Chapter 3: Who Knew Characters Could Be So Annoying?

It had been a very long day.

Since the Hub was outside any one of the actual worlds, the Sue-Slayers were not restricted to the same straight timeline that the characters in the story were experiencing. Rather, like gods, Sue-Slayers could enter into the Middle-earth timeline at any point in history and in any location that they desired, aided by their Sue-medallions. In the Hub, they simply lifted the clock panel face of the medallions, revealing a touch screen in which they could enter their desired time of arrival; however, once in Middle-earth, they were restricted by the timeline, history, and passage of time the same as any of the characters, unless they returned to the Hub and re-entered. Doing so, however, was wearing on the Sue-Slayers, especially if it needed to be done multiple times.

Hawk and Porter had been Jumping, as it was called, back and forth from Hub to Middle-earth and back many times this particular day. On a regular day, they usually entered into Middle-earth at a particular point based on Finn's Sue-scanning system and remained there for the day, Jumping only a few times when it was necessary. The most popular day for invasions was October 25th 3018, the day of the Council of Elrond, when Tenth Walkers swarmed in from every side attempting to kidnap their desired crush and twist the Quest to their own wicked devices.

This particular "day" however, Hawk and Porter needed to remind all the characters about the monthly Character Briefing coming up, emphasize this particular one's importance, and ensure that all the main characters would actually be there.

Since it was impossible to travel all over Middle-earth, from the Shire to Mordor, in a reasonable amount of Middle-earth hours (let alone Hub-hours), Hawk and Porter had resorted to Jumping. Although Porter insisted it was better than catching an Eagle, or Valar-forbid, a horse to transport them all across Middle-earth, Hawk's head was definitely starting to pound and her stomach was churning rather queasily from the repeated Jumps. And of course, since they were leaving and re-entering Middle-earth time again and again, the day dragged on indefinitely, never seeming to end. Hawk was sure it had probably been at least sixteen Hub-hours since they'd first left that morning.

Simply put, it had very literally been a long day.

Since Character Briefing was the main task on Hawk and Porter's agenda (with the side mission of taking out any Sues they happened to run into), two other additional teams of back-up minor-ranked Middle-earth agents had been sent into the fantasy world to do the main task of taking care of the Sues. As such, Hawk and Porter had run into only one the entire long day, a Legolas!Sue of lesser powers of whom Porter had easily disposed.

That was good, since Character Briefing was a task in and of itself, one that was enough to give Hawk a headache without even taking into account all the Jumping. The required monthly Briefing, when all the characters were supposed to come to the Hub in order to hear the monthly Sue-reports and to get any information from their assigned KI agents, was usually a sparsely attended affair. On normal months, Hawk and Porter would usually just drop letters off at each of the main destinations: Hobbiton, Minas Tirith, Thranduil's court, Edoras, etc. There was no point in going to any great lengths when hardly anyone was going to show up, not that Hawk really blamed them; if she had been a character, she wouldn't have wanted to take time away from her story to sit, listening to a rehash of all the Sue-attacks from that month and then listen to advice on how to protect oneself from Sues and prepare for attacks, tactics that were rarely successful in real life for a character if a KI agent was not there to help.

Of course, there were the regulars. Legolas attended the Briefings with almost religious zeal, although he always blanched dreadfully when they read off his monthly number of Sues. But he would spend the entire rest of the meeting on the edge of his seat, soaking in any advice he could possibly get that might, just might, help protect him slightly better against the next attack. Gimli was a regular as well, although clearly the only reason he attended was to support Legolas and he often ended up snoring in his seat by the end. Aragorn usually showed up, too, again primarily to support his elven friend, since he was already one of the better characters at actually defending himself from attacks (which Hawk suspected came from the fact that he had a canon girlfriend already, unlike the alluringly single elven prince). Frodo and Sam usually came, Frodo out of politeness and Sam from refusing to let Frodo go on his own, while Merry and Pippin showed up every couple months to snicker over the more ridiculous entries on the Sue-reports.

And that was usually about it. Often they'd get some representative from each major country – Éored and Beregond perhaps for Rohan and Gondor and maybe Erestor from Rivendell. On the rarest of occasions, a Nazgûl showed up, delivering some speech about how ridiculous and insignificant these Briefings were and how the Lord Sauron the Great would never send a representative because Sues were actually any kind of threat to Mordor or because he had been asked to, but rather to make sure that those "sneaking hobbits and good-for-nothing elves" weren't trying to scheme and plot behind his back with those "power-hungry" Slayers. After delivering the customary speech, the Ringwraith would usually sit glowering in a corner; at least Hawk figured they glowered since they didn't actually have faces, but they somehow had a way of radiating intense displeasure and snooty boredom all the same.

