A/N: If, upon seeing the second installment of the Hobbit trilogy, you thought, "Yes! An original female character with no basis in the book! She kicks ass! And she shoots better than Legolas! Hooray!" this is not the story for you. Warning: Mary Sue bashing ahoy.
Dedicated to the long-suffering, patient, and talented Templa Otmena, beta reader extraordinaire. Words cannot express the debt I owe this woman.
Putting Things Right
Thranduil stared at the corpse. It lay where Legolas had dropped it, headless, blood oozing sluggishly over the polished floor. "What new evil is this."
Thranduil looked up. Legolas stood at the throne room's entrance, uncertain, one hand resting on his sword's hilt. "What troubles you?"
"I have killed a prisoner of war," Thranduil said. "Should I not be troubled?"
Legolas glanced at the decapitated orc. "It caused you no grief at the time."
"No." Thranduil crouched down to study the body: the clawed fingers, the gray-green skin, and finally the truncated neck. "Why is that?"
"It is an orc," Legolas pointed out. "Killing them is what we do."
"But not prisoners," Thranduil said. "Not ones who cannot defend themselves. Such an act is worthy of the kin-slayers of Gondolin."
He stood and motioned to the throne room's guards. Moving stiffly in their bulky armor, they lurched forward to drag the corpse away.
"I did not come here to speak of orcs," Legolas said, stepping aside to let the guards pass. "Or, at least not that one. Father, I—"
Thranduil raised a hand, silencing his son. He thought he heard—there. He turned his head. On the edge of hearing, a distant roar, like the rush of wind over a green sea of trees. "Do you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Legolas asked.
"Something is coming."
Legolas frowned. "I hear nothing."
A guard stepped into the room. He turned a full ninety-degrees to bring his faceplate in line with the king, then bowed. His armor held rigid at the waist, forcing him to bend from the knees. "Your Majesty, the Lady Galadriel requests an audience."
"Oh? Speaking of kin-slayers," Thranduil said.
"Father," Legolas said, reprovingly.
"Very well." Thranduil retreated to his throne. "Clean that up," he instructed the guard, gesturing to the smear of blood on the floor. The guard tilted his body in the direction he indicated. "Then grant the lady entrance."
The lady came dressed for war. A silver breastplate covered her chest, and a shirt of delicately wrought mithril gleamed over her shoulders. She wore mail upon her legs, too, and high leather boots. The guards had taken her weapons before granting her entrance, but Thranduil thought she hardly needed them. With her golden hair bound up and her face bare and hard and shining with purpose, he could hardly imagine any enemy standing before her.
She strode to the foot of the throne's dais and bowed, the courtesy of one ruler to another. Thranduil inclined his head in return.
"Lady," he said. "You honor us. How may we assist you?"
"Your Majesty," Galadriel replied, straightening. "There is great evil here."
Thranduil felt the familiar clench of anger in his stomach, old and festering rage at the enemy who encroached nearer with every year, fury at his own inability to drive Morgoth's spawn from the Greenwood. He did not need the Lady of the Golden Wood, sheltered and protected by a Ring of Power, to point out his failure.
He swallowed down the burning taste of bile, and answered with diplomatic calm. "Well do I know it, my lady, and oft have I said as much, when the White Council deigned to hear me. Does this mean the wise of Lothlórien have heeded my words at last, and come to join our fight upon Dol Guldur?"
From the corner of his eye, he saw Legolas frown. H'm. Perhaps he had not answered as diplomatically as he thought.
"It is not of Dol Guldur that I speak," Galadriel said. "This is an evil subtle and insidious, and close to your heart, Elvenking."
Thranduil started to answer, then paused. The roaring sound was louder, now. Closer.
"Do you hear that?" Galadriel said. "They know. They are coming."
"Who is?" Thranduil demanded. "Speak plainly. What threat do you see?"
"You know." Galadriel turned to Legolas. "You have seen them also."
