Season 2, Christmas Special
By Lady Alyssa and Random Dent
Disclaimer: Things We Do Not Own: The Fellowship, the Valar, any of the films mentioned, Marks & Spencer, HM the Queen, English Heritage, Stonehenge or Avebury.
Rating: PG-13 (Valar; strife; language; Family Christmas)
Feedback: Please! Anything to avoid exam revision!
Story notes: For those sensible people who haven’t read the Silmarillion (this includes Random Dent, by the way), the Valar are the gods of Middle Earth who live in Valinor, and Elbereth is the chief female Valar. If you are insane enough to want to know more, read the Silmarillion (which is only slightly more fun than reading Ulysses), or go to an online Tolkien encyclopedia like this one: http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm
It was nearly closing time at Stonehenge. Time to sweep up the druids and inform Americans that no, Stonehenge is not open 24 hours. There was a blond haired man sat cross-legged next to one of the stones, in an attitude of meditation. One of the staff walked up to him.
“Oi, Maharishi, closing time, hop it.”
This got no response.
“Eternal oneness with the universe starts again at ten tomorrow.”
He sighed. He’d best find the lad with the pointy ears that worked the souvenir shop. He seemed to deal with the weird ones well.
A few minutes later Legolas was approached by an elf in an English Heritage uniform.
“Hey, are you Legolas of Mirkwood?”
Legolas opened his eyes in surprise. “What?”
“You are aren’t you? Sorry, you don’t know me,” he held out his hand which Legolas shook warily, “I would have only been about seventy when you went off on the quest, but I’ve always thought you were so cool.”
“Oh. Thank you. It was rather the high point of my career. Everything’s been downhill since.”
“Oooh, I know, it’s not right an elf of your standing working on the railway.”
“How do you know that?”
“You’ve still got your uniform on.”
“So what brings you here – no wait, don’t tell me, you’re looking for the mystic portal to Valinor?”
“Yes. Why haven’t I transcended?”
“Tourists. Whole place was getting knee deep in them. There was this nasty incident where this couple from Birmingham were accidentally taken up to Valinor, and the explanations took days. They threatened to sue you know, and Elbereth said you can’t sue ethereal beings, but they were having none of it and…”
“So where is the portal now?”
“Avebury. Dead handy for the post office and the shops. You want to be doing what you were doing here next to the really big stone at Avebury. I can give you directions, you have got a car haven’t you?”
“Ummm, no, I can’t drive.” Legolas tried not to shudder.
“Come on, it really is closing time and I’ll get into trouble if I don’t get you out.” They began to walk to the exit together. “Tell you what, I’ll give you a lift out there. Our Táraadar does the shopping for the Valar normally, but he’s off to New Zealand for a month, so I’m doing it for them. If you come round the supermarket with me, I’ll drive you out to Avebury, and you can deliver the shopping for me, ok?”
“Oh, thank you. Oh, if we’re in the supermarket we can get some prawn crackers for the journey.”
So it was that Legolas found himself trying to ring the doorbell of a bizarrely half-timbered castle in Valinor, weighed down with shopping bags. The door opened.
“Legolas? What are you doing here? Why have you brought shopping?”
“Umm, Encirith, who’s filling in for Táraadar, offered me a lift in return for bringing the shopping, and I’m here because I need to talk to you.”
“Well, come in, and help me unpack this lot.”
As they unpacked the bags Elbereth talked inconsequentially about the weather, the other Valar, and knitting.
“You’ve been most helpful Legolas. Now, lets get a pot of tea on and we can talk.”
They sat down in the living room. A lot of the furniture was floral print. Doilies were much in evidence, and it was generally the kind of tasteless decor Frodo would have approved of.
Legolas took a deep breath. “I want to die.”
“Now, dear, we all feel like that some of the time…”
“No, I mean it. I have thought it over very seriously, considering all the possibilities. Everything I do is ruined by the other members of the Fellowship. I want to quit, and the only way to do that is to die.”