This Character Briefing was going to be different, however, and it was of the utmost importance that as many of the characters as possible showed up. This required personal visits to all the leaders and characters of import to make sure they understood the significance of the meeting and that they and their people made a proper appearance this month.

They had started with the easy ones. Mirkwood was the first stop, which required nothing more than the usual general nudge. Hawk had stressed to Thranduil the importance of more than just Legolas attending, and even though the Elven King could be dreadfully stubborn, when it came to Sues, he knew better than most the trouble they could cause and had agreed to accompany his son this time. The Shire was an equally painless stop (despite Porter begging to take a brief hiatus at the Green Dragon), and from there, Rivendell, Lothlórien, the Grey Havens, Erebor, and Edoras were quickly crossed off the list, with Elrond, Galadriel, Círdan, Dáin, and King Théoden all proving polite enough and seeming to understand the importance of their and their countrymen's attendance.

Fangorn was where the headaches had really begun to surface. The Ents, of course, were very polite, but not a single one of them had ever attended a Character Briefing, and it took the longest time to even explain what the Briefing was, while some of the older, more tree-ish Ents could be heard murmuring to each other, asking what a Sue was and why they were being asked to care about them. Then, of course, they had wanted to have a Moot, but since the Briefing would probably be over by the time the Moot was finished, Hawk and Porter had insisted on them agreeing to it now. This had drawn forth the predictable "Hohooom, now don't be so hasty" from various of the Tree Shepherds, but when Treebeard and Quickbeam had converted to their side eventually, the KI agents had finally received the Ents' agreement to attend.

From there, the general headache of the whole affair had grown, now perhaps eleven hours into that interminable day. They encountered the Sue after leaving Fangorn. She was a Rohan princess (Éowyn's half-sister no less), intercepting the Broken Fellowship as they chased the Uruk-Hai across Rohan and attempting to get Legolas to let her join their "quest for vengeance" so that she could kill the orcs that had supposedly kidnapped her father, as well as Merry and Pippin.

Éothiel of the Azure Eyes had been disposed of with a couple shots from Porter's crossbow before they moved on to Isengard. Dealing with Saruman put Hawk in a sour temper, as the White Wizard was of rather the same opinion of KI and Sues in general as Sauron was – in other words, that he was above such nonsense – but he tended to work in his scorn of the Sue-Slayers' establishment in more subtle, irritating, sarcastic ways that soon had Hawk fuming. She'd left Porter to deal with the wizard, and when Porter had finally walked down the black steps of Orthanc, giving Hawk a weary thumbs up, they'd both been ready to call it a day.

At that point, they had both been wishing that they hadn't left Gondor and Mordor for last.

Denethor was nearly as difficult to talk to as Saruman. They'd Jumped in before the death of Boromir, which helped the situation a little, but the Steward of Gondor had made it infinitely clear to them both that he thought there were better things he and his people could be doing than attending the Briefing. "Is it not your job to protect these lands from the Sues?" he'd asked with that dark gleam in his eyes that always made Hawk want to strangle him. "Were you not called to watch over Middle-earth in order that we could carry on with our lives? Why then must we attend these Briefings, where all we shall do is listen to you recount what we already know of the Sues and give us advice on resisting our Enemies, when that is your task, not ours?"

Lance Morgan had instructed the Sue-Slayers to keep mum about the Pen itself, but when the debate had gone back and forth for a while with no signs of Denethor relenting, Hawk had abandoned any feigned respect and said, "Listen, Steward, a great weapon of the Sues has come into our hands, the fate of which will be decided at this Briefing. So unless you'd like to miss out on this particular worlds-changing decision, I suggest you and your sons show up."

"I and Boromir will attend," Denethor said a little huffily several seconds later, "but this is no place for Faramir. Disaster has a way of following him around and I am sure you do not want any trouble at this momentous meeting of yours. He will remain behind to look after Gondor, if such a task can be safely entrusted to him and he is not overwhelmed by Sues while you are away, not doing your task." He had given Hawk a nasty look at that.

"Faramir's coming, too," Hawk grit out between clenched teeth. "He's a major character and he needs to attend. And you know, if you let him come to the Briefings every once in a while, he might pick up some more tips on how to fight off all those invading Sues."

