Agent Dafydd sat back in the chair, watching Constance over the table between them. The woman was certainly concentrating on the matter in hand, but he knew that, however much she concentrated, she had no chance. His work was perfect.
Tentatively, she reached out and moved a piece. Dafydd grinned, a grin that had, long ago, made Orcs fear for their lives. Without even needing to think about it – he had guessed at her move long before she made it – he moved one of his own pieces across the board. "Checkmate."
Constance sighed and pushed the chessboard away from her. "You're too good at this," she said, grudgingly.
Dafydd tilted his head. "Of course I am," he said. "I've had long enough to practice, haven't I?"
Constance rolled her eyes. "Someday," she promised, "I'm going to find a game you've never played before, and-"
Dafydd winced and clapped his hands over his ears as Constance jumped up and ran to slap the big red button on the console. When silence again descended, he sighed in relief. "Was it just me, or did that sound like five exclamation marks? Because you know what they..." He trailed off. Constance was staring down at the computer screen, hands gripping the edge of the console hard enough to leave dents, her expression one he'd never before seen on her. If he didn't know better, he'd call it mortal terror. "Connie? What is it?"
She turned slowly to face him, eyes wide, her hands still shaped as though holding the console. She seemed to only be able to make one sound, over and again. "Cuh... cuh... cuh... cuh..."
Frowning, Dafydd stood and walked over to his fellow agent. He reached out and touched the back of her hand gently, feeling the tensed muscles. "What's wrong, Constance?"
She seemed to register his existence only then, turning her head and looking straight at him. Dafydd took a half step back, stunned by the fear in her eyes. Then, finally, she managed to get a full word out.
"Cuh... cuh... Celebrian!"
Dafydd blinked. "Elrond's wife? She's not that bad, is she?"
The complete lack of response broke Constance out of her trance. Glaring irritably at her friend, she said, "No, Dafydd, not the person. The story. Celebrían. The infamous smutfic."
Dafydd stared at her, as speechless as she'd expected. When he finally spoke, it was through gritted teeth. "They are sending you into that?" Constance nodded, and the elf hissed. "I'm coming with you."
Constance blinked. That was unexpected. "I'm supposed to take it with Steve," she pointed out.
Dafydd looked around the Response Centre pointedly. "He's not here. I'll go instead."
Constance shook her head. "I should wait for him. We don't want to anger the Flowers."
Dafydd glared at her. "Connie," he said, "you are my closest friend, I am madly in love with you, and there is not a chance in Angband I'm letting you into that 'fic without me. If you do not let me come, I will destroy your console."
Constance's eyes widened, not just at his dedication to joining her, but at the declaration of love, too. She glanced at him, and realised she was smiling despite her horror at the mission before them. "All right, then, Dafydd," she said, lifting a hand and touching his cheek. "We'll go. You're armed?"
He grinned - a feral grin, Constance thought – and nodded. "I came straight here after my last mission, remember?"
Constance nodded distractedly, and pressed a few buttons on the console. "Disguises? It takes place mostly in the orc caverns, so-"
"No." Dafydd shook his head adamantly. "I won't go into that abomination as anything other than myself, and certainly not as an orc."
Constance raised an eyebrow, but nodded. I'm probably breaking a dozen rules by taking him along in the first place, one more won't matter too much. Setting the console to the little-used No Disguise function – intended mainly for emergency trips to the Real World – she checked over the settings one last time and opened the portal. Dafydd nodded in approval, shouldering his pack and stepping towards the blue doorway in the air, but before he could pass through Constance grabbed his arm.
He looked at her quizzically, an expression that was dispelled when she stood up on her toes and kissed him gently on the lips. When she drew away after a long moment, she was smiling. "I love you too," she said.
Dafydd smiled a smile that he had to have roped Han Solo into teaching. "I know," he said, and hopped through the portal.
"Strip her," the Goblin King said.
Celebrian’s head jerked up. Her hair fell away from her face revealing violet eyes under silver eyebrows, a fine small nose and a tiny, delicate mouth.
At the back of the cavern, two figures in black watched the action. "You skipped a bit," said Dafydd to Constance. Fortunately, to her mind, he didn't sound angry, just curious. She nodded.
"I didn't think you'd object too much to not hearing about how the elves are suddenly incompetent."
The other agent nodded. "Thank you." He glanced at the throne, where Celebrían – or the thing masquerading as her – had lowered her head, presumably in fear. Reaching over his shoulder, he pulled out a notepad and leant against the wall to write up a charge list.
With her partner occupied, Constance was forced to watch the story as it ran on. A pair of orcs stepped up to one side of the elf-woman – Constance was sure the author had intended one to be on either side, but the Words belied that – and cut away her clothes.
Celebrian trembled in fear and disgust, sending sweet tremors through her firm, apples-sized breasts, breasts graced by perfect, delicate lavender nipples.
The king gripped his shaft still harder. His eyes turned from her quivering breasts to the soft, silver down that was not thick enough to hide her lavender labia.
"That can't be healthy," commented Dafydd, glancing up. Constance nodded in agreement. Celebrian's nipples and labia, faithful to the words, were lavender in colour. Whatever the author may have thought, this was a bright purple.
"Obviously not human," said Constance, and then frowned. "Unless elves actually are coloured so strangely..."
Dafydd frowned. "I wouldn't know," he said, "but it seems unlikely. It's making me ill just looking at it."
Constance nodded, and then resumed watching. The pair of orcs were washing Celebrían now, working upwards from her boots past her thighs, her hips, and... "The swell of her belly?" muttered the assassin. "Is she pregnant or something?"