Elbereth looked taken aback. “This is news. I know we granted immortality to the others as a punishment…”
“Was the intention to punish me?”
“No, dear. But it gave the whole story of the quest a more finished feel if you all suffered the same fate.”
“If there was any way of sending him back, believe me, I would. Anyway, would you want to be in the same afterlife as your grandfather?”
“No, I want to Die with a capital D. No afterlife, the end.”
“Oh, it’s a serious decision to make.”
“As much as I’ve enjoyed taking tea with you, I’m not really in the habit of calling on higher beings just for a cup of Darjeeling.”
“It’s Assam, dear.”
“That’s not the point. This is what I want and you are the only ones who can grant it.”
“Oh, well, I’d better invite the others round, we’ll need to discuss it.”
The Valar gathered in Elbereth’s front room, in a way suspiciously similar to Frodo’s WI meetings. The presence of so many higher beings was making Legolas nervous, so he tried to hide behind one of the two terribly retro lamps, but was thwarted by the Valar’s questioning.
“So, could you explain again why you want to die, Legolas?”
“The Fellowship. The ruin everything I do. However hard I try to get rid of them they still come back. This is the only way to be rid of them.”
“Who are the Fellowship?”
“You don’t remember the Fellowship? Well, you know all that unpleasantness with Sauron at the end of the third age?”
“Well, they rather saved Middle earth. So we invited them back here for some tea and biscuits and a nice chat about what they’d done.”
“Oh yes, and they brought Gandalf and those two short gentlemen.”
“Gandalf? Oh, you mean Olorin, I thought we decided he couldn’t come back.”
“That was why we decided he couldn’t come back.”
“Ah, it’s all coming back to me now. What was it the short one said about Yavanna again?”
“That ‘the giver of fruits should have bigger melons’.”
“Thanks a lot, it took me five millennia to forget about that and then you go reminding me again. I think we should grant his request.”
“Maybe he’s got a point.”
“No, about Yavanna.”
“Don’t you talk about my wife like that unless you want to wake up to having a mountain dropped on your head one morning.”
This was all getting a bit silly, so Elbereth decided to weigh in. “I don’t think we should just grant his request, it might give people the wrong idea and then we’d never get any peace.” The other Valar nodded.
“Yes, we shouldn’t just give him what he wants, there should be some kind of quest or challenge.”
“That’s so passé, and anyway, he’s already been on a quest and that’s what caused all the problems in the first place.”
“Then maybe we should just make sure he knows what he’s asking for, it might scare him out of it.”
“You think that someone who lives with Olorin understands the concept of fear?”
“We just need to approach this from a different direction. You know that film that’s on every Christmas? Perhaps something like that?”
The other Valar nodded.
“Who’s going to show him then?”
The Valar, as one higher being, looked at their feet. Elbereth looked at them disappointedly. “Tulkas, you haven’t got anything better to do this week, why don’t you do it?”
“But why don’t you make Este do it?”
“Because it’s her turn to decorate the Christmas tree.”
“But why are we even celebrating Christmas? We’re gods! We shouldn’t be celebrating another deity’s birthday, it’s like buying your competitor’s products.”
“Yes dear, now go and see to Legolas.”
Tulkas made a face at Elbereth behind her back and dragged Legolas out of the room.
A few moments later, due to the power of the Valar, he found himself on the back of a speeding motorbike.
“Tulkas? What are you doing?”
Legolas had never been one for religion. He’d met the Valar, and didn’t feel the need to believe in them. It was like believing in Aragorn. However, he’d never envisaged clinging on to a god for dear life while hurtling along at speed across some very rough fields.
Tulkas decided to explain. “Elbereth said to show you about the film they always show at christmas. So I’m doing the Steve McQueen bits from the Great Escape.”
“Dunno. Escape from your troubles?”