Finally, the argument had resolved, with the promise that Denethor, Boromir, Faramir, and the other important representatives of Gondor would be there. They'd gone down to Dol Amroth, alerting Imrahil of the meeting, then turned their eyes to the glowering eastern sky and the ominous mountain range of Mordor.

"Porter, remind me why we left Mordor for last," Hawk groaned.

"Hey, I'm just following wherever you go," Porter said, raising his hands in a gesture of innocence.

Hawk rubbed her aching brow. "The next month, we're doing Mordor first, all right?"

Porter chuckled, a little wearily. "You say that every time, Hawk."

Dealing with the Dark Lord was like taking every bad moment from the rest of that long, insufferable day and stuffing them all together. He was as long-winded as the Ents, as snide and rude as Saruman, as infuriatingly stubborn as Denethor, and as thoroughly arrogant as one would expect from a Dark Lord. The fact that Mary Sues were not the biggest of threats in Mordor did nothing to help their cause of convincing him of the Briefing's importance, especially when Sauron got it into his head that this was all an intricately-laid counter-ploy to his schemes in order to distract him so that back in Middle-earth someone could claim his Ring and proceed to take over Middle-earth while he was at the Briefing.

It was about this time that Hawk had lost her temper and called Sauron something along the lines of an "obnoxious, power-obsessed twit."

No character, not even a dark lord, would dare to hurt, let alone kill, a Sue-Slayer, but it took Porter several minutes to quench all the fires in the throne room and to just make himself heard over the raging Lord of the Rings. "My lord," he bellowed over the string of Black Speech, "I'm sure you would like to be involved in deciding the fate of the Sues who for so long have dared to compete with you for the ruling of Middle-earth."

Under Porter's combination of flattery and careful stressing of the Sues' impudence to challenge Sauron's might along with their present weakness, the Dark Lord had finally agreed to attend the Briefing, along with all the important representatives of Mordor. Once the promise was extracted, Porter had hurriedly ushered a still-fuming Hawk out of Barad-dûr before another argument could break out.

Porter crossed Mordor off the list he'd kept in his belt pouch the whole day, then clapped Hawk on the shoulder. They both looked tired, and Hawk's frown seemed etched now on her face. Her bun had come half undone, with wisps of brown hair clinging to her forehead and neck, some of it singed slightly from the fire-balls that Sauron had ignited during his rage. "I think we can finally call this a day," he said with a weary grin. "For a while there, I thought that might be like what the elves feel – like this existence is never going to end."

"Just thank goodness it's over," Hawk grunted, rubbing a hand across her brow as she stared over the waste of Gorgoroth at the volcano spitting ash forlornly into the black sky. "I already want to see the last of that blasted Pen."

She continued to massage her temples. "What a nightmare this Briefing is going to be. We'll be lucky to maintain any sort of order, let alone figure out what to do about the Sues, with all those characters together in one room. I hope Lance realizes there isn't going to be anything left of the conference room but a smoldering pile of ash by the time those idiots are finished with it." She turned her eyes skyward. "And we're about to hand them the most powerful Sue-weapon in existence. Why, Porter, why?"

"We can deal with that when we get to it," Porter said. "But if you're done grousing, Milady Pessimist, maybe we can get back to the Hub and see if the cafeteria is still open. I'm having a double cheeseburger and five boxes of fries to myself."

Hawk raised a single eyebrow at him and turned her wrist over, clock-face upward. "Do what you like. I'm going to sleep off all that Jumping and I'd better not be disturbed until it's time for that Briefing." She paused and shook her head. "I have no idea why all those Suethors are so desperate to kidnap those characters. I've never met such an annoying bunch of twits in my life."

"Ah, come on, they aren't all that bad," Porter chuckled, pulling his own medallion out of his shirt and holding it up. "Take that nap of yours and you'll love them all again tomorrow morning and won't be able to wait to get back to saving them. I'm sure–"

Porter was never able to finish his sentence. At almost the same moment, the two Sue-Slayers saw the hands of their medallions quiver violently and point due west. They froze for a moment then met each other's eyes simultaneously.

"We can let someone else take care of it," Porter said, but Hawk was already shaking her head.

"No, it's pointing to Ithilien, and we're already basically there."

Despite her weariness and unkempt appearance, the very sight of that trembling compass hand had lit a smoldering glow in Hawk's eyes. Her expression had turned dark and dangerous. "Before I take that nap, I want to take some of this frustration out on a Sue."

