Chapter 60 "Tying Up Loose Ends"

So it was that Penny finally found her place within this strange new life within this strange new world. Rather than feel forever like a spare part within a seamless machine at Imladris, she would be with mortals who spanned that gap between the elves and other human races, who could best understand her both as a mortal but also in many of her more 'elvish' sensibilities.

More than that, she would not live some strangely unique existence as 'the mad old spinster in the woods,' but be married and to one who was well respected and liked. This would all serve her well.

There would be dark periods, of course – moments when homesickness would roar through her like a hurricane, leaving her distraught, distressed and often very depressed for days at a time and sometimes longer. Halladan was a patient man, gently coaxing her out of such blackness, better able to understand than many might, both given he knew her situation and history intimately and also because he had his own ghosts to lay to rest which would still haunt him at times. For her part Penny was a source of support for him, never once blaming him or regretting she had married a man who would still, even years later, sometimes wake from night terrors, though they diminished in number and severity as time went on.

Life with the Dunedain was not quite as easy as it had been amongst the elves. Almost as much work had to be divided amongst far fewer people living in far smaller communities - usually no more than a few houses within a mile or two of each other, hamlets at most - and there was always something to be done. Morfinniel and her daughters and son were most welcoming to Penny, just as Faelon had said they would be, and they taught her much. It was exhausting work, but also strangely exhilarating, Penny found, to be doing things on a practical and daily basis. Armed with her notebooks and various gifts from the elves, Penny quickly realised they had taught her well and, while she still had much to learn, was not quite as out of her depth as she had feared.

Despite her fears, she never went "home," nor did she ever find out how or why she had come back in time. If Gandalf himself could not know, then how could she? She could only accept that it had happened and deal with it as best she could. If ever she thought about it, as would sometimes happen if ever she could not sleep at night during those times when dark homesickness would weigh heavily upon her, it gave her a headache trying to fathom it. As such it was a subject best deliberately avoided.

Gandalf himself did not return to Imladris until some weeks after Penny and Halladan had plighted their troth. Then he and Penny spoke at length about all that had taken place, about the Shire and Saruman, about how she had worried and kept silent. He chided her gently for not having taken his advice to heart, and when she looked curiously at him, surprised, he explained he had meant it specifically regarding Halladan and had hoped she would have recognised it as such when the moment came.

It seemed he too had had foresight regarding the pair of them, as far back as Gondor.

"It was then that I knew things had changed, that you were likely here to stay. You were - how shall I put it? – here, and as such I could see better what lay ahead of you. It was as if the mists had cleared for me. Even that time on the Pelennor… ah, do not look so surprised, Pen-ii. And how could I have told you? You know well enough yourself how not all that is known can be shared, or not before its time."

Nor was he surprised to learn Arwen had had some foresight also. She had inherited some of her grandmother's gift, he said, and had taken Penny and her plight very much to heart.

When spring was fully ripe, with bright sunny days and the air sweet with scented blooms, Mireth and Celebdor were married at last. Mireth looked truly radiant in her sumptuous dress, and Celebdor wore a tunic of dark green, trimmed with gold, a crown of flowers about his head.

Many Dunedain came to Imladris for the celebrations which, indeed, lasted several days. One or two had brought older offspring with them – teenage boys or young men on the edge of adulthood, the younger ones perhaps on their first trip out into the wilds with their fathers to learn the ranger skills that had been passed down from generation to generation. Two had brought their wives with them, both of whom had apparently insisted on coming, leaving their children with relatives, since they both had particular reason to hold Mireth in high esteem: one having had a child saved thanks to her skills as a healer, the other her own father.

Those who had not yet met Penny greeted her most courteously, and those who knew her from the travel north congratulated her on the betrothal, saying they were not in the least surprised, but rather were only amazed that it had taken Halladan as long as it had to 'get his courage up' because, so they said, it had been blatantly apparent to them all from early on that he had been somewhat taken with her.

As a wedding gift from himself and Penny, Halladan had brought an entire bolt of the best Dunadan fine linen with him – a rich gift indeed and one much appreciated by Mireth since while it was a material that the elves could make, it was a particular speciality of the Dunedain womenfolk and as such was highly prized, if only for use as bed sheets and the like.