"Nah, it's just shoddy description," replied Dafydd, putting the notepad away again and stepping away from the wall to her side. "I mean, it's not unexpected, what with the terrible logic the author displays." He gestured at the Words. "She thinks not moving will somehow keep her safe."
"Oh, this is where it starts to get good," muttered Dafydd sourly as a 'garment' was brought in. He tilted his head, scanning the Words. "Is garment a technical term, or did the author lose its thesaurus? Only the only words used to describe it are 'garment' and 'cloth'."
Constance shrugged, and was about to reply when the king spoke again. At his words, the woman's eyes widened, and she crossed her legs protectively where she stood, nearly falling over as she did. Dafydd took her shoulder to steady her, but winced himself at the king's words. He'd just suggested something that sounded fairly painful.
"I'll put it down as bad biology," he said soothingly to the other agent. She nodded, and shuddered.
The two orcs continued to work the garment upward. There was little to it: just a pair of straps that passed from shoulder to her pubes joined by a horizontal band front and back. The orcs left the straps passing on either side of her breasts so that they pushed her flesh into a tight mound.
"A single mound?" Dafydd muttered. Indeed, Celebrían's breasts had melted together, forming a single lump in the middle of her chest. He glanced sideways at Constance, and found her looking back at him.
"If you're thinking of checking any of the stupid bits on me to see if they work," she said coldly, "then you can stop right there."
"I wasn't," he assured her. "Just checking you were okay."
"Here?" Constance snorted. "Never. But I'm coping."
Dafydd nodded, relieved. "I don't know that either of us will ever be okay again, after this."
Constance shook her head. "Probably not. Maybe we'll get a holiday out of it."
"Only if we take a flamethrower to a Flower," replied Dafydd. "Or do you really think mere insanity will get us out of missions?"
"... point." Constance sighed. "When can we kill her?"
Dafydd looked up at the Words. "Good question. What've we got... this scene, another very similar, then a section with this other elf, then she gets rescued and we get to play around in Imladris for a while..." He shook his head in disgust. "Looks like we'll have to exorcise Elrond, there. Then she goes back to the orcs, and then, I think, we can kill her. I've got an idea about that."
"What's that, then?" asked Constance. Anything to avoid thinking about the story.
The other agent lifted his right hand and looked at it thoughtfully. Constance noticed that he was wearing a silver ring with a black stone that glittered strangely. "Well," he said, drawing her attention back to his face, "I doubt these orcs are anything like Canon now, but that's okay, because Elrond's mob kill them. The second bunch, however, apparently survive in all their sex-crazed glory. So we have to kill them, too."
"Yes," said Constance, "but how? I mean, it's a fairly simplistic question, but that doesn't make it any less important."
Dafydd nodded, and held his right hand out to her, palm down. Constance looked at it speculatively. "If you're expecting me to kiss that ring, Maglor, you can think again."
He winced. "Okay, I didn't mean it to look like that. No, this ring is something I got on a previous mission. I've been practicing, and I think I can take out all the orcs – and the elf substitute – with it."
"What is it with your family and jewellery?" muttered Constance, but didn't give him time to answer before shuddering violently and curling up against the wall.
Dafydd glanced back over his shoulder and saw that, while they'd been talking, a fair chunk of the story had gone by, and Celebrían was now engaged in fondling the king. "Lovely," he murmured, and sat down next to Constance. With his right hand he scribbled down a few more charges, while with his left he stroked Constance's hair, doing his best to comfort her. Unfortunately, his best wasn't good enough, and when Celebrían said 'Can the king’s-ball-holder lick his cock?', the black-haired agent simply curled up tighter.
"Constance," Dafydd whispered as reassuringly as he could, "it's okay. They won't be here for very long. We can go home soon."
"Can't," came the woman's muffled voice. "HQ isn't home. Isn't safe. Have to go on more missions there."
"Oh, Connie..." Dafydd sighed gently, set down his notepad, and wrapped an arm around his friend's shoulders. "It's not like they can find anything worse than this."
At that, she lifted her head, glaring at him through eyes, he noted worriedly, that were streaked with tears. "You had to say it, didn't you?" she hissed. "Don't you know by now that saying that guarantees they will?"
Dafydd blinked, somewhat nonplussed. "I was only trying to-"
"Well, don't." Constance curled up again. "Just leave me alone."
"No," Dafydd snapped, surprising himself with his vehemence. It surprised Constance, too, enough to make her look up again despite the risk of seeing Celebrían – who, judging by the noises from the middle of the chamber, was giving the king oral sex already. How time flies, Dafydd thought, and then returned his attention to Constance. "Connie," he said, "I'll never leave you alone. You know that."
Constance snorted. "Know?" she asked. "What do I know, son of Fëanor? I know that your family is famous for saying and doing whatever it needs to accomplish its goals. I know that a few simple kisses don't necessarily mean anything to someone who's been involved in at least three Kinslayings. I know that-"
She was forced to stop then, when Dafydd wrapped both arms around her and kissed her firmly on the lips. For a few moments she tried to retain her anger at him, at this elf who meant so much to her, but whose feelings towards her she didn't know, but she couldn't. She needed him.
The kiss seemed to last forever, although that might just have been an effect of the extremely descriptive writing that marked the story they were in. Eventually, Dafydd broke the contact, but still held her close. "I love you, Connie," he said softly, "and that, you can believe as much as you can anything."
"I... thank you." It took all the willpower Constance had not to bury her face in his shoulder and let the tears flow, but that would hardly be appropriate behaviour, considering their situation. "I-" She stopped in disgust as there was a wet splurging sort of noise from the characters of the 'fic.
Dafydd laughed softly at her expression. "I know," he said, "but this is hardly the best place to be getting all sappy. Would you mind awfully if we portalled forward a way?"
