Season 3, Episode 1
By Lady Alyssa and Random Dent
An Apology: First for the lateness. We sort of fell out, but neither of us can remember why. We’re assuming since we can’t remember it can’t have been that serious. Secondly, this is Not Very Good. Our brains have rather rusted up over the summer, so we’re sorry, and we promise (cross hearts and hope to die) that the next one will be better. Thirdly, it’s short. But since it’s also Not Very Good, this probably A Good Thing.
Hyde Park, London: 1948
It was early afternoon, but it felt much later. The rain was managing to dampen down most of the smog, but it couldn’t completely and only a few weak beams of sunlight were filtering through.
A figure walked purposefully through the rain, tall and slender and wearing a very expensive suit, coat and hat and sheltering under a large umbrella. In his other hand he carried a nondescript package, so nondescript in fact, that any passer-by might have been suspicious. He approached the empty bandstand, waiting for the few other people in the park to disperse before lifting a loose step and replacing the package underneath with the one he arrived carrying.
He left as purposefully as he came, making sure there was a good distance between him and the bandstand before examining the contents of the package. As he read the first line his heart sank. Orders from Moscow. Oh bugger, not again. This was starting to get really embarrassing.
He stalked back to the bandstand and settled down to wait. Five minutes later another well dressed man appeared.
“It’s happened again, hasn’t it.”
“I believe Hyde Park is lacking in suitable… points for exchange.”
“My discretion is of course guaranteed, with the return of the package you are carrying.”
“I’ve learned that nothing is guaranteed in this game, Mr Forrester.”
“And I have learned that this is not a game, Mr Philby.”
They exchanged packages.
“Forrester, I’ve read the contents of your packages. I’ve taken them to our code experts and no one has even seen an alphabet like that before. Who exactly are you working for?”
Legolas just smiled enigmatically and walked off into the rain.
Summer, 2003, somewhere in the north of England:
“It is a balanced diet!” said Pippin.
“No, it’s not.”
“Look, the milk in the chocolate has calcium and protein in it, and the nuts have got protein and vitamins in them, and the sunny-d has vitamin c in it. Balanced diet.”
“Look, when you said you were going vegetarian I did loads of research! I cooked you whole food! I bought lentils!”
Sam tried not to make a face. Frodo, having large amounts of lentils left over, had fed the vast majority of them to Sam. Sam had eaten lentil soup, lentil stew, lentil cutlets, lentil a la lentil, lentil bisque, lentil melba and chocolate lentil surprise (lentils in a chocolate torte had indeed been very surprising). He was half the hobbit he used to be.
He tried to reason with Pippin. “Why do you want to be vegetarian anyway?”
“I thought it would come back to that eventually.”
“Look, women like a man who looks after himself, and cares about stuff.”
“Yeah, animals, the environment and all that shite. And I need to keep myself sexy.”
There was a pause, as no-one could think of a reply.
“Erm… wouldn’t fruit and nut chocolate be a bit better for you?”
Merry dragged Frodo off to one side. “I’ve got a plan.”
A few minutes later there was the sound of frying from the kitchen. Pippin went to investigate, and found Merry, Frodo and Sam gathered round the frying pan, eating hot, fresh bacon sandwiches. There was a general mumbling of ‘mmmm, bacony goodness, sweet, sweet bacon, pass the ketchup’.
Frodo looked sympathetically at Pippin. “Oh, I’ve got a recipe for lentil sausages if you want some.”
Pippin twitched. Then he leapt across the kitchen, grabbed Merry’s bacon sandwich and had swallowed half of it before he hit the ground.
“Good to have you back, Pippin.”
“There’s something missing.”
“Nope, bacon, bap, ketchup-”
“I meant something else.”
“There – there’s no shouting. No sarcasm-”
“No Legolas, you mean.”
“He’d tell us if he was moving out, wouldn’t he?”
Frodo paused. “No, he wouldn’t. He’d make sure we didn’t know.”
“All his stuff’s still there.”
“How do you know?”
“Borrowed a pair of his socks this morning.”
There had been a general drift towards the lounge and tv.
“Legolas. Look, on the telly.”
Merry pointed. Legolas was indeed on the tv, standing at the front of the crowd at the Albert Hall, watching a concert.
“Ah. Proms again.”
“What a lot of elves.”
“I wonder why no-one notices? I mean, it’s so obvious that they’re all elves.”
“No wonder you can’t get tickets.”
“Pippin, you’ve never been to a proper concert in your life.”
“Yes I have.” Pippin stuck his nose in the air. “I’m not entirely uncultured.”