As for Arvain, it took some time for him to finally sort himself with Hisaeleth. Even by the time of the wedding he had yet to call on Morfinniel and pay his respects because he could not face greeting her eldest daughter. It was not on, given the closeness of their two families, and Halladan was not the only one to take him to task for it. During the wedding celebrations, more than one Dunadan commented on it to him, though Faelon did go out of his way to say more than once that Morfinniel bore him no ill will and that Arvain was not to trouble himself. After all, Morfinniel understood how things were just as much as Faelon did, perhaps even more so given she possibly knew Hisaeleth even better than her husband since he was often away from home for long periods.

While Arvain was at Imladris for the wedding Penny, perhaps buoyed by a little too much wine and secure in the knowledge that she had Halladan to back her up, spoke her mind regarding it all, if gently. In later months Arvain himself said it had helped a little to hear the same thing said to him that others had said before but from a woman's viewpoint, though it was by no means the sole incentive. Even if she had already set him thinking during her earnest plea that night in the Hall of Fire, seeing Halladan and Penny so very nearly miss each other entirely would have been enough in itself, or so Arvain confessed to Halladan years later.

He came close to facing up to the situation on the ride to take Penny to Morfinniel. Arvain, Halladan, Faelon and Tadion had all taken it upon themselves to chaperone her, though Tadion separated off from them about a day's ride away from Faelon's home to go and see his mother. They left a week after the wedding and for the entire eight day trek Arvain had to suffer comments (from all but Faelon), subtle or unsubtle (in the case of Tadion), to the effect that he had best 'be a man' and stay the course all the way to Morfinniel's door. Even Penny muttered something about 'surely both guardians should see her delivered safely,' looking at Arvain with her best 'innocent' expression as she sat next to Halladan by the campfire, her head on his shoulder, arm about his waist and his around her shoulder. Even Faelon bit back a grin while Arvain sighed heavily and pretended he had heard nothing.

In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), he got cold feet in the last half mile, slowing to a stop while they were still in the cover of the trees and saying that he was sure Morfinniel would be cross he had not seen her sooner, that he really could not cope with her launching a frying pan at his head (though the laughter from Faelon and Halladan at this comment told Penny she was hardly the kind to do such a thing, or only ever in jest) and that the last thing that he wanted was to upset Penny's first day there. Then, before anyone could stop him, he turned his horse and headed off in the direction they had come, Penny staring in disbelief at his retreating back and Halladan roaring his name in undisguised frustration. Faelon quietened Halladan with a hand on his arm, telling him gently to just let him go if that was how he wanted it.

It took a little over a month (and after Halladan returning the favour and calling him an ass and more besides in no uncertain terms) before Arvain finally swallowed his pride and came to visit Morfinniel. The change in his behaviour towards Hisaeleth was immediately apparent – the feelings he had for her were made plain for all to see and he showed her nothing but generous tenderness and concern.

Just as Penny had predicted, though, Hisaeleth did not believe him at first, assuming it was the lead up to some pointless trick or means of laughing at her. However, Arvain persisted and refused to react to even the harshest of insults she could throw at him, which in itself amazed and stunned Hisaeleth into coming close to accepting the truth. It took time, but at last, hesitant and scared it still might entirely backfire on her, she said a kind word to him - and Arvain leapt on it as a sign and actually, physically danced a jig round the entire outside of Faelon's house till Hisaeleth was laughing and pleading with him to stop.

A year after Mireth and Celebdor married, it was the turn of Penny and Halladan. It was a traditional Dunedain ceremony, held locally, and though Mireth had supervised the making of Penny's dress, it was made in the Dunedainic style. She and several elves from Imladris came to the nuptials, not simply as personal friends of the bride and groom, but also because of who Halladan was and the respected family line he came from: they came to honour Halbarad's eldest son as much as Halladan himself. Elrond did not come – he did not travel outside of Imladris much by that time, confining himself to thoughts of sailing West and seeing Celebrian once more – but his sons both did, as much to represent him. The one surprise for Penny was that Eleniel was there, recently arrived in Imladris from Gondor having excused herself from the service of Queen Arwen.

Then came the autumn, and while Imladris did not fall silent, it was never the same again.