Constance giggled, an oddly childlike noise that nevertheless seemed perfectly appropriate. "Not at all, Dafydd. Not at all."
Stepping through the portal, and the brief chill that accompanied the movement, went some of the way towards restoring Constance to her senses. Looking around at the chamber on the other side – far smaller than the one they'd just left, but still obvious orc-work – she frowned. "Dafydd?" she asked, not looking round. "How much of a way did we just portal?"
"Well," came her partner's reply, "we missed Celebrían having sex with the king, then forgetting all about it when she woke up, despite the fact that the given scales would make it all incredibly painful. Then there was another, almost identical scene, in which the king revealed that two orifices isn't good enough for him. Then there's an undetermined period of time in which impossibly large items get shoved in various other orifices, and they've just finished that section. We've got a new character showing up in a moment."
Constance raised an eyebrow and turned. "Other orifices? How many more has she got?"
Dafydd smiled slightly. "Well, there's two ears, two nostrils... but no, only the one. I think you can guess what it was."
Constance nodded. "Sadly."
The door to the cell they were standing in opened, and the bedraggled figure of Celebrían looked up.
The orcs shoved a body through the door instead. The figure fell to the ground clutching his arms to his chest. Beneath caked mud and blood, she caught the glint of sliver hair and the curve of an elvish ear.
Celebrían ignored the newcomer as he made various noises described as 'pitiful, semi-conscious moans'. "Oh, now," said Dafydd, glaring at the female elf, "that's hardly proper behaviour for the daughter of Galadriel, is it? I don't care how traumatised you are by your descent into whoredom, you'd still help him."
"A charge of altering character, then?" asked Constance, making the effort to restrain her own instincts to comfort the silver-haired elf.
Dafydd snorted. "Replacing, more like. I've already got that one, though."
Constance nodded distractedly, and glanced at the Words to avoid looking at the pathetic elf who was still curled up where he'd been dumped. Finally, Celebrían went over to him – although whether she was feeling sorry for him or just fed up with his noise was unclear – and rolled him over. Constance gasped. He was an elf, all right, but his face was a mess – lips gashed, front teeth missing – and his hands, both of them, were gone. Whoever had cut them off hadn't done a very good job of cleaning up, either. It looked to have been a simple cauterisation, the ends not having been tidied up. The left wrist had a rather large bone sticking out of it.
Dafydd heard Constance's sympathetic whimper and looked up. It was all he could do not to curl up himself. Instead, he wrapped his arm gently around Constance's shoulders. "Don't worry," he said soothingly, "we'll put him out of his misery as soon as we can."
Constance nodded, and then shook her head. "No, he's suffered enough."
Dafydd blinked. "What else would you suggest?" he said, stepping around to look at her.
"Recruit him," Constance replied instantly. "I'm sure Medical can do something for his hands, and if not..." She scanned the words. "Yes, Celebrían says that his hands will grow back." She held up one of her own hands to forestall Dafydd's argument. "I know that's not the case for elves, Dafydd, but in this story, it apparently is."
"Hrm. All right, then. I don't know why, but..."
"Sympathy," the woman replied, poking her tongue out at her companion. He laughed, and then squinted at the Words.
"Okay," he said after a moment, "there's a gap of 'days' before anything happens. All we've got in that time is a bit of narration in which Celebrían apparently forgets that elves in their position would Fade, and contemplates suicide. Needless to say, that's another charge. However, we don't need to come in for that, so... portal?"
"We're certainly making a lot of use of that thing, aren't we?" asked Constance rhetorically. "Sure, go ahead. The sooner we're out of here..."
"The better," Dafydd concluded, already fiddling with the Remote Activator.
"Celebrían," said a weak, hoarse voice as the two Agents stepped out into the cell again.
"Why isn't she looking at him?" Constance muttered to Dafydd. "He's not that ugly."
"She might be looking at him," Dafydd replied. "All it says is that she's 'keeping her gaze averted from'. From what, I couldn't say."
"A charge of mangling language, I think," Constance said, smiling grimly. Dafydd nodded and noted it down. Then he glanced back up at the action.
"Hey, look," he said, "a sobfest. Fun."
Constance looked at the two elves. Indeed, both were now crying for no discernable reason. Shaking her head, the agent glanced at her partner. "I'm bored."
Dafydd raised an eyebrow. "What are you, ADD?"
"No, actually," Constance replied archly, "unlike about half of the PPC. I'm just fed up with this pathetic excuse for a 'fic."
Dafydd nodded reluctantly. "Yeah, me too. Hey, check the Words and see how far in we are, will you?"
"Don't see why you can't do it yourself," Constance muttered, but squinted upwards anyway. "Closing on halfway," she said after a minute or two. "A couple more sex scenes, then the Rivendell section starts."
The other agent nodded again. "I think we can take a break when we get to Rivendell. Then we'll be able to go into the second half refreshed and-"
"- fully ready to deal with the abominations we find, I know." Constance sighed. "Are we going to watch the next scene, then, or skip it? The only point is to let Ithalond see her being abominable."
"Then we'll skip it," Dafydd decided. "They end up back here for a conversation, so we'll go forward to that." So saying, he opened yet another portal and bowed formally to his partner. "You first, Connie."
"You're so kind," Agent Constance Sims growled, and stepped through.
When she awoke, she was still in the stinking gown, crusty in places but still mostly damp. She could still taste the king’s semen in her mouth and knew that her face and hair were still coated. She raised herself to a sitting position. She was back in the cell.
"So she hasn't been there long," Dafydd surmised from behind Constance's back. "Good to know."
"Is it? Why?"
