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A Mary Sue Among Us

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Disclaimer:   The Silmarillion and all the characters belong to JRR Tolkien, except Mary Susan Smith. 

"Requiem for a Dream" from LOTR Soundtrack by Clint Mansell

This is a Non-Canon and very irreverent story about the Sons of Fëanor and their reluctant Mary Sue

"Welcome to the Noon-Tide of the Second Born, Fëanorions." 


Seven elves clad in loincloths rose slowly and turned to the speaker.  They looked at each other again after countless ages—very glad and yet quite speechless.   It felt good to be back in their bodies.  


They turned their eyes to the majestic and stern-faced Vala standing in front of them.  

"Now that I've fulfilled the first part of our bargain, it is time for you to fulfill yours—you have to convince one of the "candidates" to help you."

Tyelkormo, true to form (with or without a body) spoke up first.  "I am sure that that would be easy, they only have to look at me and I'm sure that not one of them will be able to refuse."


"Yes, just like Luthien."  Carnistir's voice dripped with sarcasm.


"I almost had her only if someone," (and here he looked pointedly at the quietly sneering Curufin) "didn't try to kill his possible brother-wife with his sharp-shooting skills." Tyelkormo defended himself.


"Why you!" Curufin jumped out of his bed and was about to lunge at Tyelkormo when their other brothers intervened and so prevented a fourth Kinslaying.


"They usually get along well…seeing that they even died together before…"  Both Ambarussa were making excuses again as they tried to restrain a very energetic Tyelkormo from trying to kick Curufin in the face, knocking down Maitimo, who crashed into a surprised Macalaure who tumbled onto a smirking Carnistir and all seven landed on a heap on the floor. 


Namo just sighed resignedly.  Spending ages upon ages with the THE BRAT and his 6 junior brats had taken its toll on him.  Things got worse when the singing BRAT joined them (he died in an accident, buhuhu).  


Thank Eru that the Valar could not procreate!  To think that he had started to really admire THE BRAT for managing to rein in his sons for hundreds of years.


The Doomsman of the Valar loudly cleared his throat.  "You will be allowed to go back to Arda so you can start seeking the candidate who will accompany you in your quest as soon as you're ready. Consider it a bonus (even Valar need to rest)."


The brothers fell silent and turned to him most attentively.   


Tyelkormo shrugged again.  "We've been studying the Second Born of this age for a long time now. I particularly like what they wear—suits they call it."


"And we're excited to taste their food!"  Ambarussa added dreamily. 


"We should go to the artifacts place (museum)." Macalaure said.


Curufin looked thoughtful.  "I want to ride one of their fast-rolling contraptions and try to build one."


"The two-wheeled metal horse is much, much better."  Carnistir's eyes were glazed in anticipation.


Maitimo went to his default 'responsible eldest son' mode: "Remember that we all have to work within a budget." 


"Let Grandfather take care of the expenses…he's the King again isn't he?"  Tyelkormo retorted.   Worrying about money is not something a majestic blond like him is used to.

  
"Before we get into more details, let's do a recap shall we?  All or any of you can NOT seduce, force, intimidate or threaten or kill or attempt to kill (looks at Curufin) or lock any of the candidates up with the intent of forcibly marrying any of them (looks at Tyelkormo) or ignoring the girl until she withers up and dies (looks at Carnistir) or tickling and biting (looks at Ambarussa)." 


"In addition, all or any of you must NOT under any circumstances try any or all of these at the same time—intentional or not."


"Third, there should not be a single, miniscule scratch on ANY anatomical part of ANY of the Second Born that you will meet or else the Silmarils won't be the only family jewels that you'll lose." 


The 7 resisted the strong urge to cast their eyes downward to make sure that they still *had* what Namo was referring to.  Spending ages upon ages with Namo taught them that the Vala could be very, very tricky.  Yes indeed. 


"Any *relevant* questions *related* to the topic we are discussing?"  Namo looked pointedly at Tyelkormo who just shrugged if only to irk Namo.


"So when do we get to eat?" Ambarussa asked innocently.


One mortal Earth year hence…

The Magnificent Seven are not so magnificent these past few days, in fact, they are at a loss.   Their resources are dwindling and they are running out of "candidates". They have spoken to at least a hundred women and none seemed to be qualified.  None.   

Well, there were a few promising ones—very willing too (in more ways than one)--but the candidates they have spoken with so far would probably just get in the way or get killed for lack of focus.  The primary reason is distraction due to extreme elf-lord lust;  attempting to "bond" with one or all of them at every possible moment was the second; extreme hyperventilation and dehydration comes at close third place.

They only get to present a candidate to Namo when they need the Vala to modify the woman's memory so she can resume her life without throwing herself into a fiery chasm, or walking senseless by the sea or insanely attacking a stronghold.  The Second Born females of this Age were certainly very aggressive (again, in more ways than one).    

Maitimo frowned as he scanned a well-worn list.  "Our choices are now very few--another actress, a librarian and a mother of four..." 

"I say we should go for the actress!"  Tyelkormo (true to form) replied.  

"We hope she's from the Teleporno channel." The twins piped in eagerly but were met with a long uneasy silence and five pairs of arched eyebrows. 

"It was named after cousin Nerwen's husband, so we thought…"    So much for Namo's parental controls in the television set.  

Carnistir's lips were set on a very thin line.  He ignored the twins and turned to Tyelkormo: "Remember what happened with the last actress we talked to?"  

"It's not my fault that she jumped me and tried to rip my suit off!"  The blond brother replied defensively.  "I can't help it—I didn't ask to be born this way!"  'This way' meaning his radiant good looks and perfectly groomed hair.


"Will you stop falling in love with yourself?"  Curufin spat from the driver's seat of the  van he is driving at break-neck speed along the expressway.  


"I don't see why you're all blaming me…what with Macalaure and the popping singer…" Tyelkormo insisted. 


"It's "pop" singer.  And leave me out of this please." Macalaure said while looking closely at a road map in his seat beside Curufin.   He hates using the GPS.


"No one is blaming anyone, Turko."  Maitimo said in his signature appeasing voice. 

Curufin looked away from the road a bit,  "I insist that I get to talk to the next candidate since I have experience in convincing females, having had married and all."

"But she left you, remember?"  Carnistir retorted.   He was always in a darker-than-usual  mood after Maitimo refused to purchase a motorcycle citing that they were on a tight budget. 


"Your wife left you even before the Oath, if we may all recall." Curufin's eyes narrowed dangerously, his attention anywhere but the road.  


"Now wait, we are straying from the issue here."  Maitimo raised his hand.


"I guess this means we can't watch Teleporno anymore." Telvo whispered to his twin.


Pityo patted his shoulder:  "Don't worry—I kept copies." 


"CURVO, WATCH OUT!"  Macalaure shouted.  They heard the loud crash of Macalaure's head when it hit the front window.  Their van had collided with a car. 


Mary Susan Smith was minding her own business (as usual), exceeding the speed limit of the expressway (as usual) while listening to the LOTR soundtrack on her car's stereo (as usual). She is on her way to the mall feeling very excited because there will be a special screening of the Extended Version of Return of the King.  It had mouth-watering behind-the-scenes footage and an interview of Orlando--all on the big screen where even his pores are visible!


She stepped harder on the gas (as usual).  Speeding is one of her guilty pleasures.  So far, she has never been issued a ticket or it could be that even Highway Patrol couldn't catch her. 


She hummed to "Requiem for a Dream" when from out of nowhere, a dark blue van went speeding towards her.  She tried to veer her car away but to no avail as both vehicles had been going too fast.  


She braced herself and heard crunching metal and shattering glass.  There was silence after the initial collision and she felt so relieved when her air bag did not activate.  She waited for a minute before her breathing became steady and with trembling hands opened the door of her car and stepped out to check the damage.    The driver of the van will definitely get a piece of her mind.

   
"Ai!"  The twins were sporting identical bumps on either side of their temples.  They suspect that they cracked each other's skulls.


Macalaure was gingerly rubbing his bleeding forehead—the worst injury out of all them—and all because he refused to wear a seat belt.  "I knew it! You altered this thing to make it go faster, didn't you?"  He shouted at Curufin accusingly. 


Curufin looked nonplussed. "Let's see any of you try and coax this thing move an inch."