The last Penny saw of Gandalf, Bilbo, Elrond, Glorfindel, Mireth, Eleniel, Lindir, Erestor and Celebdor was when Halladan brought her to Imladris in high summer, a month before the exodus, to say her farewells. It was a tearful and distressing few days for her, but she was glad she got the chance to do it. She wished them all well, and even felt brave enough to refer to lost loves to Lindir and Eleniel, hoping they would find them well and marry at last. Many Galadhrim were there, some of whom she recognised, and still others had already made their way across the mountains and headed on to meet Cirdan. Galadriel wished her well and hoped her marriage would be a happy and fruitful one. Celeborn had stayed behind in Lothlorien, his farewells already made.

The atmosphere in Imladris – heady with excitement and sorrow equally mixed, memories walking the corridors along with hopes and dreams of those they would once more meet again – was such that Penny was glad to leave at last. Even so, the depression after Halladan brought her home again was so severe he came close to taking her back to Imladris.

Penny and Halladan had three children survive into adulthood: two sons and a girl. Two others, a boy and a girl, died in infancy, a fact that, for all she knew it was common enough in such a time, understandably distressed Penny greatly. She also insisted upon having every child delivered in Imladris, terrified as she was at the idea of going through such a thing without modern medical assistance being available in the case of any emergency; the elves were, in her mind, the next best thing. The journey there when she was heavily pregnant with child number two, snow on the ground, cuddling her two-and-a-half-year old toddler in front of her as best she could with her huge stomach (since she had point blank refused to leave him behind), and the pair of them wrapped up in Halladan's best fur-lined cloak, was one that would live with her for the rest of her life and such that Halladan very nearly swore he would never make such a journey again with her in that state.

However, it was fortunate on her part that she had so insisted because when her fourth child was delivered she lost a lot of blood immediately afterwards and Halladan knew well enough that had she not been with the elves when it had happened she would have been lost to him. He thanked Elbereth that Elrohir and Elladan had learnt much of a healer's skill from their father. That and elvish 'magic' being what it was there was much that an elf could do that not even a Dunadan healer could achieve, not even one as skilled as Aragorn himself.

It would be wrong to say Halladan and Penny lived 'happily every after.' They were happy enough for most of the time, it is true, but there were inevitably moments when the clash of cultures caused problems. The first occasion being the very next time Halladan returned to Imladris when it occurred to Penny that it might well be an issue that she was not 'virgo intacta' and had a heart to heart with Mireth about it and about whether she should tell Halladan or not. Was it the sort of thing one blurted out to one's betrothed in this society or not? One assumed not, but at the same time would he feel he had a right to know? Could it be a significant enough thing as to put the entire marriage in jeopardy?

Mireth admitted it was important but, having made discreet inquiries by Lindir, discovered that Halladan had long ago heard the 'rumours' that had swept through the elvish camp ("Damn gossipy bloody elves!"), indeed Lindir seemed to think Halladan might well have heard from his father even before then that she came from a society with very different moral standards to their own in that regard.

Even so Penny, awkwardly and flushing with embarrassment, broached the subject with Halladan when they were on one of their walks in the woods. She wondered out loud, apropos of nothing other than a long silence that needed to be broken, if he had heard the rumours about her and, not able to look at her directly all of a sudden, he said that he had. She responded by hoping he knew she wished it were otherwise (which was the truth, since the idea of him being the first really would have been her choice could she have chosen it) and he coughed and said so did he, but he understood how things stood and had long known.

They never referred to it again.

They had their arguments, as all couples will. Some could get very heated, especially as Penny, her confidence growing all the time as she 'found her feet', showed something of the old fiery spirit once more (as well as by then having learnt a few choice phrases in both Westron and Sindarin that would have had Erestor all but frothing at the mouth). On one occasion it got so bad that Halladan stormed out of the house and slept with the horses for a week, only coming into the house to get food and then disappear off again… until he discovered her retching one morning and, when alarmed, forced her to confess she had missed two bleeds in succession and thus suspected she was pregnant with their first child. He was back in the house that very night.

Thus there were inevitably times when he wondered why he had married a woman so different from his own kind, and when she wondered what he saw in her and why it was she had had to land in such a shithole of a place without running water, toilet paper, ready-cooked meals and televisions, but such moods soon passed even if, sometimes, they could take days or weeks to do so.

On the whole, though, they rubbed along tolerably well - he with his gammy leg which would seize up sometimes in winter and her with her gradually improving culinary skills and steep learning curve for everything else. They certainly loved each other, for all their flaws, faults and problems.