The elf pointed at Ithalond, who was seated against a wall and staring at Celebrían in disgust. "It means he hasn't been there for hours on end. Can't have our next recruit getting uncomfortable."
Constance laughed softly, and that was answer enough. Celebrían, however, spoke. "Ithalond, I did it to save you."
"That's a cry?" Dafydd murmured as Ithalond shook his head and Celebrían launched into what was essentially a summary of the story so far. "If that's a cry, I dread to think what a sentence with an exclamation mark would be called."
"Put it on the charge list, then," replied Constance, looking around. Finding the wall behind her suitably shadowed, she sat down to watch the action. A moment later, Dafydd joined her.
"Hardly the most comfortable of seats," he commented. "But anyway, don't you think it's covered in the 'mangling the English language' charge?"
Constance shrugged. "I was just making conversation, but you could put it as 'misusing speech indicators'."
Dafydd thought for a moment, and then nodded. "Good one. I'll do that."
Finally, Celebrían stopped talking. Everyone in the cell waited with bated breath for Ithalond's response.
"You took him willingly. You enjoyed it. I saw. How could you? Why didn’t you resist?"
"Woo!" Constance grinned madly at Dafydd. "Go Ithalond!"
Dafydd smiled back and, reaching out, ruffled his partner's hair. "He's great, there's no denying that." He heard the sound of a sob, and glanced sideways to see Celebrían with her head hanging rather disturbingly inside her arms. "That's awful description," he said, "but more to the point, there's a-"
The scene shift threw the two PPC agents sideways, Constance landing almost entirely on top of Dafydd. She rolled off and sat up with a groan. "I hate those."
From his prone position, Dafydd nodded. "Me too. That's why I'm staying on the floor; there's another one in just a minute."
Constance looked up at the Words as the orcs who had entered the cave removed Celebrían's gown. By the time the orcs left and the elf began to wash herself, the agent had found her place. "Oh. So there is." Slowly and carefully, the woman curled up on the stone floor. "Poke me when it's passed."
Dafydd looked at his partner, amused. "Will do, Hedgehog!Connie," he said. Tilting his head, he scanned the Words himself.
She could feel Ithalond’s eyes burning into the back of her head. She could sense his disgust like a dark cloud in the room.
"Sounds more like Sauron than any elf," he murmured, "except possibly Father."
The scene change seemed less violent this time, whether because they had suffered one so recently or because both agents were already on the floor. Dafydd looked up as the orcs re-entered the room, but decided not to alert his partner yet. She deserved the break from reality.
All too soon, Celebrían had been led away. Sitting up, Dafydd reached out a hand and prodded Constance. "Come on, Connie, time to go recruiting."
The dark-haired woman uncurled with a sigh. "Must we?"
Dafydd got to his feet and offered her a hand up. "We must. And you never know, we might get some time off if we do."
"Ah, that's a point," Constance mused, accepting the hand and standing. "Hey, here's a question," she asked as the pair walked across the relatively large distance to where Ithalond was hunched. "If Celebrían's a replacement 'Sue and Ithalond's an OC, why haven't they seen us? We've not exactly been hiding."
"I'm not entirely sure," Dafydd admitted. "Maybe they're both so delusional that they accept us as part of that?"
"Maybe," Constance replied, "but is that really the sort of person we want to bring into the PPC?"
"Well, he'll fit in really easily," Dafydd pointed out, coming to a stop in front of the silver-haired Imladris elf. "Hey, kid," he added, prodding the character with his foot, "time to wake up."
The handless elf's head jerked up, eyes wide and staring. Constance bit her lip. "Dafydd," she murmured, "I think he's insane..."
"You mean clinically?" At her nod, Dafydd sighed. "I hope not."
"I think I must be," said Ithalond, sounding strangely calm. "You cannot be here."
"Ah, there we go." Constance sat down on the dirt in front of Ithalond, who flinched back slightly – apparently, he wasn't very convinced of her non-existence. "Ithalond, you might have noticed that things aren't exactly normal around here."
"How would I know?" the elf replied. "It's not like I frequent orc caverns."
Dafydd shook his head. "Who in their right mind would? But no, she means about Celebrían."
Ithalond's eyes hardened. "Her. She's disgusting. How could she do something like that? I tell you, she doesn't seem like the Lady of Imladris at all."
"Exactly," Constance said grimly. "She's not even acting like an elf, is she?"
Ithalond shook his head. "More like one of those Mortal women from south of Arnor that the Dúnedain keep going on about."
Constance looked quizzically at Dafydd, who shrugged and mouthed "Dunlendings?". Nodding vaguely, she turned her attention back to the OC in front of her. "Now, Ithalond, this might be a little hard to believe, but she's not actually Celebrían at all."
The silver-haired elf stared at her, and then laughed hoarsely. "So that's what this is all about. You're the delusions who tell me that it's all right, all is not lost, Lord Elrond will find the real Celebrían and everything will be all right."
Dafydd shook his head, irritated. "Ithalond, stop being difficult. We're not delusions."
"Well, you would say that, wouldn't you?" the elf replied. "Look, this is all very fascinating, but can you just leave me alone now? I'm going to die anyway, I'd rather not do it harassed by hallucinations." With those words, he hunched over again, wrists against his ears.
Dafydd narrowed his eyes, but was stopped from saying anything when Constance stood up and touched his shoulder. "Dafydd," she muttered, "has it struck you that he’s not acting much like an elf, either?"
The other agent frowned. "But he is one," he said. "Why wouldn't he act like it?"
"This is just a guess," Constance replied, "but I think being an OC in such an awful 'fic is affecting his mind. I can't think of any other elf who acts like one, so he's getting influenced now there's no Words to keep him on track."