"Thank Eru nothing worse happened,"  Carnistir muttered, only near-death situations are capable of snapping him out of his dark moods.


"She looks very upset."  Telvo observed.  The driver of the car they collided with turned out to be a woman.


Pityo nodded.  "I can sense her rage from here." 


"I'll talk to her."  Curufin opened the door on his side. 


"I'll go with you."  Tyelkormo leaped up from his seat eagerly, hitting his head in the process. "Ai!"


"No! Not you two with a woman! We won't take any chances."  Maitimo said firmly.  "I'll go with Curvo. The rest of you should stay inside. She might feel threatened if we all go and talk to her."


Her car only sustained minor damage, which was quite surprising given the speed of both vehicles when they collided.  She glared at the dark blue, tinted van.  Fishy sort of van in her opinion—the kind that escaped murder convicts would usually steal after escaping from jail, at least according to the crime shows she has seen on TV.  She instinctively clutched the pepper spray that she always keeps in her purse. 


She was about to walk over and knock some sense to the driver when the driver's door opened.  A tall, dark-haired, very attractive man got out and walked towards her.  She immediately took a defiant pose and crossed her arms in front of her. 


"My apologies, Miss.  I hope you're not hurt."  Curufin started glibly. 


"I was not hurt but my car definitely was damaged thanks to you! Speeding maniac!"  Susan retorted.  The man did not flinch or lose his apologetic expression but she could see that he had bitten his lower lip. 


"With all due respect, both vehicles were driving over the speed limit, not just ours, as you claim." Maitimo said calmly from behind her.


Susan's nostrils flared as she turned around towards the speaker.  Her gaze is steadily met by a red-haired man who was even taller than the first.  His voice is very business-like and relaxed, even amused.  For some reason, he irritated her.  A lot.  Too much that she was speechless. 

"And our van suffered more than your car." He referred to the scraped paint near her car's right headlight which was barely noticeable in comparison to the very obvious depression on the front of the van and shattered headlights. 


"If you want I can check your car for other damages so you can go on your way?"  Curufin reverted back to his glib, diplomatic self. 


Susan snapped.  "I can check that myself thank you very much."


A police car with loud sirens came rushing towards them flanked by highway police in motorcycles.


A tall, dignified looking police officer stepped out of the car with a very friendly smile (too friendly it seemed) and very slowly walked towards them.  His name plate said "O'Rome".  The two elves instantly recognized him but kept quiet.


"Shh…I'm incognito, Fëanorions," came the telepathic message.  He smirked slightly at the brothers.  He asked loudly to no one in particular.  "And what happened here?" 

Susan noticed the exchange and her eyes narrowed in suspicion. 'Sexist bastards,' she thought to herself but wore a very polite-looking smile on her face when she said:   "Officer, I'm glad to see you.  As you can see, their speeding van crashed into my car."   


Officer O'Rome shook his head sympathetically as he very slowly surveyed the damage.  "May I have your licenses please?  All three of you?"  


Huffing, Susan retrieved hers from her purse and placed it on O'Rome's outstretched hand. 


"Mary Susan Smith?"  He asked as if to confirm.  She nodded. 


He seemed to take his time as he checked the other's licenses. "Hmm.  Curt Smith?"  He turned to Curufin, who nodded.  "And Nel Smith?"  He asked the red-haired man who affirmed it. 


"My, my, my.  Are you people related by any chance?"  O'Rome asked with mirth shining in his eyes, as though they were all sharing a private joke. 


"Heavens no! Definitely not!"  Susan denied a little too loudly, her disgust very evident in her voice.  "Officer, if you don't mind, I have an appointment, if we can settle this as soon as possible." 


"I agree with her Officer O'Rome; Miss Smith after all is the only person here whose schedule was disrupted today." Maitimo said in a calm voice laced with quiet sarcasm.


"I aim to please."  O'Rome beamed at them like they were misbehaving children. 


Susan clenched her fists and looked away.

Maitimo had been taking note of the young woman with a practiced eye.  She's taller than average, almost as tall as Macalaure, who is the shortest of his brothers.  She looked more or less 20 mortal years old. Long dark brown hair covered most of the side of her head and face.  It covered her back like a cape and ended at her waist.


Her white upper garment hung loosely and it covered her entire neck and arms.  Her skirt is long and reached up to her boot-clad ankles. The only exposed parts of her body are part of her face and her fingers, as her sleeves partially covered her hands, so it is hard to tell if her figure was satisfactory or not.  Not that it matters.  He found himself remarking.

The paleness of her skin and her very demeanor tells him that she prefers the indoors and is not very sociable.  But there is something unusual about her that he just couldn't place. 


Susan glanced at her watch and started when she realized that she only has 30 minutes before the screening starts. 


O'Rome turned back to them just then.  "I apologize for keeping you waiting."  He gave back Susan's license.  "You have nothing to worry about Miss, just send this to your insurance company."  He gave her a slip of paper. 


Her mouth twisted into a perfect "O" shape.  She was speechless again.  She didn't expect to be let off the hook that easily. 


"You can go, unless you still have something to discuss with these gentlemen." O'Rome said, looking very, very amused. 


"No, we have nothing to talk about. Thanks very much Officer."  Without a backward glance, she climbed back to her nearly unscathed car and drove away. 


The other brothers had joined them by now and Orome greeted them jovially.  "Ah! Well met Fëanorions!"


"She was speeding just as much as we were Orome." Maitimo protested. 


"Feisty little chit."  Curufin finally let his irritation show on his face. 


"Peace you two, I know, I just wanted to further your cause."  He said enigmatically as he walked towards the van and instantly doubled up in laughter.  "Your license plate! Oath 007!?!?  Namo has such a dry sense of humor.  And your pseudonyms!"


Carnistir asked the Vala.  "Did you come here just to mock us?" 


O'Rome straightened up.  "Sorry about that.  Got carried away there. Namo sent me with a message."  He wiped the tears from his eyes then carelessly waved his handkerchief atop the damage and it disappeared instantly.  "It's about your candidates: the mother of four is pregnant so she's out of the question for now.  The actress just got married (again)."


Tyelkormo scowled in annoyance.  "We only have the librarian left in this area. Ai, this is not good!"


"We must go to her at once then."  Maitimo slapped him playfully on the shoulder. 


Orome turned to Curvo.  "I'll take them to the Mall—I'm sure you can find us."


Before Curvo can reply, gray mist settled around them and the police car and Curvo, the van and the expressway vanished. When the mist cleared, the six remaining Fëanorions found themselves inside the main corridor of the mall. 


"A little bird told me that your Librarian loves caramel popcorn and hot chocolate." The Vala winked at Maitimo.  "You two," he indicated Turko and Moryo "stay here". He then took out a large roll of parchment from his pocket.  "Namo said I should read this out loud": (clears throat)

"Well met, Fëanorions!  I have good news and bad news.  Good news is the firebrand who almost got killed with you earlier—she is your Librarian.  She was on her way to watch her favorite Elf movie earlier. 

Please keep your sarcasm to a minimum, Nelyafinwe.  Females need to feel that they're right even when they're not, call it 'keeping the peace'. (Don't quote me on that.) Bad news is on the other parchment. 

Thanks Namo."

Orome took out yet another large roll of parchment from his pocket (don't ask me how): 

"Well met, Fëanorions!   I spoke with your grandfather the other day—he said and I merely quote:  

'*&#^%@&@&!!!!  Do you all think that I'm made of money just because I'm King again? Please do not purchase any more of those ridiculously expensive Avarmani clothing.   Or else.

Much love Grandpa' 

(Note:  I believe he was referring to Armani, not Avarmani.) 

Now for the bad news – it's the same as the good news!"   

"Namo's at it again, the Sneak."  Pityo gritted his teeth. 

Maitimo, Ambarussa and Macalaure have started to dash to the escalator leading to the movie theaters at this point. 


"He really enjoys playing pranks on us." Macalaure muttered darkly while sprinting.

 Orome had kept on reading aloud:

"By the way, in case you're as slow as Orome, who is still reading this right now, what are you waiting for?   To quote Olorin (who sends his regards): 'FLY, YOU FOOLS'!!!!    Affectionately…" 


The Vala made a strangled noise – as though something crawled and died in his throat. "That Namo—he always gets me on 'Read the Message' trick of his!"  He crumpled the parchment. 