Legolas shook his head. "Lady, forgive me. I hear nothing. I know nothing of this evil of which you speak."
"Ah." Galadriel's eyes softened. "It is powerful, this time. It has reached deep into your heart, my prince."
"What has?" Thranduil stood, his hands clenching into fists. Morgoth take all the Noldor, anyway. Smooth-talking, double-tongued, untrustworthy— "What evil threatens my son?"
"Your Majesty," Galadriel said. "What do you desire above all else?"
"The Arkenstone," Thranduil said, then stopped. He shook his head. "No. That isn't right. I desire above all else to keep my people safe. I don't know why I said that."
"I do." Galadriel drew a deep breath, her shoulders squaring beneath their coat of mail. "A great sorcerer has turned his attention here. Long have you escaped his gaze, Elvenking, but no longer."
"A sorcerer?" Thranduil frowned. "Saruman?"
"Nay. This is another, removed from this world, and yet woven in every fiber of its being. Long have I known of him, and yet until now his working has been one of benevolence, even love. I know not why that changed when he cast his eye upon Mirkwood, and yet it has."
"Who is this sorcerer?"
"I'll not speak his true name here. The Believers call him Pee-Jay."
"That noise." Galadriel paused, and in the silence Thranduil heard the roaring sound grown yet louder. "They are a great power, also separate from this world, and yet a part of it. Their wrath is great. They are coming."
"To Eryn Galen? Why?"
"The sorcerer has erred. He grew too great, and forgot the source of his power. He has angered the Believers who gave him strength, and they have come for retribution."
"But why here?"
"Because this is where he has erred most grievously. It is not the first time—or it will not be—" Galadriel broke off and shook her head. "Forgive me. The Sight does odd things to one's sense of time. The wrongs done here pale in comparison to his treatment of Faramir, or they will, but it is Mirkwood the Believers love most dearly, and their wrath is greater for it."
"What love have they for us?" Thranduil asked sharply.
In answer Galadriel looked aside, to Legolas. Thranduil followed her gaze. "My son? Know you of this threat?"
Legolas shook his head. "No, Father. I hear nothing."
"Or rather, you have heard it so long your ears no longer register it," Galadriel said. "Tell me, child, how fare your dreams of late?"
Legolas did not flinch from her gaze, but his face was troubled. "They are only dreams," he said.
"And this?" Galadriel's gesture encompassed the throne room, the watching guards, and the spot, now clean of blood, where the orc had lain. "Does naught strike you as odd? Different from how you know your father to be?"
Thranduil bristled, but held his tongue. Legolas glanced at him, then away. "We have fought long against the enemy, my lady. You may question his methods, but the Elvenking has kept our people safe without the aid of any Ring or artifice of power."
Oh, and didn't that set the Lady of Light's teeth on edge. Inwardly, Thranduil cheered.
"Quite so," Galadriel said, recovering herself. "And yet evil has penetrated here nonetheless."
"What evil?" Thranduil said, losing patience. "What spell has this sorcerer wrought?"
"Your Majesty!" Tauriel pushed her way past the guards into the room. She faltered on seeing Galadriel, then bowed. "My lady."
Thranduil sighed. "What is it, Tauriel?"
The warrior maiden straightened, pushing her hair out of her face. "Your Majesty, the orcs pursued the Dwarves to Laketown. I followed them and dispatched many single-handedly, despite having a limited supply of arrows and no backup. Oh, except for your son, who followed me and fought bravely, though he did waste many arrows shooting the enemy at close range, which left him none when he could have really used them."
Thranduil stared, then turned wordlessly to Legolas.
Legolas closed his eyes. "Yes. This is what I came to report. Father, forgive me. I know not what madness overtook me."
"Forgive you?" Thranduil said. "You, a prince and a commander of this realm, and you, a sworn warrior of the home guard – you decided to go off against an enemy force alone, with no scouts to tell you of their strength, no warriors to support your back, no provisions or supplies or extra weapons—"
"I did have a horse," Legolas said. He paused. "I don't quite recall how I got the horse. I didn't have it when we fought on the river."