Porter grinned. "Sounds cathartic to me. I just pity the Sue that gets in your way right now."

Hawk gave him a small smile – it was like seeing a dragon grinning. "I don't."

Porter pulled what looked like a key chain out of his belt pouch. Dangling from it were several whistles, each labeled with small tags like "eagle" and "mearas." He chose one that said "fell beast" and blew into it, producing a hideous, grating shriek.

Considering they were in Mordor, it was mere seconds before a fell beast flapped down in front of them, its wraith rider radiating curiosity and vague annoyance at its summons. Hawk nimbly swung up onto the vulture-like creature, ignoring the raw meat stench and the now indignant aura of the Ringwraith as she commandeered the saddle and reins. Porter climbed up and gave the Nazgûl an apologetic shrug. "Sorry, mate. Sues, you know."

The Nazgûl had barely set foot on the ground before Hawk had yanked upward on the reins, eliciting a screech from the fell beast, before the monster leapt into the ashy sky and soared away towards Ithilien. Air rushed past their faces, destroying what was left of Hawk's bun and leaving Porter's shaggy hair as tousled as a hobbit's. Hawk steered while Porter held up his Sue-compass, watching the trembling hand and giving his companion directions. But their destination became quickly apparent, and soon they saw the glitter of the Henneth Annûn waterfall amidst the trees.

Flinging all subtlety to the wind, Hawk landed the fell beast in the middle of the clearing beside the Forbidden Pool and the rock face of the secret hideout. The sun was beginning to set, casting a pure, golden light on the shimmering water, but Hawk barely noticed as they both leapt to the ground before the fell beast came to a complete stop. Both immediately noticed the heavy smell of perfume-like flowers that covered the ground up to the very rim of the pool, as well as the unnatural aura of the atmosphere that always signaled the overlap of a canon world with one belonging to the Sues.

Their victim and her victim both stood at the edge of the pool, both looking a little stunned, though it was not clear whether it was the sudden arrival of the KI agents or the horrendous stench of the fell beast that had silenced them. The tall, black-haired man dressed in the Ithilien uniform had his back pressed up against the rock face of the wall of Henneth Annûn, one hand on his sword hilt, though the look on his face made it clear that he knew his weapon was of no use at the moment.

The Sue was standing at the very edge of the water which was sparkling around her and casting a shiny pattern on her dark blue dress, like one might see on the roof at a cave entrance. She had midnight-black hair that fell in luscious waves to her ankles, grey eyes that were actually glowing (a rather disturbing sight in real life), and a very typical Sue-body with a dress to flatter (and reveal – modestly, of course!) as much as possible. She was wearing a silky black cloak that shimmered oddly and there was a slim, curved sword belted at her waist, one that glowed with a white sheen that just screamed magic.

Both Faramir and the Sue at the moment, however, were staring at the two new arrivals.

Porter nodded to Faramir. "Need some help here, mate?"

Faramir made as if to bolt for the two Sue-Slayers, but the Sue reached out and grabbed him by the arm. A look of disgust crossed Faramir's face and he tried to shake her hand free, but she was clearly stronger than she looked. "Who art these intruders, Faramir?" she said in a high, imperious voice. "I thought you said this place was a secret, known only to thyself and unto some of your closest Rangers."

"Which begs the question of how you know about it," Faramir muttered, still trying to twist out of her grip.

"I told you already," the Sue replied with a sickeningly sweet smile, "in a dream, I was told to follow the last light of the setting sun and it would lead me to one who needs my help. And it has led me here."

Faramir looked for a moment like he was going to ask how in the world one followed the last light of the setting sun, but instead he sent a look of pleading in the Sue-Slayer's direction. He looked tired, like he might have had a day that was almost as long as Hawk and Porter's.

Hawk trained her crossbow on the Sue. "Step back from him," she ordered. "Take your hands off him and stand by the cliff. One wrong move and I will shoot you where you stand. Believe me, I'm in no mood for games."

"Believe her," Porter chipped in, nodding. "I've seen Wargs put their tails between their legs and slink away from her when she's in this mood."

The Sue did release Faramir's arm, but she turned to face them belligerently. As soon as her grip on his arm loosened, Faramir took off and stopped behind the Slayers from where he glared at the Sue. The Sue spread her bare arms dramatically. "And who art you, pray?"

"That's none of your business," Hawk growled. "Now, do you surrender? You're getting one chance, and I'm only counting to three."