Turko and Moryo are casting nervous glances at the female crowd hovering near them.  Their nervousness was evident.  The mortal females were ogling them with predatory glints in their eyes. 


"Umm, Orome, we really need to join the others." Tyelkormo smoothed his hair and brushed imaginary lints off his jacket. 


Orome was still visibly fuming when he turned to Carnistir.  "You have some talent with healing right, Morifinwe?"  He received a nod.  


The Vala turned to Tyelkormo.  "We haven't talked about the incident when you got Huan killed in Beleriand, correct?"


"We haven't—but that was Ages ago and it was a werewolf who killed him.  How is this connected with our mission?" The blond elf looked exasperated. 


Orome shrugged.  "Well, this makes us even and good luck."  He disappeared. 


"LOOK GIRLS!  A LEGOLAS WANNABE!   

 "He's almost as gorgeous as the real one!" 


"He's mine!"  "No mine!"   "Mine!"  "I saw him first!"


"If I can't get him—NO ONE will!"


By the time the two elves knew what hit them; they were hemmed in by a legion of hormonal, gushing teenaged girls (and their equally delirious moms).  

After that, all was mayhem and broken elf bones. 


There seemed to be a large commotion of some sort in the Mall's main corridor when Susan walked in.  Uniformed security personnel were trying to disperse a large crowd of hyperventilating women of all ages.  She couldn't figure out the cause of the disturbance though but it must be something big to have caused such an uproar.   


She only had time to buy a large tumbler of hot chocolate before she slipped inside the theater.  The movie was about to start and most of the seats are occupied.  The theater usher pointed to the remaining empty seats in the darkest, uppermost row. 


She quickly took a seat near the middle of the row just as the lights were dimmed. She settled in her seat excitedly and was determined to enjoy the first time that will see it on the big screen. 


It went well for the next few hours, but as it stretched on she felt herself starting to get annoyed with the man sitting next to her.   He would either snort in obvious disgust on some parts of the movie or stand up and block her view just when it's time for Legolas' close-ups.    She also found his closeness distracting.  Very distracting. 


She noticed early on that he smells really good—so masculine and very appealing.  She cast discreet glances at his well-shaped fingers and hands and wondering what brand of soap and shampoo he uses.  She had no nerve to look at his face so she looked at the lower part of his body instead.  He had long, lean-looking legs (as far as she can tell in the dark) and big feet.  When men have big feet it usually means that they also have big…she shook her head to clear her thoughts and tried to concentrate on the orcs on the screen instead.   


It didn't help that a few hormonal couples near where she was sitting started to do some serious tonsil hockey loud enough for her and the man to hear. (Right after the Good Gollum-Bad Gollum monologue too!  Apparently some people consider that erotic.) 

The man left for a few minutes and returned carrying the same brand of hot chocolate that she bought and a bucket of her favorite caramel popcorn.  It was while she's discreetly wiping her tears over Théoden's death scene when her tummy started to "complain" loudly.  

The man very politely offered her his untouched popcorn.  She hesitated. He may smell good but he might get the wrong ideas. 


"No thanks, I'll manage." She said shyly.


The man sounded very amused and replied just as quietly: "It's safe---I didn't poison it. See?"  She heard him pop some into his mouth and chew. 


"No thank you."


"But you're hungry."


"No I'm not." Her stomach's loud groan directly contradicted her.


She could tell that he is trying very hard not to chuckle.  "That much is obvious.  If you don't want popcorn, we can eat something else outside after this."


'Why the'.... he is trying to "pick her up".  "Do I look that kind of girl to you?"


"You don't look like a girl."


"And what do you mean by that?" She hissed loudly.   

  
"SHHHH!!!"   The other moviegoers in front shushed her. 

  
He whispered his reply. "I mean that you look like a woman and not a little girl."


She kept quiet.   


"Are you always this bad-tempered?"


"I'm trying to watch the movie."


"So will you join me for a meal afterwards?"


"Listen—stop talking to me unless you want a dose of my pepper spray."


"I have no need for that.  I have mint tablets and your breath smells pleasant enough."


Susan rounded up to fully face him just as the screen lighted up.  She gasped loudly when she recognized who he is (actually it sounded more like a low scream) then accidentally spilled her chocolate all over her blouse. 

   
"Oi back there! Get a room! We're trying to watch the movie!"



Macalaure tightened his soft woolen hat that covered almost half of his face and tried to blend in with the crowd.  He had to go back inside the mall and look for Ambarussa.   He had spoken to Maitimo some time ago while his eldest brother bought the lady's favorite snack and drink.   They agreed that they will talk to her soon after the movie so Maitimo returned inside.   


Tyelkormo had been in terrible pain back in the van although he was a bit more subdued now after Carnistir forced him to sleep.  Curufin had a hard time finding the mall and is in a very foul mood, to say the least.   Ambarussa, Maitimo and Macalaure separated near the theater area so as not to attract attention. 


They are all getting frustrated.  Over the past year, he and his brothers have honed their "communication" plan when contacting "candidates" and executed it with typical Fëanorian precision.  The "Vanguard" (usually Tyelkormo or Maitimo) is to wait for the lady with flowers and chocolate and try to talk to her, while either he or Carnistir are to observe quietly and try formulate a negotiation plan based on what they gather.  Curvo is usually in charge of the transportation.  The Twins are usually the last ones to leave the "site" to ensure that only the "candidate" had knowledge of their "visit".  They also had had a few run-ins with isolated gangs of Avari. 


The first part was usually successful but everything seemed to go downhill after that, with the candidates getting "clingy" with one or all of them.  They even tried to "rotate" roles and ended up with dismal similar results. 

He paused when he saw a rowdy, chanting crowd gathered in front of a packed restaurant.  Though it was still some distance away but a year spent with the Second Born of this Age taught him to avoid crowds as much as possible.  

Considering briefly where to go next, his sharp ears caught the words being chanted:  "Rod", "Russ" and something about "Fight to the finish." 


They were enough to make him dash towards the crowd and inch himself inside the Pizza Palace. (All you can eat for only $XX, choose-you-own toppings!)

The chanting is much louder inside and has two distinct groupings:  One for Amrod and another for Amras:


"Rod, Rod, Rod!"  


"Russ! Russ!  Russ!"


Macalaure finally saw who he was looking for.  The twins are sitting on opposite ends of a long table loaded with different kinds of pizza with their mouths full and intently trying to outdo each other in an eating contest, much like they used to do way back in Valinor when they were still toddlers.


The mostly female crowd is watching all of this excitedly.  Apparently, the Twins had made a bet with each other on who could eat the most pizza on a certain time limit.  A buzzer silenced the chanting.



"I don't need your charity. We don't know each other and you don't need to help me." Susan looked down at the unsightly brown stains that streaked her formerly-white turtleneck.  She also smells strongly of chocolate. 


Maitimo easily matched her pace.  "Not where I come from.  I must insist as I had a hand in what happened."


"Look, just go away and use your money to hire someone to talk to you." 


He drew a sharp intake of breath. "Believe me, if I had a choice I wouldn't bear with your abrasive behavior." 


She blanched and he realized too late that he had let her get to him.  She turned and left without a word, melting into the crowd.   He stood still for a moment to get a hold of himself and ignored the curious looks thrown their way by a few passers-by.


She ducked into the first clothing store she could find and felt disoriented when she saw the merchandise being sold there.


"Welcome to Victoria's Secret." A friendly attendant chirpily welcomed her.  "Is there something…I can help you with Ms?" 


"Smith. Oh sorry. I entered the wrong store."


"But we also sell really chic tops that will suit you Ms Smith."

She shook her head and was about to turn towards the door when she crashed into someone who gently gripped her arms to steady her.


It's him. Today is her Lucky Day. "I apologize. For what I said."


"I…" She stammered--he looks so sincere and she never realized how tall he really was until now. "I…you…ah…"


The store attendant watched with bated breath and folded hands while the live soap opera unfolded before her eyes. 


Susan tried to pry herself out of his grip. "I need to go…and choose a top."


"All right. I'll wait here. Please…I need to talk to you later."


She nodded tentatively and he let go of her. She couldn't understand why he is so persistent or why he was doing this at all.  She retreated to a row of blouses in a far corner of the store.


The attendant turned conspiratorially to the man, who had a relieved look on his face. "Eh...Mr?" 


