“This just in: it appears former Presidential candidate and Vice President John Hoynes has been attacked by an unknown man wearing a black cloak. The man is on video chasing Hoynes with a sword, yelling ‘RUN, RUN MOCKER OF WOMEN! AND UNLESS YOU RUN SWIFT AS THE DEER I SHALL PRICK YOU ON FROM BEHIND’ and proceeding to do just that. The video appears embarrassing for all parties, as it shows Mr. Hoynes being repeatedly stabbed in the… posterior while running in front of Capitol Hill. No police report has been filed and the identity of the man is still unknown.”
“And he did not force you?” Finduilas asked, her head tilted and her eyes filled with compassion.
“Well… I don’t know… Depends what you mean by forced…” C.J. muttered, deeply uncomfortable with the conversation.
“You would have said you did not wish the activities to proceed, and he proceeded nonetheless.”
C.J. paused, staring at her, as if this had never occurred to her. “Then I guess he did.” Finduilas froze, and for a moment anger flashed in her eyes.
“He forced you?” she hissed.
“I went to the elevator on my own. I said yes at the bar,” C.J. explained, trying to talk Finduilas down. It was her fault. It really was. She couldn’t have an elf princess waging war on someone because of her.
“But you did not engage in activities at the bar, you engaged in activities in a room. Which implies there was time between the bar, the elevator, and the room. What happened then?”
“I said no. I said it was wrong. That I was drunk.”
“And he said I would like it, and… proceeded,” C.J. said, using Finduilas’ phrasing. She paused again, looking at Finduilas, who was now looking incredibly concerned. “He pushed me against a wall, and I stopped saying no. It was my fault, I should have kept refusing,” she whispered. Finduilas rose, fists clenched.
“That is,” she said, her voice quivering with something that was probably anger, “ most unbecoming of him . And even more undeserved. I—” she turned on her heels, then turned back again. “I should speak to my father about this. I am his daughter, and if someone did such an abominable thing to me, he would take… immediate and appropriate action.” Here she stopped her agitated fidgeting and took C.J.’s hand. “You’ve grown very dear to all of us, Lady Claudia. I know he would do the same for you.”
“No, you can’t tell him!” C.J. insisted, springing up from her chair as well. “He gave me a high position, what would he think if he knew I slept with a married man!”
“The same thing that I do,” said Finduilas evenly. “That you were wronged.”
“I’m not a maiden in need of defending,” C.J. replied. “I… this is no one’s fault but mine. I am old enough to take responsibility for my actions and acknowledge my regret.”
“The responsibility is not yours to shoulder,” said Finduilas gently. “It’s his. You have relayed an account of what happened, and I have judged what I deem to be the truth, and it is that you are not to blame.”
“Whose responsibility is it then?” Túrin asked, and C.J. jumped as she realized that from the position he had been hiding in he had most likely heard the majority of the conversation. “I am going to need a name and a location.”
“That would be…” said Finduilas, “at or around the White House of Bartlet, yes? And the name is—” she made a face. “Hoynes should be enough to find him by.”
“Who are we talking about?” asked another voice. Gwindor had come out of the shadows and was leaning on the doorframe. “And what have they done?”
“Assault.” Finduilas deadpanned, and C.J. reflexively began a protest before being silenced by a stern yet comforting look from Finduilas.
“Did anyone hurt you, Finduilas?” asked Gwindor, hand resting on his sword.
“Not me. Lady Claudia,” Finduilas explained.
“In harming her, this man has made himself a target for vengeance as much as he would have if it had been Finduilas,” said Túrin, who seemed to have noted with approval Gwindor’s choice of weaponry.
“NO VENGEANCE!” C.J. insisted.
“The man has now identified himself as Túrin Turambar, and says that the attack was vengeance for a supposed wrong perpetrated by Mr. Hoynes. He declined to name who Mr. Hoynes harmed, out of deference to the unidentified person’s wishes, but says that Mr. Hoynes deserved it very much. We will go live to our reporter who is with Mr. Turambar right now.”
“Yes I am, and here is Mr. Turambar, his friend Miss Faelivrin, her father Mr. Faelivrin-”
“That’s not how names work,” Gwindor cut in.