“I’ve tried that, moved house, emigrated, changed my name and faked my own death frequently. They always find me again. Are you sure this is what Elbereth meant?”
Tulkas shrugged, forcing Legolas to hold onto him even harder. “Look out, Nazis!” He did a swift turn on the bike. “We’re going over the fence!”
Before Tulkas attempted to jump the barbed wire fence on the bike they were sucked back into the living room, bike and all, and came to a sudden standstill.
Elbereth was looking at them with mild despair. “And what exactly were you doing there Tulkas?”
“The Great Escape. Film that’s always on telly over Christmas.”
“That was not the film I intended. And what did you think that was going to teach Legolas?”
“Dunno. It was you that told me to do it, I thought you were being ineffable again.”
“Tulkas, why don’t you start putting the Christmas lights up, there’s a dear.” He skulked off, and Elbereth turned to Lorien. “Why don’t you have a go dear. Actually, just to check, what would you be doing with Legolas?”
“Telling him that there is a Santa Claus.”
“No dear, wrong movie again. Does anyone know which film I’m talking about?”
“Muppets’ Christmas Carol.”
Elbereth sighed. “Oh dear. If something’s worth doing properly it’s worth doing yourself. The film I meant was ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.”
The assembled Valar went “oooooh, of course.”
Legolas folded his arms. “I want to die. I don’t want to have never existed. This is pointless.”
“No it isn’t dear, now come with me.”
They materialised near a familiar looking city.
“Ancient Rome? But what about the rest of my life? What about the quest?”
“Oh, nothing changed. They took Glorfindel on the quest instead. Did the same as you, except he won the orc killing contest at Helm’s Deep, got forty seven you know.”
“The little bastard! If I ever see him again I’ll-”
“You’ll do what? Tell him that you want to hurt him because in an alternate universe where you were never born he killed more orcs than a non-existent you? Anyway, in this universe he went out onto the rooftops at Minas Tirith to look at the stars after the final victory, tripped up and fell down a chimney into the kitchen furnace. Very nasty.”
“Why are we here?”
“I’m a deity dear, not a philosopher.”
Legolas gave her a look normally only reserved for Aragorn. “I meant, why are we in Ancient Rome?”
“Oh, I’m showing you how a few things would have turned out differently without you. Now, it’s a few days after the battle of Cannae, which I’m sure you know Rome lost.”
“Yes. I was there you know.”
“Oh no you weren’t dear. You were never born. Now, let’s see what’s going on in the senate today, shall we?”
They entered a grand classical building, full of men who looked like they hadn’t been able to find clothes and had just wrapped themselves up in a bedsheet. In the centre of the room was Aragorn, looking very unhappy.
Aragorn was addressed by a man in a bedsheet. “Aragornus, you are charged with treason against the city of Rome, cowardice and anything else we haven’t solved recently.”
“I was not a coward.”
“Publius says that he heard you say, and I quote “run for it lads, there’s no way we’re going to win”.”
“I made a tactical retreat in the face of impossible circumstances.”
Legolas turned to Elbereth. “But he didn’t run away! He was right next to me, and we fought to the last man. And last elf. And the two of us ran away after the rest of them were dead, but that was only because we heard that Arwen had joined the Carthaginians and we didn’t want to be taken prisoner.”
“Shush dear, and listen.”
Another bedsheet stood up. “So, a tactical retreat involves all the men under your command running like buggery away from the Carthaginians, dropping their armour as they went and screaming ‘run away! run away!’?”
“They may have been slightly over enthusiastic.”
“Aragornus, we send our men to fight telling them ‘come back with your shield or on it’. Your lot barely managed to come back with their underwear.”
Elbereth led Legolas out of the senate house. “I find long trial scenes really rather dull, don’t you?”
“But what happened? And why did he run away?”
“Have you ever realised how much Aragorn looks up to you?”
“He doesn’t look up to me. Squints occasionally, but he won’t admit he needs glasses.”