"Smith. I'll pay for whatever she chooses."


"Smith?" The attendant of course, came to the wrong assumption as most busybodies are wont to.   


Inside one of the dressing rooms, Susan frowned critically at her reflection.  She is wearing the least risqué blouse she could find but it still managed to reveal too much flesh.  The attendant had plied her with many different tops until she saw this one.


"Your husband said you can take all of them if you want." The attendant sounded like a thrilled schoolgirl. 


She was too distracted to correct the inaccuracy. She had tried several times to call the police using her mobile with no success.   


She has to get away.  For all she knows, he might be a suicidal crack-pot who murders his relatives en masse.  What could he possibly want to talk to her about anyway?  Is that what men called casual sex now?  Talk?   

The whole thing is fishy. And besides no one has ever noticed her before.  Not that she cared. At least no one has in the last five years – which is all she remembered of her entire life.


She opened the door and the attendant approached expectantly.  Susan smiled sweetly at her.  "Listen, Tiffany, the man outside—he likes playing hide and seek---if you know what I mean?" 

Tiffany nodded eagerly. 


Susan leaned over to her and whispered her "game plan".    


Macalaure found Maitimo waiting inside the store.  He had just finished roundly scolding the Twins.


"Well?"  The musician sat down beside him.


"She's been in there for hours…trying on clothes."


"Ah…of course. Females always take ages." Macalaure nodded understandingly.  "What do you think? Will she agree or what?"


"In my opinion we're better off with someone else.  She's bad-tempered, different and not what I had in mind."


"Maybe we need somebody different."


Tiffany the attendant then approached them carrying about a dozen bags of clothes.  She looked hungrily at Macalaure who smiled warily back at her.  She turned to the taller man.  "Mr. Smith, here are the clothes that your wife chose."


Macalaure shot a meaningful look at his erstwhile unmarried older brother.

Tiffany cleared her throat.  "She also told me to give you this note. You can open it now."  

Maitimo opened the envelope and out flew a hundred-dollar bill.  He unfolded the note, which said:

"The money is for the blouse I took. Keep the change. Stay away from me or I'll call the police."   


TBC

 

Chapter Text

CLICK…CLICK…CLICK… Susan repeatedly pressed the elevator's emergency button to no avail.  She had spent the last hour or so fuming alone in the dark inside the back-door service elevator after she snuck out of the dressing rooms.   She had conspired with the Victoria's Secret sales attendant to allow her to use the store's employee's back door, which led her to her current location.  She hated the dark—it made her feel all cold and clammy—in fact, she slept with all the lights on in her flat. The fact that she had to remove her bra and that she only had on a skimpy spaghetti-strap top didn't help either. 
 
Her cell phone had no signal and was almost out of battery.  She had tried to call Aunt Nessa but the line got cut.  The kindly lady wasn't really related to her, but she was the one who found Susan floating unconscious in a boat five years ago.  She had taken care of Susan until she got a job in the library. 
 
She clenched her first and banged on the wall.  "Great!  Just PERFECT!"  Susan shouted in frustration.   "So much for my great escape."  Well at least the weird (but terrific-smelling) stalker-ish guy waiting outside would have left by now and for some reason she felt a little pang at the thought that she might never see him again.  She frowned at what she was thinking. 
 
"Hello?"  A muffled male voice asked through the speaker. 
 
"Hello?  Hello!"  She jumped up eagerly, setting aside her usual reserve. "At last!  I've been stuck here for hours! And I'm so hungry." 
 
"Me too.  How did you get in there?" The male voice replied a little clearly now. 
 
The elevator's lights were back on and it started to move up. Apparently the elevator had been stuck between floors.  "Oh!  You're my savior!"  Susan shouted happily through the speaker.  The elevator's walls had mirrors on all sides and she noticed that her hair was all mussed up.  She grabbed a brush from her bag and hurriedly fixed her hair and spread some cherry-flavored petroleum jelly on her lips.  She rammed the items back in her bag just in time.
 
"Why did you run away?"  She heard a 'ding' and the elevator door slowly opened.
 
"I was trying to escape from some horny wack-WACK…" She slowly looked up to face her 'savior'.
 
Maitimo's tall frame easily dwarfed the small door of the service elevator.  "You were saying?"
 
"What are you doing here!?" Her eyes were reduced to slits. 
 
He shook his head and looked very grim.  "Is that how people in this Age express their gratitude?" He strode inside the cramped space forcing her to back up against the wall. 

"Let me out!" She saw Tiffany peering at them with a maniacal gleam in her eyes. Behind Tiffany stood a tall, dark-haired man with a very sheepish expression on his face.  "Hey, you have to help me! This…This...man!" She screamed at the top of her lungs and tried to claw her way out but he blocked her. Susan tried to push him away with no success. Tiffany merely waved, giggled and closed the door shut. 

"Maitimo! Don't leave me here!"  Macalaure shouted just before the elevator door snapped shut.   Tiffany turned to him saucily, her small, hot palms feeling up his nipples.  He staggered back and hit his head on a tall pile of boxes. 
 
"So…Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, my shift is finished, where were we?"
 
 
 
Back inside the elevator, Susan was backed up against the wall.  "Help! Help me! Police!" One hand was feeling around for the pepper spray inside her bag. 
 
Maitimo grimaced as he covered his ears (hidden by his hair). "Will you please stop shouting? I won't hurt you."
 
She kicked him hard in the shin.  It caught him completely by surprise and her boots' heels were pretty sharp.  He cringed at the pain and stumbled backwards.  She took advantage of this and triumphantly took out a bottle from her bag and sprayed him liberally on the face with it. 
 
"Awrrggh!!!" 

She had pushed him aside and frantically pushed the elevator's "Open" button. Her heart was beating wildly; she had even surprised herself with how bold she had been.  Still breathing heavily she recognized the smell that had pervaded the entire elevator.   She glanced at the bottle she was holding and gasped when she realized what it was:  "Sweet Vanilla (Organic & Edible) Feminine Wash". 

"Oh dear."  The bottle fell with a clang on the floor.   A very distinct and steady blush soon spread all over her face and neck.
 
"And what is this supposed to do? Smother me? It feels quite pleasant." He wiped away the some of the sticky substance from his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket; curious, he dabbed a finger on his cheeks and tasted it.  "Tastes very good too." All her fierceness had vanished by the time he turned to her.    "And what's this?  Are you blushing, little hellion?" 
 
"I am NOT little!  Don't touch me! Stay away!"  She felt as if all the blood in her body was rushing to her face and neck.  
 
He took a step closer and laid his palms on either side of her, which forced her to lean against the closed doors.  Their bodies didn't touch, but for her he's still much too near. "There, no hands, satisfied?"
 
"Please just let me leave.  I want to go home."  Her blush deepened and she looked as meek as a lamb but he was not fooled.  He saw her reaching into her bag again, probably with the right bottle this time. 
 
His tone softened and he smirked. "So do you have more of that thing you sprayed on me?" 
 
He caught her hand just as she was trying to aim at the side of his head.  Their eyes locked for a brief moment.   His other hand snatched hers.  "You could be such a handful, you know that?"  His face still smelled of vanilla.
 
'He is still single'
 
'She is not married.'  He looked puzzled and leaned in for a closer look.  "Are you…?  Could you be…?" 
 
DING! 
 
The door slid open and she gasped as she fell backwards. On a reflex, he reached out to grab her waist, but his hand landed on her buttocks instead and pulled her back against him, just in time, or she might have hit the floor.   She swore and struggled to break free from his grip, which only succeeded in hiking her skirt up past her thighs.
 
A tired-looking delivery man in overalls looked inside and gasped at what he saw--a slightly disheveled couple pressed so close together—the man's hands are cupping the woman's backside. 

"So sorry!"  The delivery man covered his eyes and hurriedly pushed the "Close" button.   
 
"Wait! Don't close it!" She shouted but the door snapped close again.  "Let go of me, you pervert!" She slapped his offending hand away and straightened her skirt.  "What are you looking at?"
 
He had a disbelieving look on his face.   "You.  You are an elf."  His voice was calm and certain. He quietly unclasped his reddish brown hair and lifted the locks that covered his pointed ears and turned towards the side so she could see it better.  "See?  I'm one too.  No wonder I noticed something odd about you earlier." 
 