Within a few years of their marriage Halladan had been appointed by Aragorn to help Faelon govern Arnor in his stead. From him came the line that even under Aragorn's heirs would ever be the King's lieutenants in the North. Arvain and Hisaeleth had only daughters and thus the line stayed with Halladan and his issue so ensuring that Halbarad's blood ran on through the generations. For a while lieutenants also came through Canion, Faelon's only son, but within two generations that line was lost with the last remaining son and heir of the bloodline dying, childless, in a skirmish on the northern borders where, at that time, every few years or so descendants of the half-orcs would carry out raids into the lowlands from their boltholes in the northern line of the Misty Mountains.

Halladan always said he would never have married anyone but Penny, and would never have married at all but for her. Penny said he was talking nonsense, but who could say? Perhaps that was her fate and her purpose? Only the Valar could know for certain, and perhaps not even they.

Whatever the case, their line lived on as the years rolled by and turned into centuries, the centuries into millennia, and so into Ages. Civilisations rose and fell, lands moved and changed until, in January 2004 a direct descendent of the pair was walking home late one night in rainy London, her hands in her pockets as she ran from the tube, her collar turned up, cursing the fact that she had left her umbrella at the office.

She dived into her flat, sodden and thinking she needed a drink and fast. It had been a fun night, though, she mused, as she peeled off her wet coat and hung it up in the hallway. On her way home from work, on a sudden whim, she had made a detour and gone to see Return of the King for the fourth time. She grinned as she remembered having been able to spot the nipple scene this time. Damn but Viggo was a fine-looking man!

She started to run herself a hot bath, poured herself a glass of white wine from the half-finished bottle in the fridge and then inspected the answer machine.

Six messages?! What the...?!

She took a deep breath. She could guess well enough who most, if not all, of them were from. She warily pressed the 'play' button, all but wincing as she did so.

"Hi, sweetie, it's Mum."

She gave out a loud groan and rolled her eyes.

"Are you in? You should be home from work by now, shouldn't you? Why aren't you answering the phone? Hello? Hellooo-ooo? … Well, clearly you're not there… or else you are and you're listening to me rabbit into this machine. … Hello? Well, if you're not there are you out on a date? Dear God I hope so! Is that it? Is it? Please, tell me it is, sweetie. You would tell me, wouldn't you? I've not heard from you in ages, love. It's been at least a week..."

"More like three days."

"…anyway, I am just phoning to say I've posted you a lasagne…"

"What?! Is she insane?!"

"…you never eat properly. You need to feed yourself up if you want to get a man…"

There was a second groan and the sound of a glass being refilled.

"…Mrs Shaw from my gym says her sister's son is a very nice young man, about your age - training to be an accountant, apparently. I can get you the nu—"

She pressed the fast forward button.

"…but of course I said to her that she should have nothing to do with it, but would she listen? No, of c—"

Aha, apparently she had been cut off in mid-flow. And the second message would be…?

"Hello? I don't think your answer phone is working properly, love, it cut me off in the middle. Now where was I? Oh, yes, well she's a law unto herself, you know, but mind you…"

"Oh, for God's sake, Mum, can't you find someone else's answer phone to clag up!?"

She wandered off to the bath, letting her mother prattle on to an empty sitting-room.

Ah, this was the life, she thought as she slid into the bubbles, glass of wine resting on the closed lid of the loo, and lay back. Hot water, bubbles, wine and, admittedly, Mum melting the answer machine with her umpteen messages of inanity, but even so: lovely!

A little later, as she resurfaced from the water, her mother was onto the fourth message of the evening, this time bemoaning the fact that her brother had failed his driving test for the fifth time and could she perhaps see her way to giving him some extra lessons.

"Not bloody likely," she muttered.

"…and he was thinking he might be able to borrow your car once or twice a week, just for practice, love – what do you think?..."

"I think he can go screw himself, Mum, that's what I think. After what he did to your car last year, he's having a laugh if he thinks I'm letting him anywhere near mine, the git."

Later, Mother's endless wittering wiped from the machine at long last, and wrapped in a huge fluffy dressing-gown, dressed in her favourite PJs and Garfield slippers, she sat down at her laptop armed with a third glass of wine and a microwave chicken chasseur. She scrolled through the fanfic for a while and eventually, after despairing of the reams and reams of Legolas smut and raising eyebrows at various pairings she stumbled across, she sought refuge and sanity in amongst the Silmarillion fic for a while before deciding to call it a night. After all, she did have work tomorrow.