“Without you, he had no-one to look to for an example of valour. He isn’t the warrior you know without your influence.”
“But fighting is what makes Aragorn… Aragorn.”
“Yes. And without you he is not a brave warrior. Let’s see how he got on after his reputation was ruined.”
Their surroundings changed to a rural landscape. Aragorn was ploughing a field in front of a small hut, whistling to himself and looking generally content. Then there was a shriek from the house.
“I hate you, you know that!”
“Yes, dear. You keep reminding me.”
“There’s a rat! In the hut! Get it out, now!”
“It’s only one rat.”
“Get it out! I never had to deal with rats at Rome, but you screwed it up!”
“Sorry dear.” He began to walk towards the house.
“Don’t you dare try apologising to me!”
“Sorry. Where is the rat?”
Legolas turned to Elbereth. “I didn’t think Arwen could get any worse. I was wrong. She only used to start about half of their conversations with ‘I hate you’.”
Shouting continued from the hut, accompanied by numerous crashes.
“I think we’d better leave,” said Elbereth. “In this reality she tends to throw knives instead of pans.” She snapped her fingers.
Legolas didn’t even bother turning in the direction of the noise. “Ah, I see we’re catching up with Frodo.”
At this point Frodo swung past on the end of a very long candelabra, dressed in full monk’s robes and still gibbering.
“Yes, I’m afraid that without your influence, Frodo became rather unmanageable during the mediaeval period. Sam tried his best, but there’s only so much one Hobbit can do on his own. I think it’s the wall paintings that set him off.”
Elbereth gestured round the cathedral. It was a stunning example of mediaeval architecture and, indeed, wall painting, which meant that every other wall was covered in depictions of Hell and Purgatory and even the angels on the more positive walls had big staring eyes.
Frodo was halfway up the high altar when a group of monks led by Sam burst in yelling “There he is!”
“He’d better not break the altarpiece, it’s practically new.”
“Someone go get the Bishop!”
“His staff’s got the curly bit on the end, it’s really useful for dragging him down again.”
Elbereth continued, “It’s really quite tragic for someone to have to spend three hundred years in Bedlam.”
Legolas winced. “Three hundred years?”
“Yes, and Sam was very lonely without him.”
“Oh come off it. I know what’d happen if you separated Sam from Frodo, he’d just settle down, get married and have a really big family.”
“Alright, so he wasn’t that lonely, but it wasn’t at all nice for Frodo.”
The Bishop had come in and was poking Frodo with the end of his staff, trying to dislodge him.
Legolas put up his arms in mock surrender. “Alright, alright. I get it, I’ve learned my lesson.”
“I beg to differ dear.” Elbereth snapped her fingers.
They found themselves in India, in the nineteenth century, at the height of the Raj.
“We’re going to see the Viceroy.”
Legolas had a horrible thought. “This isn’t Gandalf, is it?”
“Oh, goodness no. In fact, your existence being erased had no effect on Gandalf whatsoever, and I think you’ll agree that we both know far too much about his life already.”
“So if we’re not here to see Gandalf then who are we here to see?”
Elbereth’s answer was cut off by a familiar voice. “Ah wanted elephants! Ah said elephants! An’ see that! See that! That’s a horse! Ah know a horse when Ah see one and that’s no an elephant.”
The lackey on the receiving end of the rant took two steps back. “You said you wished to hunt tigers, sir, you did not say what you wanted to be hunting tigers on.”
“You always hunt tigers on elephants! Everybody knows that!”
“Sorry, sir, but I don’t know where I can find an elephant at short notice.”
“Ah, never mind. Just get someone to go out and shoot a tiger so Ah can huv m’photo taken wi’it.”
“Yes, sir.” The lackey disappeared. Pippin took off his solar topi, and scratched his head. In full tropical suit he was almost respectable, that is, until he opened his mouth.
Legolas picked his jaw up off the ground. “Pippin is Viceroy of India?”