She covered her mouth with her hands and looked like she had just been stunned.  She turned towards the glass wall panel, lifted her now disheveled hair, and stared for what seemed like the very first time at her own pointed right ear.  She lightly touched the tip with a trembling finger.  She looked at her other ear and saw that it looked the same. 
 
"You mean you don't know?" he asked in disbelief. 
 
She shook her head and tears shone in her eyes.  The vivid blush that had covered her face faded rapidly, and she felt a sharp throbbing that started from the back of her neck to right behind her eyes and her forehead.  Her entire body seemed to explode with overwhelming pain.  She let out a blood-curdling scream and fainted.  
 



 
There was a light.   Bright, glowing in the distance, like a beacon.  It felt so familiar.  Her vision was still blurred but she was very certain.  
 
She reached out to touch it but found that her arms were too feeble.  She moaned.  
 
Susan tried to focus on the ball of light before her. Her vision slowly improved while her drowsiness faded. The light slowly transformed into a tall, stern-looking male—definitely not made of flesh and blood, but with a body clothed in dazzling white robes.   He was looking intently at her in the manner that a parent would look at a naughty but long-lost child. 
 
She could have sworn that she had seen him somewhere before but she couldn't figure out where or when.  It was really frustrating to have such faulty memory.
 
 "Welcome back, O-She-of-Many-Names." 
 
She looked at him closely and it slowly dawned upon her. "Oh, are you who I think you are? Wait!  I know!  You're St. Peter!  I'm dead aren't I?  I haven't confessed my sins! Oh no!"
 
She started to spew out words at an alarming rate.  "I lied to my colleagues at the library and told them that I'm not a virgin anymore just so they won't laugh at me. My driver's license says I'm 57 but look at me!  They all think I'm some abomination!" 
 
Namo tried to look stern, though we all know that he lost this edge after ages with the Fëanorions.  "St. Peter ministers only to the Second Born, not I."

"You're NOT St. Peter?" 
 
"I am not. Remember us. Remember."
 
Susan's eyes lost focus for the briefest instant and, when her vision cleared again, she found herself frowning suspiciously at the personage standing in front of her.
 
"Calm down, you are among friends.  It is I, Nessa." A female voice rang in her head.
 
Susan spat back fluently in an obscure Avarin dialect. "Oehridna tulawindum mistarunin siyet!"  (Translation: "Yeah, with friends like you who needs enemies, you stuck-up bumbling, incompetent…!")
 
"Ah, we are back to our old coarse language, I see, Oh-She-of-Many-Names." Nessa materialized in front of her. 
 
Susan's eyes lost focus again and she went back to speaking the vernacular when she came to: "So why am I back here? Did you all miss me? Don't I get a hug while we all go to the Void together?"  She asked sarcastically.
 
Namo I think you overdid it again! (Nessa)
 
Woops! Remember only what-you're-supposed-to-remember-until-your-curse-is-broken.  There, happy, Little Bird? (Namo)
 
(Nessa) Humph. She is getting much worse with all that pent-up sexual frustration! Her kind should not remain celibate for so long and she would have been cured of the curse by now if she had met him sooner…"
 
(Namo) Only Eru is perfect you know, can't I make mistakes?
 
 (Nessa, rolling her eyes)  Eru help me!! I wonder how Vairë can put up with you!
 
'She-of-Many-Names', currently known as Susan, realized that the Valar in front of her were arguing wordlessly in that queer mind speak of theirs and silently started to tiptoe towards the door.
 
She was met by another female Vala as she stepped out, Vairë, who reached out and placed her soft hand on Susan's forehead.  The female Avarin elf relaxed into complacency and fainted once more.
 
(Vairë)  She almost escaped from you yet again, my dear husband.
 
Woops! (Namo)
 
Susan regained consciousness instantly (now you also know why she's a little weird).  She threw her hands in mock surrender at the three Valar.  "All right, what did I do this time?"
 
"You wrote an unfinished story about the Fëanorions that won you a MEFA," Namo replied, "which qualifies you to join them in their quest."
 
"Well yes, the MEFA was great, I got lots of reviews and a book offer, but I wrote that BEFORE I actually met those murderers."
 
"You have only just met Maitimo personally and he's really a very honorable prince, except for the Oath…" Nessa cooed.
 
"If you join this Quest, you can get your memories back."
 
"I'd rather be forgetful but alive than die trying to get them back.  Besides, you took away my memories, remember?"
 
Nessa piped in:  "You will have seven battle-honed, very handsome and reformed Elf lords to protect you, four of whom are unmarried…who knows, maybe things will work out."

"We all want so much to have you settled and married.  There's been nothing to weave in the Fëanorian Tapestry Hall for ages except for Nerdanel moping for Fëanor!"  Vairë enthused.
 
Susan had an apathetic look when she said, "What's the catch?"
 
"You have to undergo a simple trial before you can start the different chapters of the Quest with the Fëanorions."
 
Susan pretended to consider for a moment, "I am invoking my right to use Eru's gift of Free Will and say no," She rose from the bed.
 
Namo persisted, "Don't you want to remember your family, your friends, where you came from?"
 
"If they really love me, they would have found me long ago." She had a trace of bitterness in her voice.  'Though I really hate being alone.'
 
"Please do not be so rash, dearest," Nessa implored, "there are many good reasons why your family have not done that."
 
Susan shrugged, "There is nothing that the three of you can possibly say to make me change my mind."
 
(Vairë)  I know what you're thinking Namo, he doesn't suit her!  He's too nice!
 
(Namo)  I know but trust me, my love.
 
(Nessa)  If we mess up with the First Born again we'll never hear the end of it on the next All Valar Across Ardas Convention, apparently all the other Ardas except ours did not experience an Elvish rebellion.
 
(Namo)  Trust me.
 
(Nessa and Vairë)  <Groan!>
 
Namo was regarding Susan carefully when he said silkily, "How about 'Legolas Greenleaf of Mirkwood?'"
 


 
The Fëanorions had just finished dinner and were lounging in a wide, star-lit porch.  Macalaurë was absently playing a mellow tune on his harp, more to himself than for the others.   His lips had a big, dark bruise, courtesy of the over-eager female from the store, and he was thankful that he had been able to escape.
 
Carnistir and Curufin were playing a 144-deck card game they had invented with Findekano while they were still all disembodied.  Granted that they didn't have hands so they are only recently starting to incorporate "motion" into the game's mechanics.  Carnistir's right arm was in a cast and he had several bruises and scratches on his neck and face. 
 
Ambarussa were huddled behind a sleepy Tyelkormo, whose thick, blond locks they parted equally in half while they slowly massaged his scalp with their nimble fingers, a favor that each brother did for the others whenever the mood struck them.   Afterwards, they intend to make small, tight braids to keep his hair away from his face.    Thanks to that day's misadventure, Tyelkormo had part of his neck, part of his torso, two arms and two legs in tight white bandages.  His face had plenty of scratches and his neck had telltale signs of bite marks.   Earlier his brothers had to wipe off copious amounts of lipstick and make-up from his skin before they were able to cast his limbs. 
 
Maitimo was deep in thought while he sipped his wine.  "She must be Avarin, or of the Noldor after we left Valinor."
 
"We can ask her that tomorrow before her trial begins.  I certainly hope that she is the one who can join us—I miss my wife so." Macalaure absently plucked a few strings. 
 
"She doesn't remember anything—she didn't even know that she's an elf until I told her," Maitimo answered. 
 
Amrod looked mischievously at Amras.  "We've heard that Avarin females duel with each other for males, very scantily clad."
 
Tyelkormo instantly lost his drowsiness.  "You don't say? How did you know?"
 
Amras winked at his twin.  It felt good to "instruct" their great Alpha Male Hunter brother for a change. "We saw them among a small settlement of Green Elves in Ossiriand some time after, you know, Doriath. After the females duel, the male can wash up the nubile winner and bond immediately."
 
Tyelkormo felt his mouth go dry. "What if there's a draw?"  Ambarussa looked at each other, having obviously not thought about this possibility before. 
 
Macalaurë shook his head in disgust.  "Marriage is not an endless bonding session you three."
 
"Speak for yourself, ATAR." Amras replied in mock deference.  Macalaurë could be such a wet blanket sometimes.
 