"We had to go!" Tauriel tossed her head. "The enemy invaded our land, and you were doing nothing! Also, I may have fallen in love with one of the dwarves."
Thranduil was speechless. Finally he turned to Galadriel. "This is what you meant? The sorcerer's spell. It makes no sense."
"Yes," Galadriel said. Her mouth tightened to a thin line. "The sorcerer's greatest error, and the focus of the Believers' wrath, stands before you."
"Tauriel? But she is a sworn warrior of the realm. I grant her actions were rash, and unbecoming, and possibly treasonous, but she has served faithfully for centuries."
"Has she?" Galadriel raised an eyebrow. "Think back. Has she really?"
Thranduil bit his lip. He felt as if a fog were clearing from his mind. He began to see a glimmer of light shining through.
"Father, no!" Legolas cried. "I love her."
"Do you?" Galadriel asked. "Have you spoken to her about it?"
"Er, no," Legolas said. "Mostly I just stand and look longingly from a distance."
"He's very pretty, but dialogue isn't really his strength," Tauriel chipped in.
"Truly?" Galadriel said. "And yet the Elvenking sent Legolas to negotiate Mirkwood's position at the Council of Elrond. One would think he had some skill in words."
"What?" Thranduil said.
"Oh, has that not happened yet?" Galadriel pinched the bridge of her nose. "Your pardon, I mean you will send him. Will send. Morgoth take these time tenses."
"He is a prince of the Sindar, and I am only a lowly Silvan Elf," Tauriel barged into the resulting silence. "Ours is a forbidden love. That's why I went for the Dwarf."
They all stared at her. "Now you put it like that, it does sound a bit odd," Legolas said at last.
"Odd? It's the greatest load of tripe since Sauron's oath to Ar-Pharazôn." Galadriel snorted. "The girl is nothing but a Mary Sue, and not even the great Pee-Jay's weavings can make her aught else."
Thranduil frowned. He had the strangest sense he'd heard that word before, but he couldn't place it. The distant roar grew louder. "What is this Mary Sue?"
"Oh, my head," Legolas muttered. He rubbed his temples with his fingers.
Galadriel gave him a sympathetic look. "Mary Sue is the name by which the Believers call the invaders of our world. They come in the form of young and beautiful women to ensnare the hearts of Middle-earth's heroes. By themselves they are harmless, but in their multitudes, I fear, they can be exhausting."
"You have encountered these creatures before?" Thranduil asked Legolas. "Why did you not tell me?"
"I did not remember," Legolas said. "Father, I swear to you, until this moment I had no memory of—ai!" He doubled over, clutching his head as if to crush the skull between his hands. "That never happened. How can I remember things that never happened?"
Thranduil went to him, but on reaching his son he could do nothing but hold him while Legolas shuddered. He snarled in helpless fury. "What is happening?"
"It is their nature," Galadriel said. "They are creatures from another world—a thousand thousand other worlds. Oft have they targeted your son, but they come as if in a dream, and leave no lasting impression. At least, they have not until now."
She rounded on Tauriel, her eyes hardening. "How did you ensnare the sorcerer?"
"I don't understand," Tauriel said. "I am only a simple Silvan Elf—"
"Oh, have done," Galadriel snapped. "The world is warping even now, and you sink into it like a stone thrown into a pond, with the ripples running out around you. Only the sorcerer has that kind of power to affect the Creator's world. What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything." Tauriel lifted her chin. "You just can't bear to see a maiden be strong, and self-reliant, and powerful. Without me, there would be no strong women in your Creator's tale at all."
"I beg your pardon?" Galadriel's eyes flashed. She drew herself up, her armor shining as if of its own light.
Tauriel quailed. "That's not what I meant. The sorcerer has treated you well, has he not?"