Frodo and Sam looked at Pippin. There had to be something more to it, and Pippin was just dying for them to ask. So they didn’t.
St. James’ Park, London; August 2003
It was hot. Very hot. Not as hot as much of the rest of Europe, but pretty darn hot. The natives were reacting with the usual British reaction to the weather – complete and absolute surprise. You mean it gets hot in the summer? But that only happens in Spain, not here. Legs that should never have been shown the light of day were gaining an airing. Ill advised midriffs were popping out. People were stripping off and quietly melting. Even the St James’ Park ducks, doyens of the spying world, able to tell MI5 bread from CIA bread at twenty paces, were lurking in the shade.
Through this sweaty tableaux two figures walked. In defiance of the weather, both were dressed in immaculate three piece suits. They were, however, cream summer suits.
“So, Legolas, how goes life among the great unwashed?”
Legolas gave Glorfindel a filthy look. “Do you particularly care?”
“No, I was making polite conversation. How are the Fellowship?”
“As they normally are.”
“You reported that Aragorn had a crisis.”
“Which has been dealt with.”
“He’s still alive? How tiresome.”
“And what about the short hairy rude one?”
“Which? You have a choice of up to five on a bad day. And they all continue much as usual. I must ask, is there any end in sight for this?”
“Legolas, you do your job with them so well. Who else could we have to monitor and look after them without causing suspicion?”
“But surely they wouldn’t cause that much comment-”
“I saw one of Aragorn’s job applications. He listed ‘overthrow of Sauron’ as his proudest achievement. And that itself is even a lie.”
“Legolas, we will brook no argument. If these people,” he gestured around him with no little disgust, “found that the Firstborn still walked among them we’d never get any peace. You do a most valuable job.”
“I do not feel particularly valued.”
“Yes, I have been told that you asked Elbereth if you could quit.”
“I asked Elbereth if I could die.”
“You always were far too over dramatic. You have leave to spend time away from them, why don’t you take a holiday?”
“Because things are so much worse when I get back.”
“We need to go to HQ anyway. I’m sure you will be able to discuss matters further there.”
Glorfindel nodded to a ‘woman’ in a burka sat on a park bench, and lowered his voice. “See there? The name’s William Sawyer. Head of MI6’s Middle Eastern Section. Convinced that we’re some kind of Al-Quaeda offshoot. Also convinced that I don’t know I’m being followed. Nice chap, I knew his great-grandfather. Of course, his great-grandfather was convinced I was working for the Kaiser, but even so, it pays to be a little cautious.”
Aragorn had reacted in the only possible manly way to the heat. He was wearing Shorts. It took extreme heat to force him into his Shorts, and so this particular pair had been bought in 1907, and had only been worn about once a decade ever since. They were a pair of Shorts that had helped build an empire. Indeed, you could probably build an empire on these Shorts. They were knee length, khaki and everything about them screamed ‘sensible’. This image was reinforced by their being teamed with desert boots, sensible socks and sensible shirt.
He was stood on Huddersfield station waiting for a connection home after his tree surgery conference, when a passing train managed to hurl some grit into his eye. He blinked and tried to deal with the pain in a manly way – blinking, rubbing his eye, and muttering under his breath.
“Stop that. Stand still. Look up.” Someone delicately dabbed at his eye with a handkerchief and the grit was gone. “There. All done.”
Aragorn blinked a couple of times and looked blearily at the person. “Thank you.”
“Not at all. Are you ok?”
“Um, yes.” Aragorn was relatively unused to conversation with women. He had a vague feeling he should talk about babies or other female things, but also had a feeling that this was not a good opening gambit. “So… what brings you here?”
“Erm… I’m catching a train. I’m told a lot of people do that in stations.”
“Oh. Me too.”
The station speakers crackled into life. “Due to a signal malfunction we regret to inform passengers that all trains running through this station will be running at least thirty, three-zero, minutes late. On behalf of Network Rail if you haven’t got used to this by now, sod you.”
The woman looked at Aragorn and shrugged. “There’s a pub on the other platform. Fancy a pint?”
This was more territory he was used to. He nodded enthusiastically.
“Why the code names? We know it’s Galadriel in a power suit.”
Galadriel gave Legolas a withering stare, “Because L there is supposed to be some semblance of proper organisation round here. We are the International Elf Service-”
There was a discreet cough from Glorfindel, “Erm, we’re not. We got sick of the jokes after 1948. We’re now ‘Board for the Advancement, Defence, and Guidance of the Evlish Race’.”
“’BADGER’. We’re calling ourselves ‘BADGER’.”