"Avarin females are supposed to wear out the males in bonding too much--that is why their males fade easily, if you get my meaning." Amrod smirked. 
 
Tyelkormo rose abruptly from his reclining position, almost twisting his broken arm in the process.   "Hey! Our next candidate is Avarin and she likes blonds! Am I lucky or what?"
 
Curufin expertly flipped his set of cards.  "Yes, but she prefers pansy-looking Thindar."
 
"Honestly, she's not much to look at so she is not worthy of you," Carnistir said with subtle sarcasm while sorting his deck on the table. 
 
Tyelkormo seemed to seriously consider it. "Hmmm, I suppose you are right," He turned to Ambarussa. "Tell me more of the Avarin dueling ritual."
 
Maitimo turned his attention to his other set of brothers.  "Don't believe them Tyelkormo," making Ambarussa flinch, "after Doriath, they got stuck naked in a clump of poison ivy while trying to spy on bathing females—took them months to heal."
 
Ambarussa both colored deeply in the face and involuntarily tugged in opposite directions at the blond hair in their hands.
 
"Ai! That hurts!"  Tyelkormo grimaced. 
 
"The poor lady did look upset and disheveled when I saw her last; what exactly happened Maitimo?"  Macalaure asked quietly. 
 
Seeing a chance for revenge, Amrod and Amras turned meaningfully to their eldest brother. "Yes, tell us, after all you did ride alone with her in that vehicle, using Tyelkormo's injury as a convenient excuse."  
 
"She fainted for Manwë's sake—she was unconscious the whole time!" Maitimo glared at Ambarussa and groaned when he realized what he just said.   The scene inside the taxi cab replayed in his mind—her face relaxed in peaceful slumber (who knew she could look that tranquil?), her clingy blouse with the thin, perpetually slipping straps, the easily discernable pouting nipples constrained by the fabric …  Maitimo attempted to look indifferent with much difficulty.
 
Ambarussa exchanged very meaningful and triumphant looks as they started to braid Tyelkormo's hair.
 
"You don't need to sound too defensive though, Maitimo," Carnistir contributed while sorting yet another set of cards.  
 
"I hope Atar told you that you about that ancient Noldorin custom for eldest sons."  Curufin knit his brow at the cards in his hands.
 
"What ancient custom for eldest sons?"  Maitimo asked, alarmed. 
 
Curufin sighed.  "So he didn't tell you? I swear he's always distracted.  I told Telperinquar on his 15th Begetting Day, which was why I think he has not married yet."

"I've seen nothing of the sort in our library," said Tyelkormo. 
 
"Neither have we," Ambarussa chorused.
 
Carnistir shook his head. "Virgins."
 
Curufin leaned back on his chair.  "It's an oral tradition handed down by the father to his eldest son that started in…"
 
"Sinking Cuiviénen!"  Tyelkormo's voice exploded.  "You have to heal me quick, Carnistir! I can't attend the candidate's trial looking like this!  She might have better-looking sisters!"  He tried to reach for a bottle of salve but succeeded in spilling the contents instead. 
 
Ambarussa was too distracted with the conversation to notice that Amrod was twisting Tyelkormo's hair (his half) into a tidy bun, while Amras was tying his half of Tyelkormo's hair into cute little pigtails.  It would look funny in the morning but no one had noticed thus far.
 
 "WHAT ancient custom for eldest sons?!"  Maitimo's face was ashen by the time all six brothers turned to face him. 
 
Macalaurë studied his eldest brother's expression in that unnerving way of his that reminded them all of their Amil.   "During the Great Journey, a male and a female Noldor were considered betrothed once the male gifts her with a sizeable trousseau..."
 
"Which you did." Carnistir jovially reminded him.
 
"And spends time alone with her with no family member close by to guard her honor," Macalaurë continued,  "their betrothal period begins even without the exchange of silver rings."
 
"The Avarin chit does not know this curious custom so what she does not know could not hurt her.  And, there's always Vesperis, the Vanya, for your delectation."  Curufin winked at their eldest brother.
 
All his brothers snorted in disgust,   "She's older than Grandpa Finwë!"
 
Maitimo took a deep, calming breath.  "And no one has ever bothered to tell me this custom until now?"
 
Carnistir looked up from his deck of cards:  "Now you know how WE all felt when you renounced the High Kingship to Uncle without telling us beforehand."


 
The bright and sunny morning contrasted sharply with the facial expressions of the (7 male and 1 female) embodied elves inside the halls of Mandos. Susan and the Seven were regarding each other with a salad of emotions:  a vague, unaccounted-for dislike (Maitimo), in-born suspicion (Curufin and Carnistir), in-born curiosity (Ambarussa), in-born flirtatiousness (Tyelkormo), in-born genuine friendliness (Macalaurë), and off-cycle PMS-ing (Susan).   Vairë felt a bit insulted because no other of the First or Second Born had ever been admitted to see her magical tapestries.  The previous candidates have never reached this far. 

Nessa had introduced Susan and the Seven to each other, and Susan almost jumped back in alarm when she reached the blond one: "My mother name is Tyelkormo, but you can call me anything you like, do you by any chance have sisters?"
 
A bout of hoarse whispering ensued among the Seven; Tyelkormo could be heard defending himself: "But I've heard that females of this Age like to be greeted like that."
 
Macalaurë had slapped him on the back.  "So that is why the Second Born candidates always try to disrobe you!"
 
"All that planning wasted…"  Maitimo's lips were in a straight line.
 
For her part, Susan could not deny how magnificent they all looked together but she'd rather bite her tongue off than give Namo the satisfaction.
 
Vairë and Namo were now leading the now silent procession towards the Fëanorian Tapestry Hall where the trial would be held.   Susan was told to wear sturdy (and loose) travel clothes and boots, and Nessa was giving her a little tour:   "And here are their baby pictures! Weren't they adorable little elflings?" 
 
Susan looked at several walls filled with large, life-like tapestries of the Seven and had to admit that they did look so cute and round and innocent.  She stole a glance at the grown-up versions and muttered under her breath, "Yes, but look how they turned out."
 
The Halls were long-winding and Susan found herself looking with open wonder as they walked on.  Nessa told her that Vairë's halls would continue to grow and expand until the end of Arda. "Why are there so many blank and gray panels in-between the colorful ones?" she asked Nessa.  Indeed, some looked like splotches of unsightly dripped paint amidst the rich details.
 
Nessa exchanged slightly embarrassed looks with the two other Valar ahead.  "Errr.  Those scenes can only be seen by umm,"
 
"Those who have bonded," Curufin offered, to which Carnistir smirked and Macalaurë nodded, for they were the only ones who could see the images of their parents in various compromising positions.   Tyelkormo and the twins gasped in unison. 
 
Susan turned away and was soon engrossed by the woven images.  The colors significantly darkened as they progressed, until after what seemed a whole day of walking, they reached a particularly long corridor festooned with pre-dominantly blood-red tapestries.   The tapestries in this section seemed to extend to the very sky—there was not a spot that was not tainted with red.
 
"Ah the First Kinslaying, Wing A, 1st level," Nessa murmured.   Susan almost felt sorry for the Seven when she saw how perturbed they were in looking at their own lives in the tapestries.

"There's more than one wing and more than one level?"  Susan asked in disbelief. "I'd hate to imagine the next two."
 
Here Namo turned and addressed Susan solemnly. "So it begins, She-of-Many-Names of the Avari, you are to insert yourself among the threads of Plot, made before Time. The threads are of different melodies and sub-melodies—and should appeal to all the physical senses and the emotions for these are the mark of the Great Music—joy interwoven with sorrow and pain in a marred Arda. If you are successful, you may join the Fëanorions in their Quest as full recompense for their Deeds.  What say you?"
 
Susan swallowed nervously but nodded.  Namo took her shaking hand and guided her towards the central tapestry where she discerned the seven fighting furiously amidst the Swan-shaped ships. He instructed her to grab hold of the seemingly-living threads and left her to join the others just opposite. 
 
Nothing happened after a few tense minutes, although Susan's nervousness faded.  "And just what is supposed to happen?" She turned to ask Namo.  
 
The Fëanorions also turned to him curiously and Macalaurë asked, "What should she do inside exactly?"
 
"She should just witness the events, must not attract attention to herself, must not be seen by any of you seven, and come back, simple enough," Namo replied. 
 