“Of course not. Merry’s the Viceroy. Pippin’s just his second in command.”
“But what have I go to do with this? I never did anything to stop them from getting a job out here.”
“It’s all to do with chaos theory. You probably don’t remember, but in 1723 you bumped into a man named Archibald Carpenter. Well, who would have thought it, when you didn’t bump into him it started a whole complicated chain of events which ended up with Merry becoming Viceroy of India.”
While extensive scientific tests have shown Merry is not in fact the devil, he shares the same uncanny ability to turn up when his name is mentioned, in this case, with a stunning young woman, complete with handy eye level cleavage, on his arm.
“Peregrin old chap! How’s the tiger hunting coming along?”
“Merry doesn’t speak like that!”
“He does now. There’s something about being in charge of large parts of the British Empire which gives one this incredible urge to use expressions like ‘top hole’ and ‘what what’.”
“But what about tropical diseases? Shouldn’t they be dead of malaria? Or perhaps something even worse?” Legolas asked hopefully.
“No, funnily enough Hobbits seem to be immune to most of the illnesses you can get out here, it’s how they managed to climb the promotion ladder so quickly.”
“They don’t like the taste of them much.”
“What about the Indian Mutiny?”
“That was ages ago, they’ve missed it.”
“So nothing bad happens to them at all?”
“No, they become incredibly rich and eventually come back to England and retire to enormous country houses. Oh, and the average height in the country decreases by about an inch and a half.”
Legolas looked confused, then worked through what Elbereth had just told him. “Eww. Can we leave. Now. Please?”
Elbereth snapped her fingers again.
Legolas and Elbereth materialised hovering above a battlefield.
Legolas looked at the soldiers. “Oh. Hastings.” Then a thought struck him. “Gimli…”
“Oh, that looks like him over there, pinned down by a large group of bloodthirsty Norman cavalrymen.” Elbereth smiled brightly.
“Gimli is a good fighter. Very handy with his axe.”
“Well dear, ever since he lost that orc killing contest with Glorfindel he rather lost his confidence. All the other English soldiers seem to be doing much better than him. But there are rather a lot of Normans over there.” She turned to Legolas. “You were fighting for the Normans weren’t you? Or you would have if you existed.”
“Yes, ok, I was fighting for William the Bast- ahem, William the Conqueror.” Legolas looked at the ground. He knew what was coming next, so saved Elbereth the bother of telling the story. “And I helped Gimli get off the battlefield and got him a job in the Imperial Guard at Constantinople. And now I never existed so Gimli was sold into prostitution and spent several years in horrific misery before he was finally eaten alive by a very drunk Norman called Tancred.”
“Don’t be sarcastic, it doesn’t suit you. No, Gimli didn’t become an Imperial Guard, because it’s very difficult if you have no knees. Or elbows. But oddly enough, the man who did that to him was called Tancred. Look, that’s him over there. And isn’t that King Harold? Oh. Oh. Eaoooh. I think getting shot in the eye would be preferable to that.”
“Are we quite finished? Are there any other historic events that I have managed to change?”
“No. All finished. Still want to have your existence ended?”
Legolas opened his mouth to speak, then took a minute to think. Was total obvlion actually better than living with the Fellowship? He paused to remember the good times, like when Merry kicked Gandalf down the stairs, or when Pippin got himself locked into the chest freezer for a week. Or even the time, thirty years ago, when Aragorn had actually remembered his birthday. Reading the Grauniad with Gimli. Watching the garden blossom under Sam’s careful attention. And all the times that Frodo had quite seriously injured him during a psychotic incident he was probably only doing it out of misplaced affection.
Legolas turned to Elbereth. “No, I don’t want to die. I want to go home. Actually, I need to go shopping, I didn’t buy anyone any Christmas presents because I thought I‘d be dead. I don’t suppose you could send me back to the nearest Marks and Spencers to home?”