The Sue tossed her head, sending waves of black locks rippling through the air. "Do you think you can stand in the way of destiny? My destiny has brought me here and there is nothing that no vile creature can do to stop me."

Ignoring the double negative, Hawk rolled her eyes and pulled the trigger of her crossbow. The bolt slammed solidly into the Sue's midriff with a soft thunk.

The Sue staggered back a pace with a dainty gasp and fell to her knees, but then she reached down and melodramatically pulled out the bolt, groaning affectedly but not showing any real signs of distress. She flung away the bolt, pressed her hands over her stomach, and spoke a few words that sounded like garbled elvish. There was a white glow of magic and she sprang back to her feet, whipping out the curved sword. "You cannot defeat me so easily. I was trained in the art of healing magic by my mother, Lúthien Tinúviel. I am Niphredil Tinúviel Half-elven, and my powers are stronger than any dark magic you can conjure."

Hawk's frown deepened. She pulled another bolt from her quiver. "You got your bottle of Liquid Logic, Porter? Give this one a good douse. I'm not sure that last one had been dipped."

Porter unclipped the white bottle from his belt and began to uncork it, when Niphredil spoke up again. "What is that? Surely, if my eyes are not deceiving me, which cannot be because I have elven eyes that see everything as it is, then you have a stolen a precious artifact that belongs to my family."

She held up a small glass bottle that shone with white light, which indeed did look very similar to Porter's bottle of Liquid Logic. "Behold!" she declared, unnecessarily since Hawk, Porter, and Faramir were already looking. "One of the three phials in which the pure light of the Star of Eärendil are captured! They were made by my mother to defeat all creatures of evil. One is in the keeping of Queen Galadriel, my adopted mother who took me in when Lúthien gave up her immortality and died for her love. This one was passed to me by my own mother. The third was stolen long ago by dark powers and we thought it had been destroyed. But now you reveal yourselves as the thieves. Give it back to me, its rightful mistress of the Light!"

Hawk dunked the head of the quarrel into the gleaming liquid and set the bolt in her crossbow, raising it quickly to level it at the Sue and completely ignoring Niphredil's ridiculous, canon- mangling speech. Without giving the Sue any time to repeat her demand, Hawk fired the second bolt that was still dripping with the deadly Logic.

This one caught Niphredil squarely in the chest where her papery heart would be. Shudders quivered through her limbs spasmodically for a second or two as the Logic reacted with her blood. But then, she repeated the process of pulling out the bolt, waving her hand over the wound, and instantly healing herself, while showing no fatal effects from the Sue-poison. Throwing the second bolt aside, she began to advance on the KI agents.

Hawk and Porter backed up slightly, both with quarrels set in their crossbows and trained on her. Faramir hesitated in the shadows of the trees, blending in as best he could and trying to appear as inconspicuous to the Sue as possible.

He failed, however. While still advancing with her drawn sword on the Sue-Slayers, Niphredil looked over at Faramir and began to speak to him in what she clearly thought was a reassuring voice. "Do not be afraid, Faramir. I have not yet chosen which race, Elf or Man, I shall belong to, whether I shall have immortality or mortality, and therefore, I cannot yet be killed by ordinary means. I can resist all powers of darkness. Don't worry, we will still be able to run away together after I have slain these servants of darkness. With my magic cloak of invisibility, we shall be able to escape."

Faramir looked appalled. "I'm not running away from anything, and I'm certainly not doing it with you. I have a duty to stay here and protect these lands from the Servants of Sauron."

The Sue paused, distracted by Faramir. Porter sent a bolt into her side, but she barely glanced at it as she pulled it out and healed herself, without even resorting to her exaggerated moans this time. "But why would you stay here?" she asked. "I know what you truly seek: the approval of your father and older brother. If you run away, they will see how much they truly need you and when you return, they will appreciate you for your efforts. I only wish to help you."

Faramir shook his head in exasperation. "Leave it to a Sue to think that's all there is to life. I have never been one to run from my problems nor to desert my countrymen for my own trivial concerns. A war is brewing and I will see Minas Tirith either stand or fall, but it shall not be said that Faramir of Gondor fled like a coward. Such a path would only prove that my father speaks the truth of me."

The Sue blinked, as if the concepts of which Faramir spoke were completely inane. "But don't you want to have a happy life? To find love?"

"Leave him alone, Sue," Hawk grated, knowing of course that Faramir would find both those things by continuing down his canon path. She'd taken the time given by the Sue's distraction to draw her knife and sling the crossbow over her back, seeing that the ranged weapons were clearly not going to hurt Niphredil at this point. She was getting irritated with this dratted Sue and was ready to end the encounter and get back to Headquarters. That very long, uninterrupted nap was sounding better by the second.