After a few minutes of heightening tension nothing happened. 
 
"What now Namo?"(Vairë and Nessa)
 
It was now Namo's turn to swallow nervously.  "Well, she's supposed to be absorbed… but…I was very very sure.  You're…"
 
"Namo outyen rugasar hecilwer Laeca-lass polyentria aireto punteria puniwee?" Susan stomped her foot while shouting in obscure Avarin.  (Translation:   Namo, you promised!  Are you trying to backpedal on your commitment to give me quality time with Legolas in exchange for helping them?)
 
Behind Susan, the tapestries all around them seemed to come to life.  The magical threads of Plot lit up into a bright crimson color and started to rotate lazily.   
 
Susan felt dizzy looking into the whirling eye. "Esteme!"  (Shit!)
 
They were not given the time to react when the whirlpool suddenly picked up its pace and  sucked Susan into the tapestry with a loud whooshing sound, like something had been flushed in the toilet. Then, as if nothing untoward happened, the raveled threads wove themselves back into place. 
 
"Woops!  She always lapses to Avarin when she's upset," Namo babbled nervously. 
 
"What just happened to my precious tapestries, Namo?" Vairë glowered at her now timid-looking husband.
 
Namo scratched his head and turned sheepishly to his never-been-this-irate spouse. "I have good news…and I have bad news.
 


Losgar
Fëanor and his seven sons were holding counsel inside a large tent with their leading generals.
 
"Something very odd happened.  A maiden jumped from my ship when I tried to talk to her," Tyelkormo shared. 

"Atar. I also saw a maiden fall from Curvo's ship. She swam away when I tried to take her hand."
 
Curvo: "Don't be stupid Carnistir.  I only have supplies and male guards in my ship."
 
"Don't call me stupid just because you're Atar's big-headed favorite!  I know what I saw!"  Carnistir shouted back.
 
"Now, now…" Fëanor tried to calm them down. 
 
One of the generals contributed, "High King, our people have indeed reported several sightings of this maiden…long dark hair, with skin that has not seen the Light of the Two Trees, flitting about from one ship to another, always trying to escape." 
 
"It seems that she is everywhere," Macalaurë observed.  "What do you think Atar?" 
 
Fëanor frowned. "The Valar are trying to confound us! Burn those cursed ships!"
 
"But Atar!  How about the rest of the Noldor who followed you?"  Maitimo's entreaties fell on deaf ears.
 



A day after the Mereth Aderthad (Feast of Reuniting) held in Eithel Ivrin
"I tell you someone tampered with my harp strings!  I told Uncle Nolofinwë to call for a rematch but he wouldn't listen to me!  He just laughed as if I'm not his flesh and blood! I suspect it's that stuck-up Thinda Daeron—he's had it in for me since we first laid eyes on each other!"  Macalaurë, the gentlest and the most emotionally well-adjusted son of Fëanor, was positively fuming.  The last time he had a tantrum of this intensity, he was a cute and chubby two-year-old toddler.     
 
Maitimo felt both amusement and surprise to see this very rare display from his brother, "I don't understand why you're so upset Macalaurë, it sounded the same!  Your musical duel was a big success, everyone was highly-pleased!  Can you not feel take pride in that instead of sulking for getting second place?"
 
"Phah!  Of the two of us, I believe I am the better judge of whether music is very good, plain or simply mediocre!  Good night!"  Macalaurë stomped off, still fully-armored, into his own hastily-set-up tent.   Their attendant elves sprang back in fright at seeing their usually gentle elf lord's display of his dormant Fëanorian temper.
 
Maitimo shrugged and chuckled at how his musical brother's worst of moods showed there was no denying just whose son he was.  He waved off the offer his chosen personal guards and bade them to take their rest; he made his way silently to the bathing spring.  He stripped off his travel-worn clothes and plunged in.  He diligently scrubbed off the dust from his hair and skin while humming the songs that his brother and the Thindarin singer Daeron had regaled the crowd with at the Feast.   Then he felt it.  He was being closely watched.  Ogled.  He felt no mal-intent but the person--just one--he was very certain, was lurking in the shadows. 
 
He took a few laps around the wide, star-lit pool.  His still-perfect form, minus his right hand, knifed through the tranquil coolness of the water.  He lazily gazed at the bottom of the pool and dove to retrieve an unusual object stuck between the rocks.  It was a large hair clasp of an unusual material with some sort of writing on the back (plastic, Made in China) and there was still a strand of the owner's dark hair in between the teeth. Female. Interesting
 
He swam towards the clump of bushes where he was positive the female was hiding and looked pointedly.  He heard a startled female's gasp and smirked. "Why don't you join me, I might give this back, unless you're a female orc?" he asked in a voice worthy of Tyelkormo. 
 
Another gasp, which sounded both furious and embarrassed, and mutterings in an unknown language.  (Shit! I shouldn't have watched him.) 
 
'Avarin, most likely.' He swung himself up the bank and started to walk towards the female's hiding place, but she ran away after he managed a few steps.  All he saw was her retreating back and an eyeful—a side view of a pert, large breast when she turned and shapely buttocks when her "towel" lifted in her haste.  It seemed that he had some competition for being 'well-shaped', and unlike Macalaurë, he didn't mind sharing the distinction one bit. 
 
"My lord, apologies, we've urgent news from your brothers," the clear voice of one of his scouts said from across the pool. 
 
'Too bad I couldn't chase her, would have been fun. Another time maybe.' 
 



 
The Fortress of Himring
He was certain of it.  Someone had been feasting on his potted berries. The special berries he had brought from Valinor, a souvenir of more innocent times.  He had potfuls of the plant all over the wide porch overlooking much of his realm.  Not that he would mind sharing food with someone, anyone who was hungry, but the fact that it was happening right under his nose and that he had no idea who the thief was was simply unnerving.   Atar had always said:  "If you don't know what's happening in your own house, better just surrender to your enemy and be done with it."
 
Other weird occurrences were happening in his fortress lately.  Sleep had been harder and harder to come by, and he had heard the unmistakable sound of chattering teeth outside his porch one moonless evening, about a fortnight ago.   It sounded like someone was shivering to death from the cold, which was totally impossible!  Only he or his brothers had access to this level and his brothers were miles away when this happened.  Servants only came there in the daytime. 
 
It continued for some time until all hope of sleep escaped him.  Cursing, he stood up and opened the door leading to the porch. (His simple room opened to a large porch accessible by the other rooms in the same level.) He fell asleep in one of the couches on the porch and forgot all about it. 
 
Until his berries started to disappear—neatly picked off the branches—if the birds ate it, they would have left a mess.  And last week, when he was attending to the lousy business of inspecting the fortress' septic drains, lo and behold, the tube from the Master's Bath gushed with liquid.  He hurried up to the unused room to investigate but found no one there.  The servants complained of noises during the day and at night coming from the same room. The bottles of mild wine that he kept in his own room would also run empty even if he didn't recall drinking them.  Could there be a wraith haunting Himring?
 
You may be wondering why the Lord of Himring is not using the Master's sleeping chambers of his own fortress.  Well, you see the Noldor have a very practical approach in everything but most especially in their architecture.   Master's chambers in Himring have been built in anticipation of the happy time when he is to be wed instead of waiting for the event to actually happen.  He doubts if that time will ever come—what with the Siege still ongoing.   So until that happy time, he uses a simple room across the hall and the enormous, canopied Master's bed with the sheer pleated bed drapes, remained unused.   
 
He had heard of shades or unhoused spirits of men and elves and figured that this might be it at first. He went to the unused Master's Chambers and tried to reason with the "wraith" to move on, go to Mandos.  To no avail.  He started suspecting that it is an intruder and not a wraith. 
 
He mentioned this to his brothers and they instantly exchanged discreet yet meaningful looks:  "Thangorodrim", promptly reverted to neutral facial expressions steered the conversation to a "safer" direction.   Since they all spent summers in Himring to escape the heat, Tyelkormo and Ambarussa suggested that he throw a Masked Ball in honor of their favorite (one-and-only) nephew, Telperinquar, or Celebrimbor as he was now known, with the plea that he invite as many of the "liberated" Avarin elf maidens as he could find.  Surprisingly, Macalaurë, Curufin and  Carnistir all supported the suggestion, though they previously had no inclination for Avarin maidens or masked balls, for that matter.  Never had he seen them unite like this and with highly uncharacteristic tact to boot.
 