“Well, for a while we were ‘BEAVER’, but we decided that it was actually worse than International Elf Service.”
Galadriel sighed and turned back to Legolas. “We here at BADGER are pleased with the work you’ve been doing so far L. Though you did refuse a certain number of missions-”
“I still refuse to go to any ‘Dr Who’ conventions.”
“Which is why R has been forced to feign an interest.”
Glorfindel shrugged. “It’s not that bad. I think I look quite dapper in a velvet suit, personally. And no-one’s ever dressed me as Romana…”
Galadriel looked at Legolas and smiled. “No, he doesn’t have the legs for it, does he?”
Legolas had to suppress the ‘stupid telepaths’ thought before it landed him a serious migraine. He changed the subject. “Why am I here exactly? If you’re pleased with my work-”
“We have a mission for you. There is a historian doing work on influential landowners of the nineteenth century. He has decided to concentrate on Elrond. This threatens to blow Elrond’s cover – he could well put two and two together and work out that Sir Edward Roundwell and Leonard Ormond are the same person.”
“Elrond’s calling himself Leonard?”
“Shush. We need you to do some destruction of documents for us, specifically any photographs of Elrond from that period that may still exist, and a couple of the more incriminating contracts. R has all the details for you.”
“Why can’t Elrond find someone and pay them to do it?”
“Because that would mean revealing to Elrond the existence of BADGER. If he got wind of this it would transform itself into the Organisation for the Advancement and Financial Gain of Elrond.”
“I was making a rhetorical point, it wasn’t supposed to have a good acronym. The idea is that certain, more power hungry, elves are left unaware of our existence, since that makes our operations much easier.” Galadriel paused. “You were thinking ‘then why’s Galadriel involved’ – well, it is very hard to keep secrets from a telepath.”
Legolas started concentrating very hard on the lyrics to ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ to stop any stray thoughts getting through. “Why me in particular then?”
“The archivist in question is… somewhat easily swayed by a well turned ankle.”
Legolas looked at his ankles. “Pardon? This doesn’t involve dressing in drag does it?”
“No, no. I was meaning that the archivist is middle aged, female, and, erm, receptive to your charms.”
“How do you know?”
“We sent her your photograph.”
“You’ll be fine L, now get going.”
“-and so Pippin says ‘I’m not a penguin, I always look like this’.”
Aragorn’s companion, who’s name turned out to be Mhairi Sine, laughed in a manner not unlike Sid James. While to most men this would be deeply off-putting, Aragorn found himself thoroughly enjoying the company of a woman who was the absolute antithesis of Arwen (who had spent centuries perfecting a laugh that sounded like tinkly silver bells, and thus now sounded like a broken wind chime).
“Buy you another pint?”
“No, they seem a bit more hopeful with the announcements. We’ll be going soon.”
“Oh.” Aragorn tried not to be entirely crestfallen. “I could give you a ring, next time you’re in town-”
“I’m not going to be in town for quite a while. I’m going to South America, to volunteer in a reforestation project.”
Aragorn tried not to look stunned. “Oh. Erm.”
Suddenly Mhairi grabbed his hand. “Come with me. Come away from all this. We’ll plant trees in Argentina and be happy.”
“You’ve told me about your flatmates. What is there for you here?”
“But, but, South America, I don’t have my passport-”
“We can go back and get it.”
Aragorn was in a quandary. To leave everything he’d ever known, to take a gamble on a new life with no going back… actually, it sounded like a really good idea. “Yes, yes, I’ll do it!”
“Wonderful! Isn’t that the train you were going to catch?”
“Yes, we’ll go get my passport and then – South America!”
They held each other as the train came in. But then a figure stepped off the train, and Mhairi suddenly let go of Aragorn.
“But- but- they told me you died in the Congo!”
“No, but it was a dashed near thing.”
Aragorn was momentarily drawn out of his shock. This man had actually used the phrase ‘dashed near thing’ without apparent irony.
“I – I still have your ring.” Mhairi drew a wedding ring on a chain from her shirt.
“I never stopped wearing mine.”
Aragorn sighed. It had indeed been too good to be true. He boarded the train without a backward glance.
Legolas sat down next to a dejected figure on Leeds station. Aragorn acknowledged him with a dejected nod.
“Worst for a long time.”
“I was promised a better life, then fate farted on me again. You?”
“Met irritating people, got molested by a middle aged librarian, got first degree burns on my hand, had to evade the police.”
“Is that all?”
Legolas looked at Aragorn, who did indeed look terrible. “Come on. Let’s get you home.”