"Go for her heart," she muttered out of the corner of her mouth to Porter, who gave a curt nod. His cheery attitude was gone, and she suspected he was ready to end this as much as she was.

Her words had drawn the Sue's attention back to them, and now Niphredil advanced on them with long, purposeful strides. She lifted her sword and swung it at them.

As she did so, white Pseudo-elven runes began to flicker to life down the blade, each glowing with that white light. She struck at Hawk, who deflected her blade with a flick of her own knife, but the Sue was strong and the parry gave Hawk only a split second's respite. Then Niphredil lunged again, and this time Hawk had to take a step back, clearly on the defensive as she knocked aside the white blade again.

Porter darted in with a speed belying his chubby frame and took a stab at Niphredil with his own knife. The Pseudo-elven blade flickered around with the speed of a striking snake and caught Porter on his sleeve. There was a faint tearing sound and he gave a quiet gasp.

But Hawk had recovered now and she jumped forward, grabbing hold of Niphredil's sword-wrist with one hand, while wielding her dagger with the other. The two women struggled for a moment, each trying to gain an advantage over the other, until Porter stepped in with his knife held ready. With a sleek twist, Hawk hauled on Niphredil's arm, pulling it around behind her back and leaving her vulnerable for a moment. Porter lunged in and flicked his knife in a quick twist that every Sue-Slayer was trained in to perfection.

Before Niphredil Tinúviel Half-elven could so much as give a dainty scream, Porter had cut out her papery Valentine-red heart.

Robbed of her essence and her connection to her Suethor, the Sue should have crumbled like discarded paper, faded, and finally vanished as the wholesome atmosphere of canon Middle-earth returned to the air. That was not what happened, however.

Hawk's grip on her arm had slackened when the Sue-Slayer believed the fight was over, but as the heart fluttered to the flower-strewn bank, Niphredil twisted back around. Too shocked to do anything, the Sue-Slayers stared as she whipped her silky cloak around herself and winked completely out of sight.

Porter slashed at the air for a few seconds while Faramir looked nervously around, sure he was going to be seized by an invisible Sue at any moment, but slowly the Sue-aura faded, and they realized that for the moment, she had fled.

Hawk and Porter both stood, breathing heavily, on the stony bank of the Forbidden Pool.

"Valar-blast it!" Hawk fumed, swatting the matted brown strands of her loose hair out of her eyes. She thrust her knife violently back into its sheath and glanced at Porter. "Are you all right? Did she cut you?"

Porter pulled up his torn sleeve and inspected the thin red line on his skin. "Just a scrape. It only stung a bit."

Hawk took several very deep breaths. "You should still get it checked out in the infirmary. Who knows what might have been in that blade."

Porter rolled his sleeve back down and gave her his lopsided grin, though it was so tired that it looked more like a grimace. "Will do. But I'm having my cheeseburger and fries first. And I think after all that, I need to add a slice of pizza as a bonus."

"We don't deserve a bonus. She got away, Porter. Flames of Udûn, I can't believe that Vala-blasted creature got away!"

"OK, OK, easy on the Ardaisms," Porter said, steadying her with a hand on her shoulder. "She's gone now and Faramir's safe."

Faramir was still hovering at the edge of the shadows, looking dejected. Now that it was clear that Niphredil was no longer a threat, he came sheepishly forward. "I'm sorry I wasn't any help," he said. "I hate letting others fight my battles for me. But well," he scratched his neck awkwardly, "you two obviously knew what you were doing better than I did. But maybe if I'd helped…"

"Don't worry," Porter said, mustering a friendly smile. "It's not your job to fight Sues. Oh, and make sure you make it to the Character Briefing this month. Your dad wasn't happy about letting you come, but it's important. Make sure he doesn't give you something else to do to keep you occupied, won't you?"

Faramir's downcast expression darkened further. "I'll be there. But maybe he's right about me being such a failure. I can't even dispose of a ridiculous Sue properly on my own. Or at all," he added, glaring down at his useless sword.

Hawk rolled her eyes. "No wonder Sues like you, Faramir. You can be thoroughly angsty when you want to, you know that, right?"

Faramir looked injured at that until Porter shook his head. "Oh, don't listen to her, Faramir." He rolled his own eyes. "It's been a very long day, mate. It's been a very long day."