His servants also relished organizing more pleasant affairs than battles, so the ball was a welcome distraction for all except for the one hosting it.  Preparations were quick and efficient, as was typical of the Noldor.  Elf maidens of every hue were invited:  gray, green, light, dark, all of whom were eager to become the long-anticipated Mistress of Himring.  In no time at all, the Masked Ball was upon them. 
 
In Valinor, Maitimo once relished attending such festivities for the chance to mingle with maidens.  But in Middle-earth and upon his own realm, he found it more of a chore.  The maidens were obviously trying to call attention to themselves in the most outlandish ways.  He soon consigned the wearisome duty of attending to their shallow flirting to the more accomodating Tyelkormo and Ambarussa and proceeded upstairs, where his feet led him to the empty Master's chambers.  He collapsed on the bed, which smelled quite welcoming for once—like wind-blown flowers after a slight rain, so alluringly feminine.  He loosened his formal robes, feeling a bit drowsy because of the wine.  He was about to fall deeper into sleep when his nostrils caught the familiar scent of berries on the bedsheets, and he looked and saw the telltale stains on the bed.  He looked up and noticed too that the sheer, pleated drapes over the bed were gone!  
 
His tactician's mind started to collate all the facts so far:  empty wine bottles,  neatly-picked berries, noises from an unoccupied room, the bath being used and, come to think of it, the bed smelt different—like someone had  been using it.  His mind snapped with the realization.  There was an unknown female occupant in Himring, and she was probably downstairs in the ball.   He jumped off of the bed and re-fastened his robes.  The berries always left a stain on the hands that would not come off for weeks, he knew, having eaten them until he got sick as a child back home, and she would be wearing sheer bed drapes!   He started to get both curious and annoyed with the audacity of his hitherto unknown and certainly uninvited "boarder", so he stomped off downstairs to seek her. 
 



 
"Would you like me to introduce you to my uncles?   I get asked that all the time by maidens who are in love with them."  Celebrimbor asked tentatively, afraid of what her answer might be.   Maidens often forgot all about him once they saw his unwed uncles. 
 
"NO!"  The Avarin maiden almost choked on the large chicken leg she had been chewing on, which startled him. 
 
He looked more closely at her. Avarin maidens sure had healthy appetites (he had brought her several plates of food already and she still looked hungry, unlike the others who just pecked at their food); there was a reddish stain on her hands and lips (must be some peculiar Avarin cosmetic) and proud, well-shaped curves (the sheer, pleated dress highlighted them very well especially under the bright light of the moon).  Her hair was piled on top of her head with a single clip of unknown material (she had lost her other one) and her mask looked a bit awkward, like it belonged to a male (she had stolen it). 
 
"I mean, I don't want to meet them, I'd rather stay here," she amended. "I'm quite shy." She resumed eating her food with much gusto.
 
"You're not bored in spending time with the Ugliest Fëanorian in Arda?"  Celebrimbor seemed to need affirmation.
 
"No, of course not! I mean—I'm not bored with you—you're a nice young man.  And you're not ugly at all; you look a lot like your grandfather in fact."
 
"Oh and have you seen my grandfather?"
 
The elf maiden seemed to consider for a moment and said, "I've heard of him, he's very famous."
 
Celebrimbor's heart raced at the infinite possibilities and his sleeping Fëanorian hormones promptly started to rage furiously; he was more like his grandfather than he had previously thought.  He had heard his uncles say that Avarin elf maidens were more "generous" with their favors than the others.  He just might get lucky tonight.  He inched closer to her. 
 
She stiffened at their closeness. "Er...I'd like to get more food before I retire." 

Translated into a hormonal male's language, what she said held a wealth of meaning.  Celebrimbor's face broke into a wide grin, like a tiger that was promised a large meaty cow for dinner, and he said huskily, "No, no let me! Wait for me here, and I can escort you to your chambers later." 
 
He was practically humming with anticipation until he felt his Uncle Maitimo's hard and heavy left hand on his shoulder.  "Pinko – Ambarussa told me that you are speaking with a lady in the garden."
 
Celebrimbor's ears turned red in embarrassment and he whispered back hoarsely, "Uncle, please do not call me THAT anymore. I am not a CHILD."  ('in fact, I may beget my own tonight and make you a grand-uncle if I really, really, really get lucky,' but he didn't say that of course and the mere attempt would be more than worth it). 
 
"Take me to her, PINKO." He seized the full plate of food from his nephew and gave it to a servant.  "Now."  
 
They easily reached the glade where Celebrimbor had left her and the young elf's face fell. 

"Where is she?" 

"I left her right here Uncle. See the empty plates of food?  She ate all of that."

"Naturally! She's been eating only berries and sour wine for weeks!" His uncle muttered. 

Celebrimbor looked at his irate uncle.  'Thangorodrim', he could almost see his father Curufin's censuring face, so he wiped off the incredulous expression on his face and loyally trotted behind his Uncle as they walked around the grounds.  They had almost circled the entire garden when in the distance, they saw the skeletal frame of Thranduil of the Thindar, who is acting as his father Oropher's personal messenger.   By default, he had not been invited to the ball, but trust the Thindar to crash any gathering with free food and drinks. Thranduil was exerting a great effort in puffing out his non-existent chest, speaking with an elf maiden with dark hair wearing a sheer, pleated dress.

"I thought you were Legolas…you look a lot alike," the jarring voice of the elf maid reached Maitimo's ears. 

"Umm…no…but that sounds like a pretty interesting name though, but I'm sure your name is much, much lovelier, may I know who you are?" Thranduil was positively preening.

"Errr…well it's in the guest list.  I have to go inside now," the Avarin maiden said and went inside.  And before Thranduil can decide to follow her, Maitimo sped past him like he was being chased by an army of orcs, obviously trying to catch her.  "Leave it to the damn Fëanorions to chase anything wearing a skirt."


Back in Mandos

The Fëanorions split up among the different corridors to look for their candidate.  A few tense hours had passed since she was absorbed by the tapestries and Namo informed them that he did not know where the strands of Plot had taken She-of-Many-Names. 

Maitimo's face hardened when he saw the tapestry depicting how he had taken his own life and he paused to collect himself.  He leaned absently with eyes closed against Macalaurë's tapestry (when he tossed the Silmaril to the sea).   He could hear the voices of his brothers as they made their way to his location, which was at the end of the Hall. 

He heard a female shrieking from behind him, after which he was knocked off his feet when a wet, thrashing body crashed into him.  He instinctively wrapped his arms around her and they rolled together on the marble floor with their limbs entwined until his shoulder painfully hit the base of a pillar.  

"I'm tho dizzy, my head ith th..spinning--I almoth drowned!"  She said in a breathless voice.   She was perched on his waist with her thighs straddling him.  He swallowed nervously when he saw what she had on.  The torn, sheer fabric left nothing to the imagination and there were burn marks all over the hem, as if she had walked near an open fire.  The skirt revealed her thighs and what lay in-between, and worse, she was soaking wet.

"Here, wear this, Miss."  Maitimo looked a bit dazed as he watched his second brother wrap his coat around the nearly-naked female sitting on top of him.  "I'll help you up."  Macalaurë looked worriedly at their candidate who was still clutching her head as he tried to assist her.  She got up but would have fallen again if he had not caught her. 

"Well it seems that you are both preparing for your next mission so early." Namo's voice was oozing with honey.  And that is never a good sign. 

Tyelkormo and the others had joined them by now.   "You mean, she passed?"

Namo answered with a crooked smile on his face. "Yes she has, Eru be praised!"

"And what is our first task?" The brothers asked in unison. 

The Valar cleared his throat and paused, evidently enjoying their unusual undivided attention.  He pulled out an ominous-looking blood-red scroll from his dazzling white robes and unrolled it with a flourish.  "Here look and see:"

"Erotica, Slash, BSDM, F/M/M/M/M/M/M/M, SoloF, Voyeur,  Toy, Group, Lemon and Lime, Mature Themes, Graphic Sexual Content" 

Susan seemed to recover her senses, "Bullthit! I will not have thex with them!"

Namo beamed at her.  "Oh look!  She's even mastered your father's Shibboleth, how diligent!"

TBC