“Of course.” They now appeared back in Elbereth’s front room. “just put on these ruby slippers.”
Legolas folded his arms. “No. I know you are all powerful beings. You can send me back without ruby slippers.”
“Spoilsport.” Elbereth snapped her fingers and Legolas disappeared. She turned to the kitchen door, which was slightly ajar. “You can all come out now, I’ve sent him back.”
The rest of the Valar filed into the front room. “How did it go?”
“He fell for it. Hook line and sinker. Elves always do. You tell them some tall tale about how this would be what life was like without them, show their friends dying horribly and they’re putty in your hands.”
“Oh, I know. I saw what you did with the dwarf. Very inventive, I must say.”
“Yes, yes. Now someone put the kettle on, it’s time for ‘Watercolour Challenge’.”
Legolas materialised in the middle of Marks and Spencer, but the other shoppers were too absorbed in last minute panic buying to notice.
A voice came over the tannoy. “This shop will be closing in fifteen minutes. Please take all your purchases to the checkouts. Thank you, and Merry Christmas.”
Legolas looked up. There was an oversized (but since this is Marks and Spencers, tasteful) calendar on the wall. It said ‘24th December’. Legolas screamed. And kept screaming. He kept on screaming as he pranced at speed round the shop, panicking and buying the nearest things he thought the rest of the Fellowship might like. He was still screaming as he paid at the checkout, which caused the shop assistant to check his signature about five times. He only finally stopped screaming as he reached the bus stop, much to the relief of the other people in the bus shelter.
Christmas morning. Or to be more precise, ‘Christmas so early in the morning it’s practically still last night’, since hobbits when presents and huge amounts of food are involved are amazingly light sleepers, but surprisingly loud at getting up so everyone else is awake. Aragorn had got to the stereo before Legolas, so instead of carols they were listening to Slade. On repeat play. This was popular with the hobbits who were bouncing round the room like they were on drugs and singing along. Gimli had painted his helmet silver and gold. Gandalf had even got into the spirit of things, had wrapped tinsel round his hat and staff and was demanding to be known as ‘Gandalf the Sparkly’.
It had been decided that no presents were to be opened until after Christmas Breakfast. Everyone get dressed in their best clothes, and were fed enough bacon sandwiches to make them explode. And then to the presents…
Legolas handed out hastily wrapped parcels to everyone and smiled nervously.
Merry and Pippin opened theirs simultaneously. “Socks… wow. Very… socky.”
Legolas looked a bit manic. “I thought so.”
Aragorn was next. “A shaving kit. Like the one you bought for last year. It was such a shame that I accidentally dropped it down the toilet on Boxing Day.”
As was traditional in the house, Gandalf drank the present he got from Legolas. “Mnnnn. Strawberry shower gel. Much nicer than mandarin.” He licked his lips and burped a bubble.
Sam was very appreciative of his Christmas cactus. Frodo was already planning tomorrow’s menu from the new Delia Smith book that Legolas had bought him. But Gimli was the most impressed with his gift, a tool belt filled with useful things. He was now looking round the house speculatively poking things and hoping they’d fall down so he could put them back up again.
Legolas settled down to watch the hobbits fist fight over the remote control. It was actually quite nice to be back.
It was after Christmas Dinner. The Fellowship were all passed out asleep in front of the tv, snoring at various volumes. The tv played away to itself.
“And now on BBC 1, the Christmas address from Her Majesty, The Queen.”
The shot changed to an elderly woman with big glasses.
“Hello nation. Well, quite frankly it’s been a complete bugger of a year, and I can say that with impunity because there’s not a man jack of you watching this. You’re all sleeping off dinner, arguing or watching Sky. I suppose my daughter might be watching. Hello Anne, you’ve got a criminal record and I haven’t, hahahaha! Oh, that did feel good. Now, back to business. I would like to name personally everyone who’s fucked me over in the past year, alphabetically. Starting with ‘a’ for…”