Dafydd's frown deepened. "Do you think he'll recover once we get him out?"
Constance looked thoughtful. "Are you asking me that as a Nurse or an Agent?"
"Whichever works," her partner replied. The woman nodded.
"Yes from both sides, then. 'Sue-influence doesn't tend to hang around after someone's out of the Canon, and PPC Medical and FicPsych is the best in the Multiverse. He might remain a little susceptible to 'Sues, though."
"I'll be sure to tell the Marquis about that, he can bear it in mind when assigning Ithalond."
Constance's eyes widened. "You're going to tell the Marquis de Sod about it? Do you want the poor guy to be faced with 'Sues every mission?"
"... good point." Dafydd shook his head. "Sometimes I really hate Flowers."
"Only sometimes? They're not all that bad, though."
"No, true." Dafydd didn't often think about the Flowers who ran the PPC, but he had to admit some were worse than others. The Bonsai Mallorn, his own Head of Department, was fairly nice, while the Marquis de Sod, a Daisy who was Director of Personnel, was about as bad as they come. "Of course," he added, apropos of nothing much, "we still have to get him to HQ before we deal with Upstairs."
Constance sighed. "Better get on with it, then. Any idea how much time we've got?"
Dafydd glanced at the Words. "Let's see. 'With the draught within her, Celebrian sang her slut-names and worked her magic on the king'... no, it's not very clear. Should be a while, though."
"Good, we won't have to resort to shock treatment." Kneeling back down next to Ithalond, Constance touched the silver-haired elf on the arm. "Hey, Ithalond?"
The wrists came down, the head lifted, and the eyes opened. "If you're going to exist, delusions," said Ithalond, "couldn't you at least be of my wife?"
Dafydd jumped. "You have a wife?" he asked, startled.
Ithalond raised an eyebrow. "Most people do," he said, as if explaining something to a small child. "I mean, I can tell you don't, but you're a hallucination, you wouldn't be expected to marry."
Constance stared at him. "You can tell--?"
Dafydd nodded distractedly. "It's an elf thing, dear."
The woman turned and glared at him. "So, what? I wouldn't understand?"
"Well, no." Dafydd shrugged. "No more than I can understand being able to see ultraviolet."
"Typical arrogant Noldo," Constance muttered fiercely, "always assuming-"
She was cut off by a hoarse chuckle. "Maybe I was wrong," said Ithalond, "maybe the rules don't apply to delusions. You certainly act married."
Constance's face turned red, and she glanced at Dafydd to see, with some satisfaction, that his had done the same. "Look," said her partner quickly, "can we get back to the point? You, Ithalond, are married. This means we'll have to take your wife along when we rescue you, am I right?"
"No, she's back at Imlad- wait, rescue?" Ithalond sat bolt upright. "Can you really-?"
"Get you out of here?" finished Constance. "Yes, we can. However, you'll have to come and work for us afterwards."
"Anything," Ithalond said, his expression pleading, "anything to be free of these caves."
Dafydd raised an eyebrow. "What happened to 'you're just hallucinations'?"
Ithalond shook his head. "If you are, I'm no worse off, but if you're not, I need to get away from here."
Constance looked up at Dafydd. "Think we should explain the PPC to him first?" Dafydd shook his head.
"The Marquis should be able to handle that. Come on, Ithalond, up you get."
Constance blinked. "Are we in a rush?"
Dafydd shrugged. "Not really, but I couldn't stand any more of this sitting around." He glanced down. "Ithalond, why-?"
The silver-haired elf waved an arm at the agents. "It's a bit hard to get up," he said bitterly, "when you have no hands."
Dafydd winced. "Okay, sorry. Connie, some help?"
Taking one arm each, the two PPC agents helped their new recruit to his feet. While Constance made sure he was steady, Dafydd pulled out the Remote Activator. "Straight to Personnel?" At his partner's distracted nod, he pressed a button and looked at Ithalond. "This may be a bit strange."
"Stranger than two strangers in an orc prison?" Ithalond snorted. "I doubt it. I- ai!"
Dafydd rolled his eyes. "Told you so," he muttered. "Come on, you have to go through."
The elf was staring at the blue portal with an expression of stark terror. "Through that?"
"Yes, through that," said Constance soothingly, glaring at Dafydd. "My... friend here will go through first so you know it's safe. Won't you, Dafydd?"
Dafydd didn't exactly enjoy the thought of being alone with the Marquis de Sod for even a few seconds – he had never gotten on with the Daisy – but there wasn't really much of a choice. He stepped through the glowing doorway into a room with the familiar grey walls of HQ. From behind a desk against the far wall, the all-too familiar figure of the Director of Personnel watched him.
Agent Illian. I trust there is a reason for this intrusion.
"Come on, Connie," Dafydd murmured, and then addressed the Flower. "Yes, sir. My partner and I have a new recruit for you."
Although the Daisy did not have anything even remotely resembling a face, it nevertheless gave the impression of a raised eyebrow. A recruit. How fascinating. And where is Agent Windflower with this new member of our organisation?
"Agent... oh, you mean Selene?" Dafydd shook his head. "No, I'm working with Constance – Agent Sims."
I see. Whatever opinion the Marquis had on that, its voice betrayed nothing. And where-
"Sorry about that," said Constance cheerfully, stepping through the portal with Ithalond in tow. "Elfy here decided to back out at the last minute and assumed I'd be easier to deal with alone. He was wrong," she added with a grim smile, and pushed the silver-haired elf onto the floor. "Ithalond, the Marquis de Sod. Be nice to him, he'll give you your new job. Sir, this is Ithalond, he's-"
From the 'Celebrían' story, yes.
