human with a half-blunt knife. She should have been killed… except that, despite my disguise, I wasn’t a human. I was a Noldorin warrior, a veteran of the Aglareb and the Bragollach, a warden of the Guarded Plain – and an experienced slayer of fell things.
I didn’t even feel the knife leave my hand; I was already moving, throwing myself at Kaitlyn. She half-turned in surprise, and then I hit, throwing her to the side, twisting as we fell – and I saw Arawolf fly past, the knife embedded in his eye, his fur already fading back to the yellow of the crash dummy as he died.
We came down in a patch of mud, splashing it everywhere. I wanted nothing more than to lie there, gasping for breath, but Kaitlyn seemed almost to bounce back to her feet, and I had to follow. The commotion had woken the other hobbits, and Pippin seemed on the verge of transforming himself out of sheer panic.
“The plothole!” I remembered. “If we get Aragorn back-”
“Go!” Kaitlyn commanded, and I didn’t even bother to argue. The urple hole had vanished almost as soon as it had appeared, but those things don’t move far. There was a tree only a few steps away – part of the inexplicable forest Arawolf had created in the Midgewater Marshes – and I ran over to it. I could just make out the long crack which ran down one side of the trunk.
“I recognise your kind,” I murmured, pressing a hand to the trunk, feeling it shift ever so slightly under my hand. “We saw you in Doriath and Dorthonion… let him out.” I felt, more than heard, a groan from the tree. “You shouldn’t be waking,” I told it. “This isn’t your world any more. Eat earth. Dig deep. Drink water. Go back to sleep.” Now the groan was almost a sigh, and I nodded. “That’s right. I’ll send you home. Just let him-”
The crack snapped open, and Aragorn tumbled out. I knew how horrifying being trapped in the tree must have been, but the Chieftain of the Dúnedain showed no sign of it: he landed in a crouch, guarding against any attack. I stepped back hastily.
“Strider what happened!” shouted Frodo running towards Aragorn. I blinked in surprise and turned, looking for Kaitlyn.
“Why’s he still OOC?” I called. “We killed Arawolf…”
“But we haven’t fixed Pip yet,” Kaitlyn said, and reached into her pack again. “Time for a temporary solution. Sunglasses!”
I snatched the glasses out of my pack – I keep a pair in every rucksack – and slapped them on. Kaitlyn was already maneuvering so the canons could all see her.
“If you’ll all look this way…?” Flash. “Thank you. No-one is a wolf, you’re all on your way to Rivendell, Pippin’s just wandered off for a minute, and Aragorn, you think the hobbits are adorable.” She clipped the neuralyser to her top and dashed over to grab Pippin’s arm. “Huinesoron – portal!”
I didn’t say anything. What was there to say? The three of us stepped through the blue doorway into Medical.
I didn’t get back to my RC for quite some time. Kaitlyn out of disguise was virtually identical to Kaitlyn in one – somewhat taller, and with shoes rather than foot hair, but otherwise the same. She took charge through the rather disgusting process of de-wolfing Pippin (he had to be neuralysed again several times along the way), and did most of the work in dropping him back off in the fic. I spent my time surveying the rogue forest, and selectively portalling the oldest trees back to Doriath.
“I think it’s because the story threw werewolves into the mix,” I told the DMFF agent, Joe, who helped me out. “That made a link to the First Age that really shouldn’t have been there, and dragged some of these trees through.”
“Only some?” Joe asked, looking at the dense woodland skeptically.
I shrugged. “Let’s go with yes. I’m looking forward to burning the rest of them.”
It was quite cathartic, setting the torch to the remaining trees. I don’t normally get that chance – usually, killing the Sue or Replacement or Slash-wraith or whatever is enough to knock the uncanonical locations on the head, too. For some reason, that wasn’t happening here, and I actually had to call in a couple of other DOGA agents – Takua and Jareth – to help untangle the spatial contraction that would have let the company walk to Rivendell in twelve days.
Finally, though, we were done. I bid farewell to Kaitlyn – letting her know she could keep the mission pin – and returned to my RC. And of course, just as I was about to sit down…
… there wasn’t a [beep], but a knock on the door. I pulled it open to reveal an extremely hassled-looking Terri Ryan.
“Are you aware,” she demanded, “that you left an OFC Tenth Walker with a high probability of Suedom running around in Of Wolves and Fellowship? And that the Bonsai Mallorn is threatening to transfer you to SIELU and have you partnered with Agent Râmwê if you don’t sort it out now?”
I gaped at her. “But Kaitlyn-”
“And you forgot about the horse,” Terri added. “Your partner’s already back in there. Now go.”
Author’s Note: Agent Huinesoron continues his quest to be partnered with a bunch of different people. In this case, Kaitlyn of the Department of Character Protective Services. She has appeared before - just about - and her previous appearances are on my site.
No, I will not be writing the part of the mission that they forgot; this thing is long enough as it is.
I’d also like to note that this is the first canon mention of Agent Râmwê of SIELU. He is the PPC’s most specialised agent - he refuses to speak or learn any language except Primitive Quendian, refuses to accept the concept of a writing system (holding that it cannot possibly contain the beauty of true language), and has been on three missions. Like, ever.
When asked why he ever left Cuivienen, he objects that that's not how you pronounce it, and goes off in a huff. SIELU have tried to trade him to another department, but the Poison Ivy is apparently too amused by him to let them.
I don’t know if we’ll be seeing him again - there’s not a whole lot he can do! - but I wanted to get him described somewhere.
The Lord of the Rings belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien. Wolfblood is apparently a real thing and belongs to CBBC. ‘Of Wolves and Fellowship’ belongs to MermaidOfTheMakoPod. The PPC is the creation of Jay and Acacia. Agent Kaitlyn belongs to Kaitlyn, and Agent Joe is borrowed from Elvea Aure. I think most of the rest is mine?
Full Charge List