She was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Maybe it was three glasses of wine before bed, or maybe it was the chicken chasseur repeating on her, but whatever it was she was soon having a highly entertaining and vivid dream. Not just any old dream, either, but the sort that you react to as you sleep, that stays with you for years afterwards in glorious Technicolor.

Yes, this was a good dream...

Roxanna opened her eyes and found herself staring at a clear blue sky. The sun was shining, the birds were singing in the nearby forest. She sat up and looked around herself. She beamed.

On the other side of the nearby river she could see delicately carved buildings that shone brilliantly in the sunshine. She gasped in wonder. She recognised it immediately as Rivendell, home of Elrond (that bloke who looked exactly like the one from that computer film with Keanu Reeves in it). She closed her eyes and opened them again. No, she was not dreaming: she was really here. Here, in Middle Earth, by some wonderful miracle.

This was her destiny. Aged fourteen and with perfect skin, teeth and nose, she knew she was meant to be here. Her pointy ears had always meant she was picked on at school but here things would be different. She would fall in love with Legolas and the entire Fellowship would fall in love with her. She would save Boromir, warn them about the Balrog, perhaps persuade Theoden not to fight and die in battle.

She heard the sound of hooves and turned, smiling, to see two horses approaching. One had a tall man atop its saddle who was unkempt in appearance but stunningly good-looking underneath his stubble. The other horse, also with a saddle and bridle, carried an even taller figure with long flowing blonde hair and behind him sat a short squat bearded man in a helmet.

She beamed again, flashing those perfect teeth at them. "Hello there, Aragorn! Legolas! Gimli! Wow, it's really great to see you guys, you know!"

They stopped their mounts and descended, eyeing her warily. Aragorn spoke. "What are you doing here? You are young to be wandering unaccompanied in these parts."

"Ah, but Aragorn, you gorgeous hunk you," she grinned, "I am Elrond's long lost niece."

Aragorn smiled.

Legolas smiled.

Gimli smiled.

Roxanna suddenly felt slightly nervous.

The man, elf and dwarf exchanged a look. "What do you think?" asked Gimli.

Legolas shook his head. "No doubt about it."

Aragorn nodded. "My sentiments exactly." He drew his sword. "Die, Oh Mary-Sue, spawn of Morgoth!"

Roxanna's head flew several yards before it rolled into a hollow.

There was a snort of laughter from Penny as she turned over in her sleep. Yes, this was a very good dream. She could still smell the fresh air and sense the fresh outdoors even now. She could feel herself waking up but in that half-dream state where the line between fantasy and reality is blurred.

This was terribly vivid, though. She could even feel a drizzle on her face. She rolled over and as she did so, her cheek hit something wet and cold. She sat bolt upright in shock and her eyes wide open. She looked around her... and started screaming.


Author's Notes:

Yes, that's it, folks! Wow, feels really odd to have typed 'the end' up there, and know that, yeah, it's finally come to an end at long (long, LONG) last. It had to come to an end sooner or later, though, and it was always my intention to end it here plot-wise. I've always felt slightly guilty reading comments and reviews saying how much people were looking forward to my detailing Penny's new life amongst the Dunedain because I knew I would never get that far. The story arc for this was always that she would go from 'up in the air and not knowing how or where to move forward' to 'finding her place within Middle-earth'. Combined with that were the arcs of her discovering the truth (realism) of war and facing her own sense of guilt regarding that and any distress, grief, etc, that that uncovered, as well as the arc of Halladan/Penny, of course. ;) All three (I hope) combined into one, and all three have come to their end and, therefore, so does this fic.

I could have carried on almost indefinitely in some ways, I know, or rather I know some readers would have been happy for me to do so, but a story has to have its beginning, middle and end for it to have any chance of working at all. I know that, no matter where I had chosen to end it, there would have been some readers left champing at the bit and yelling 'No, not there! Not now! Not yet!' and to all those who are currently so yelling: I'm really sorry.