Dafydd blinked. "I wasn't aware you knew what we were doing."
I am not, the Daisy replied, its petals shivering. However, most of us in HQ know the details of the worst stories in every fandom. I must say, I'm rather surprised you were assigned to this one.
Constance cut in before Dafydd could respond. "I asked him to help," she said, reaching over and taking her partner by the hand. "Now if you don't mind, we'd like to get back to it."
Dafydd frowned. "We would?"
Constance tightened her grip. "Yes," she hissed, "we would. Come on, elf-boy."
"Uh, right. 'bye, Ithalond. See you around."
The dazed-looking elf in the middle of the floor waved a stump at them. As the pair of agents passed through the blue barrier of the portal back to the story, they heard him say, "So, you're a talking flower?"
As they stepped back out into the orc prison, Dafydd breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank Oromë that’s over."
Constance nodded wearily. "He's not that bad, but so tiring. Let's never recruit anyone again."
"Agreed," replied Dafydd fervently. He glanced up at the words and grimaced. "Looks like we're about to have visitors. Come on, back to work."
Constance nodded again and stumbled over to a corner of the cell. As she sat down and Dafydd joined her, the cell door opened and a pair of orcs escorted Celebrían in. Without even waiting for her captors to leave, the elf woman picked up a wet sponge that had no business even being in the cell and washed herself off. Dafydd made a disgusted noise and looked away, relying on the Words to tell him what was going on. Constance, too tired to care, sat and watched as the events of the story played out.
They fed her meat and milk. She did not let herself dwell on the source of the meat or the milk.
With the draught long out of her system, she dreaded the request she had made and willed her breasts to remain their apple-size. Perhaps the potion had not taken effect because the swelling in her breasts subsided and they seemed to return to her old size, perhaps a shade bigger.
As for Ithalond, she never saw him again. He was not in the chamber when she had returned. No doubt he suffered before his death but the memory of his scorn kept her from mourning.
"Well, at least we know why that is," Dafydd said. Constance, who had lost track of how long she had been watching the 'Sue who was impersonating Elrond's wife, jumped, and then looked at her partner.
"Can we go now?" she asked, in a voice that even she had to admit sounded disturbingly like a whiny child. Dafydd rolled his eyes.
"Only as far as Rivendell," he said, "and only a week ahead. We do have to finish the mission."
Constance glared at him. "I know that," she said flatly. "There's no need to patronise me."
Dafydd winced. "Sorry. I... sorry. I'm tired."
Constance nodded. "Me too. Exhausted. Find us a garden in Imladris where we can sleep for a week."
The elf nodded and lifted the RA. By the clumsiness of his movement, Constance guessed that even that took an effort. As soon as he pressed the button and opened the portal, the two agents staggered through, took one look around to check that the grassy expanse was in fact a lawn, and not some vast plain, collapsed on the ground almost as one and fell asleep.
Dafydd rolled over, trying to get away from whatever it was that was forcing him to pay attention, and managed to land on a thistle. Hissing in pain, he sat bolt upright to see Constance kneeling beside him and grinning. "Good morning," she said brightly. "How are we feeling?"
"Wha'?" The elf shook his head, trying to clear out the cobwebs. When a small spider dropped down in front of his eye, he stiffened, simultaneously cursing Ungoliant and the Laws of Narrative Comedy for taking him literally.
Constance reached over and plucked the strand of web from in front of his face, holding it up for a moment before depositing the arachnid on a blade of grass. "I said, good morning," she repeated.
"I... oh. Yes." It had taken a few moments, but Dafydd's mind finally threw out the reason he was there. "Did I miss anything?"
"They're not here yet," Constance replied. "Fortunately for us, the author managed to mention the return journey without defining it, so it's defaulted to a couple of weeks. We only slept for two days of that."
"We slept for two days?" Dafydd stared at his partner in disbelief. "How...?"
The other agent shrugged. "Apparently it really is that bad. Right now, though, we're in Canon!Imladris. You know what that means."
"That there's probably a bunch of people here I've tried to kill?" Dafydd muttered, still somewhat tired and therefore grouchy. Constance gave him an exasperated look.
"They can't see you, remember? But since you're not answering, it means sightseeing."
"Yes, but still, I- oh, no. You didn't."
Constance grinned, finally fishing her camera out of her bag. "I did," she confirmed. "Like I said: sightseeing."
Dafydd clicked his tongue in irritation. "Is this really necessary, do you think?"
"It isn't my fault elves are so pretty." Constance loaded her fourth roll of film into the camera, then looked up at Dafydd reproachfully. "Or so unable to see me and chase me away. It isn't my fault at all, I am fully the victim here."
"You are insane." Still, Dafydd laughed a little, and with incredible speed Constance lifted her camera and clicked. Dafydd flinched from the flash.
"Ha! I got one of you smiling!" She skipped out of his reach, grinning.
"Insane." But he followed her anyway, counted the times she took photos of the actual surroundings (four) and the times she just took photos of nameless passing elves (twenty-six).
"You know," he commented, as she circled an oblivious elf to get a better angle, "in your world this would get you slapped with a restraining order at least, probably a few dozen of them."
"But we're not in my world, are we?"
"No..." Dafydd sighed regretfully.
Constance actually lowered the camera to look at him. Dafydd grinned briefly, lifted his own camera and snapped a photo of her. Constance's eyes went wide.
"I... that wasn't fair!"
"No?" He wound the camera calmly, raised an eyebrow.
"It... hmph. Shut up."
He took another photo instead, and she turned and ran. Checking that the camera strap was over his wrist – he didn't want to break it, after all – Dafydd followed.