"It is not my kingdom you invaded."
"It's not just Legolas, is it?" Thranduil said. He took a step toward the shield-maiden, placing himself between the Mary Sue and his son. "Why did I kill that orc? And why does the Arkenstone call to me so? It never did before. And, moreover, why do my guards wear armor so heavy they can barely walk, and helms that block their sight? Oh, this is a foul and subtle working indeed."
Tauriel blinked up at him. "Don't you think they need good armor?"
"They are Wood-elves," Thranduil roared, so suddenly that even Galadriel jumped. "They fight light and swift—they do not clank into battle like tüg sons of men. What have you done?"
"Nothing, Your Majesty. I am sworn to serve—"
"You forsook your oaths to run alone after the enemy on a quest for glory." Thranduil slashed the air with his hand. "You are no guard of Eryn Galen, and if you were, I would strip you of your rank and cast you out for treason."
The noise outside built to a crescendo. Thranduil could discern individual voices in the multitude, howling for blood. Tauriel cast a nervous glance over her shoulder. "Your Majesty, I don't know what you're talking about. I am only a humble Silvan Elf—"
"Enough." Thranduil gripped his sword's hilt. "Think you to scorn my own people? I did not forge an alliance with the Laiquende to disparage and mock them. I say again, you are no part of my people, and your oaths are null and void. Begone from this place. Lift your foul spells from my heart and the heart of my son or by Elbereth's light I will break them myself, and you along with them."
Tauriel raised her hands. "My lord, this is madness! You need me. Someone has to carry the franchise, and believe me, a bunch of Dwarves aren't gonna cut it. Even if some of them are unexpectedly hot. Legolas, you saw them. Tell him."
"I know not this franchise of which you speak," Legolas said. His voice was strained. "But it seems to me the Creator's world endured many years before you came to us, and it will go on with or without you. Preferably without."
"Besides which, we have the dragon," Galadriel said cheerfully. "He should do well enough for the franchise."
Thranduil ignored this. He motioned to the guards, who clanked forward and seized Tauriel by the arms.
"My lord, no! No, please!" Her wails trailed back to them as the guards hauled her from the throne room. They rose to a sudden shriek as the outer doors opened, and Thranduil heard the answering roar of the Believers outside. Then, abruptly, they fell silent.
Galadriel brushed her hands one against the other. "That's done. Tell me, Your Majesty, how are you feeling? Any abnormally murderous longings for gaudy pieces of jewelry?"
"No," Thranduil said slowly. "It is unsettling, though, to think such a creature wormed its way so deep into the heart of our kingdom without our knowledge. Before your coming, I would have said she belonged as much as my own son does. It is an unquiet thought."
"It was not by any failure on your part," Galadriel said kindly. "This was a deep and subtle working indeed, and you are not the first to fall victim to such invaders. Most are not so powerful, or so subtle, but they have penetrated even the Golden Wood. Or they did, before I sent Haldir to scout the outer marches. Poor lad," she added. "I hope it hasn't been too hard on him."
"They are evil," Legolas said with feeling. "At least orcs attack openly. These creatures come inside your mind, your heart—they turn all that you know against you, until you don't know what is real, and what is false."
"They did," Thranduil said. "She did. No more."
"If she did it once, who is to stop another from doing the same?" Legolas demanded. "How can we defend against an enemy who unweaves very fabric of the world?"
"From what the Lady tells us, this was a unique case," Thranduil said. "She had the power and backing of this sorcerer, this Pee-Jay, behind her. Most are not so powerful, and we will be on guard against them. As for the sorcerer—" he caught up his sword, then paused. He concentrated a moment, and the long blade turned to an oaken staff in his hand.
He grinned, hefting the familiar weight. "Call the army. Tell them to strip off the trappings of this false world, and assemble light and swift, with bows of yew, as befits warriors of the Greenwood. It is time we paid this Pee-Jay a visit."
Tüg: Thick, fat.