That said, while there will be no third fic (this is not a trilogy), there will be a spot created for various drabbles, scenes, one-shots and ficlets all pertaining to these characters – their pasts and their futures. My time is limited, as has been obvious from the painfully slow arrival of chapters over the past year or so (again – apologies for that), thus a whole new fic is out of the question, but the odd little something as and when the writing bug hits would be ideal. No guarantees as to what (if anything) will appear, or its frequency, but just to say it will be there. There are some scenes in my head – ones that informed character choices in the fic but had not place within it (such as Halladan and Elrond, or Halladan being told by Arvain he was a prize maroon), for example, or future scenarios (I have one with Penny and a heap of geese at some point), and possible ideas for things like Lindir and his brother, or even young Lindir and Rhimlath. These are all the kind of things that could possibly be written out and plonked there. (After asking for suggestions for a title having got stuck on one not very good one myself, voting is now taking place on a 'shortlist' of six possibles on my LiveJournal if you want to chip in. If you don't have an LJ, you can vote via a comment.)

You will also note I have not 'explained' Penny's falling into Middle-earth. Ultimately both these fics have been (mostly) from her POV and even were they from others' POV as well, no one from among the characters knows how or why it happened – so it would be truly 'narrator descending into the story' to come up with an explanation. Not only that but any explanation I could suggest, while it might seem acceptable to some, would be deemed as utterly preposterous by others and thus the entire delicate façade of 'willing suspension of disbelief' would crumble into dust. Best left unexplained, IMHO, though you may agree to differ, and you may indeed like to offer your suggestions as to what REALLY happened. Various of you have made such suggestions over the years. The one of it all being the nefarious work of Saruman and perhaps there were others who had 'fallen back in time' around the place was quite an interesting one, and one that could certainly be made to fit within canon (though not sure Maia would have such power and skill as to pull people back in time – really something only a Vala could achieve, and perhaps not even they). If you're a Doctor Who fan, then perhaps one could claim Penny was visited by the stone angels in the night (DON'T BLINK!)? Who can say? I'll leave that one to your imaginations. :)

And, yes, she DID fall back through time. When Tolkien set out his vision he was thinking in terms of the myths and legends of the Greeks or Norsemen. If you read HoME you will find that the hobbits' 'Red Book' came into the possession of the elves (or one copy, anyway) who in turn handed it on to an Anglo-Saxon gentleman and it was that copy which was 'translated' into English: a fictional backstory and history for a fictional story. This is the beauty of Tolkien, the depths to which he went in creating his world. Of course we KNOW in reality no such things happened, but the same is true of any fictionalised world placed within our own or connected to it. The world isn't really made up of a computerised 'matrix', there is no such place as Hogwart's, etc, etc. The point is that JRRT's own canon was that all that he had invented was a mythological 'pre-history' to our own time, thus anyone arriving there to discover it was true would have to realise that they had gone back in time, not slipped through to another dimension. JRRT was writing about 'the land that would become England, UK' (only thousands of years previously), not a different, alien planet or place.

In the meantime, though, I want to take this last opportunity to thank every single person who has read this fic and 'Don't Panic!', who has commented, reviewed, critted, recced the fics to others, friended me on LJ or Yuku, got in touch, PMed or e-mailed. I have been utterly overwhelmed by the response these two fics have got over the years and really don't quite know what to say about it all other than 'thank you' and please know that I mean it. It took me utterly by surprise that so many have enjoyed this fic and I am still not quite sure I can believe it frankly. In particular I want to thank those who stuck it out through the long hiatus between chapter 5 and 6 on this fic, lol, let alone those who braved reading the ENTIRE thing from the get-go once this fic was already umpteen chapters long: brave souls all.

My especial thanks, however, must go to those who have spotted typos and errors, and, of course, to the various betas I have had for this fic over the long period it's been written: bodldops who beta-ed for me before The Hiatus of Doom, NL who was my indefatigable 'canon beta' before he decided to get a life and train to be a doctor and became too busy, Mums who has stuck with me through thick and thin from the very beginning and who has been such a source of encouragement and gentle support (as well as teaching me heaps about How To Use The Comma), and lastly, but by no means least, the incomparable Elb, without whom, frankly, none of this would have been possible, because it's thanks to her I caught the fanfic bug, thanks to her that I rediscovered my long dormant writing Mojo, and thanks to her that I've stuck with this. I could never post a chapter without her okaying it first. She has been a good friend and a trooper and my knight in shining armour. All hail, The Elb.

And, lastly lastly: Viv. Many thanks to Viv, for it was her challenge on Open Scrolls Archive all those many moons ago that made the bunny bite… and then hang on like grim death until I had got down the entire sorry saga that was playing incessantly in my head or else go insane trying. Thank you, Viv, and thanks to you all.