It's not often that Agents on a mission get to run freely through locations that are actually in-canon, still less so when the mission is as horrible as Celebrían. Thus, of course, the Laws of Narrative Comedy kicked in to put a stop to what, in the Legal Department, is referred to as 'excessive jollity liable to cause a breach of the Agent Torment clause', although what it's a clause of has never been made clear. Just as Dafydd managed to catch up with his partner and grab her around the wrist there was a shimmer in the air, the gardens around them became a little more earthly, a little less ethereal, and they found themselves in the middle of the returning Imladris party.
"I thought you said it was two weeks!" Dafydd hissed to Constance as Elrond helped the thing masquerading as his wife dismount. "I may have been distracted, but I know it hasn't been that long."
Constance shrugged, shaking his hand off her wrist. "I don't know what happened," she said, "but I do know that there's a whole year until the action takes up again. Until then, she just wanders around not being troubled by the fact that she's disgustingly perverse and unelvish."
Dafydd shuddered, not even checking the Words to see exactly what she did. "We're portalling, then," he said, as the rescue party began to break up.
"No argument here," Constance agreed, "but give me a few minutes first." She grinned, lifting her camera again. "I could use some pictures of warrior elves – great for trade."
Dafydd rolled his eyes, and sat down by a fountain to wait.
In the spring travelers from the east arrived. They were a merchant party traveling to distant Esgoroth. As it was a trip of many months and they were a large party, with women and children, they had many wagons, carts, horses and even cows for milk and steers for beef. Elrond offered entertainment. In gratitude on the last day, the travelers treated their hosts to a banquet at their camp with fresh beef and bread, their best wine, and a special treat unknown to the elves who did not keep cows: ice cream.
"I don't know where to start," Dafydd murmured, peering at the words. "How can so many things be wrong in such a short paragraph?"
"At least there's a geography charge for you," Constance pointed out, trying to remain cheerful. She wasn't the most knowledgeable about the layout of Middle-earth, but travellers from the east heading to a town near Mirkwood via Rivendell was enough to make even her dubious.
"And a range of stupidity charges," Dafydd muttered. "I mean, bringing cattle along for beef? You'd run out. And Elrond entertaining completely unknown guests at his hidden house?"
"Not to mention the fact that they wouldn't all fit," his partner threw in. Constance nodded gloomily.
"Still, at least it can't get much worse," she said, and then winced. "Sorry."
"I think it would even without your intervention," Dafydd said. "So what's next?"
"Bedroom scene," Constance said. "That's why we're in a bedroom."
"And a very nice bedroom it is too," Dafydd commented. "Pity about the abomination by the mirror."
"At least she's dressed," Constance said, and glanced over at the bed. Elrond was sitting with a slightly dazed expression, watching the thing which had replaced his wife as she brushed her hair.
"You seemed to enjoy yourself, tonight, my dear," the Elf Lord said. Dafydd shook his head.
"Poor man... he's so caring, even when she's a lunatic."
"Like now, you mean?" Constance looked up at the Words. "This is the scene where she puts everyone who reads it off ice cream for life."
Dafydd nodded. "I remember. Because of her... horrible fascination, Elrond offers to mess up his beautiful gardens with a herd of cows and kidnapped milkmaids, right?"
"In that case, we shall keep a few cows and make our own iced-cream in Rivendell."
"Sounds like," Constance said blandly. Then she looked around. "Can we portal again?"
Dafydd squinted at the words. "It'll be a way to go. She has a dream, her bosom starts growing... oh, then we get the Elvish 'magic' scene... can we skip that?"
"I was about to suggest we do," Constance said. "Then she rambles on about how perverted she is, Elrond comes to his senses and kicks her out of his room... more impossible biology... oh, and then the Frenchman cometh."
Dafydd looked at her as if she was insane. "French...?"
"Manet. One of those artists, wasn't he?"
The elf shrugged. "I wouldn't know. He's the one who reintroduces her to the 'wonders' of Orc-loving, right?"
"That's about the size of it, yes," Constance agreed, and then blinked. "Okay, I apologise for the pun. But yes." She checked the Words again. "I don't know... I'm tempted to just skip to the end."
"It is very tempting," Dafydd agreed. "Feels like we've been here for years already..." He shuddered, and Constance looked at him worriedly.
"Are you all right?" she asked. Dafydd shook his head slightly.
"This story... it's getting to me. I don't know. I probably shouldn't ever have been allowed to do missions in Arda in the first place..." He smiled wanly. "Bit late for that, of course. But... yeah. If we can get this over with as soon as possible, I'd be grateful."
Constance looked at the elf for a long moment, then wrapped her arms around him impulsively. "I love you, Dafydd," she murmured, "or Maglor, or whoever you are."
Stiffly, awkwardly, Dafydd hugged her in return. "Dafydd," he decided. "I'm Dafydd. Maglor is... a long time ago. And not a lot of use right now." He shrugged, and stepped back from her. "Mostly he'd be whinging about what Celebrian's done to his foster son."
Constance smiled slightly. "And well he might," she agreed. Taking a deep breath, she pulled her attention back to the subject at hand. "If we're skipping the "magic" and... well, we can't really watch any of the long scenes in her bedroom, we'd be seen... I guess we can come in at the end of the scene where she, er, plays with herself," the woman winced at the crudity of the language, "and then watch Manet's appallingly uncanonical claim to have wounded Elrond."
Dafydd nodded gratefully. "Well, let's get to it," he said, and then blinked. "... I've got the Activator, haven't I?"
Constance looked at him in amusement. "Didn't you only wake up a couple of hours ago? I dunno, you elves, no stamina..." Poking his tongue out at her ("And so mature, too!") Dafydd flicked open the blue portal and stepped through. In the dimly-lit bedroom beyond, Celebrian was just pulling on a nightgown. According to the text, it was 'a sheer garment that hid nothing of her flesh'. "I wish they wouldn't wear impossible clothes," Constance muttered, under the sound of Manet slamming the door open.
"My lady Celebrian," he said. "I think you should come with us."
Both Agents stifled their laughs, aware of how easy it would be for the entirely un-canonical cast to catch sight of them. Because of his name, Manet the part-orc came out with the most atrocious French accent -- "Right out of Monty Python," as Constance would later describe it. Their mirth over this unexpected consequence of bad writing (possibly a very rare case of the Legal Department actually being kind to Agents) carried them through Manet's claiming to have attacked Elrond, right up to the point where Celebrian was putting her boots on. At that point, Dafydd recovered enough to frown.
"I hate to be a spoilsport," he muttered, fiddling with the ring on his right hand, "but weren't her breasts only watermelon-sized? There's no way they should be dragging on the floor now."
"She has a quantum bosom," Constance stated seriously, and then ducked quickly behind a screen as Manet glanced in her direction. Fortunately, the force of the story propelled him to the rack of cloaks by the door, and the party left as precipitously as they had come.
"Well," Dafydd said, walking out into the centre of the room and went to sit down on the bed before glancing up at the Words which had gone before and thinking better of it. "I've just been looking over the charge list," he said, "and while it's not very long, she's certainly racked up some huge ones. I think we can go and kill her now, actually."
"I was about to say it myself," Constance agreed. "There's only a very short synopsis of the ride to the mountains, so if we just skip to the orc court, you can... do your thing."
Dafydd glanced at the Ring of Sairalindë, which was already pulsing with a faint light. "I look forward to it," he said, and pulled the Remote Activator out once again. "You read the charges first, all right? I'll hold them back while you do."
Constance nodded, and followed him through the portal into a vast rock cavern.
"My king, the great and mighty Ithguk, lord of all the orc-host, king of kings," began Manet. "I have brought you Celebrian, Elrond-wife, elf-queen to do with as you please."
He gestured needlessly at the prostrate Celebrian. The king smiled at her slim ass high in the air and her breasts splayed out beside her.
"She seems to have been properly trained, Manet. Your work?"
"Only a little your highness. But she is ready and eager for your will. Anything you want."
"Actually none of it was his work," a voice said in a conversational tone, and the orcs started as a human woman with black hair stepped into their midst. "But that's not particularly relevant right now. Oh," she added, as a few of the faster orcs fired arrows in her direction only to see them bounce off an invisible shield, "and you needn't bother attacking me, it won't work. Now," she finished, flipping open a paper notebook, "I've got a few charges for you. Particularly the Lady Celebrian.
"We'll start with the easy ones -- shoddy description, relocating wood-goblins to a cave, slandering Elven skills and so on. Then there's some more bizarre ones, like altering the colouration of Elven skin, having an obsession with the colour lavender, and giving orcs access to silk. And terribly logic," she put in, glancing up at the stunned crowd.
"After that, I'm afraid, it gets worse. We've got numerous charges of very bad biology, several of torturing people who really didn't deserve it, a pair for how you've completely and utterly destroyed the psychology and physiology of the Eldar..." She glared at Celebrian, who cowered back towards the orc-king. "I mean, you made an elf, an elf, think about committing suicide and kinslaying both! I mean, that alone is enough to justify the charge of completely replacing the character of Celebrian. But you didn't stop there, did you? Ohhh no.
"You mangled the English language. You messed up your punctuation. You talked about impossible acts taking place. You described an elf in terms any rational person would use of Sauron the Deceiver." She was talking quicker now, breathless with anger. "You destroyed the geography of Arda, ripped apart the nature of the Last Homely House, invented completely uncanonical forms of elf- and orc-magic... you've been promoting the cause of utter stupidity all along." She shut the notebook sharply. "For including a Frenchman in Middle-earth, for injuring the person of Elrond Halfelven, for being inconsistent even in your own ridiculous sizes... for all these things, and most especially for being the stupidest and most obscene replacement Mary-Sue I have seen in all my years with the PPC, you are condemned to death, and all your orc dogs too. Dafydd!"
A tall figure stepped out of the shadows next to the woman, a wide smile visible on his face. "All right, úvanimor," he said, "let's dance." On his right hand a small flicker of light appeared, pulsing steadily as it grew. The orcs of the mountains shied away from the glow, but those who tried to run found all the exits blocked by some mysterious force. The occupants of the chamber moved back as the light surged out around what was now an incandescent ball around the elf's uplifted right hand, and then...
... there was a flicker, lasting but a moment, but suddenly the elf's expression was a lot less certain. He twisted his wrist as if trying to affect the ball of fire, but it continued to grow, now engulfing his entire hand. "Constance," he said nervously, "I don't think... this wasn't such a good idea. No," he added as she began to take a step forward, "don't come near me... I don't know if I can... oh, Eru, help me..." His whole body shuddered as the light grew ever more intense, a brilliant globe which would outshine the noonday sun if it were not underground. The strain of keeping it controlled was now visible on his face. "Constance," he said through gritted teeth, "run. Run."
"But I..." Constance protested, reaching out a hand towards him.
"RUN!" Dafydd Illian yelled, with all the power of an Elf who has lived in the Blessed Realm under the light of the Two Trees of Valinor. Constance threw herself backwards away from him and dove behind a rock. Lifting her head for less than half a second, she had a brief glimpse of Dafydd standing at the heart of an inferno as the full power of Sairalindë's ring was unleashed, and then the world