“And, as you can see, a man who will identify himself only as Gwindor.”
“My name is Gwindor, son of Guilin. That’s my name,” Gwindor insisted. “And that is not ‘Mr. Faelivrin’, as you say. He is indeed Finduilas’ father, but his right name is His Highness Orodreth Artaresto, son of Angrod, son of—”
“Meleth, I don’t think they need to know all that,” said Finduilas, laying a hand on Gwindor’s shoulder. “Orodreth Artaresto should work, yes?” She seemed to have gotten the hang of what names the reporter wanted rather faster than Gwindor had.
“Yes. That will do fine. Now you say that you attacked Mr. Hoynes--”
“We did not attack anyone,” corrected Finduilas. “We merely avenged a dear friend of ours, one of many who suffered by his hand.”
“So you were part of this, Miss Faelivrin?”
“If by ‘part of this’ you mean I put my utmost effort into aiding one close to my heart, then yes,” said Finduilas. If anyone had asked Orodreth, which they did not, he would have noted that the facial expression Finduilas was wearing had until then only been used on the sons of Fëanor.
“So this was a conspiracy?”
“No, it was Túrin saying ‘let’s go avenge our friend’ and the rest of us approving,” said Gwindor.
“They had my royal leave, if that matters at all to you,” said Orodreth.
“I’m sorry, your royal leave?”
“Yes, as the King of Nargothrond,” said Orodreth. “With the authority conferred on me by the death of Finrod Felagund.”
“I regret to inform you that if you are going to question the legitimacy of my father’s ascent to the throne, you are not the first to do so and will not be the first to suffer my wrath,” said Finduilas. She didn’t sound particularly wrathful, at least at the moment, but her eyes held promise of things to come.
“I assure you, Miss Faelivrin, no one was doing that. Would you mind pausing for a moment, we’re getting a break signal from the network.” Finduilas paused, and then nodded.
“Lady Claudia assured us he would be here,” Túrin complained, looking around. “He’s not here.”
“Has it yet crossed your mind that Lady Claudia might have lied to us? That she doesn’t want us to find him because she doesn’t want us to hurt him?” Gwindor asked.
“Lady Claudia wasn’t lying. Her ears turn red when she lies,” Finduilas informed him. “And she doesn’t care if we hurt him. She doesn’t like the idea of violence, but she’s warming to the prospect.”
“Well, I don’t see him,” Túrin complained again.
“There he is,” Orodreth said, pointing at a man jogging in the distance.
“How do you know?” Gwindor asked, slightly surprised.
“I know the look of a man far too certain of his own power, thank you very much,” said Orodreth. Finduilas looked at him, tilting her head slightly. “Okay, so I used one of the glowing rectangles to search the name Lady Claudia gave us,” he admitted.
“Let’s go say hi,” Finduilas said innocently, leading the group over to where he had paused.
“Excuse me, Man of Evil!” Gwindor called when they had gotten slightly closer. Hoynes turned.
“He responds to that,” Finduilas whispered to Gwindor, smiling to herself.
“Do I know you?” Hoynes asked. “Mary, was it? From the ah… fundraiser… five years ago?” Finduilas was momentarily stunned.
“No, I am sure you do not. My name is Finduilas Faelivrin, a new enemy of yours,” she said cheerfully, regaining her composure. “I can’t help but admit that your immediate reaction to meeting me is not doing much to put my mind at ease about your character.” Hoynes paused.
“So, you insufferable section of orc phlegm,” Gwindor began, with absolutely none of Finduilas’ tact. “Care to explain to us what happened to Lady Claudia?”
“Lady Claudia?” Hoynes asked.
“Yes. Lady Claudia… um… Cregg.”
Orodreth held up the phone he had put in his pocket.
“This Lady Claudia,” he said.
“Thank you,” said Gwindor. Hoynes fell silent.
“That was regrettable,” he admitted.
“I’m sure whatever happens next will be regrettable too,” said Finduilas. “To whom, I can’t begin to guess.”
“I can,” said Túrin.
“You cannot threaten me like this!” Hoynes hissed. “I was the Vice President!”
“Unless you mean the President of all vices, I must disagree,” said Gwindor calmly, motioning to Túrin. “And it wasn’t a threat. It was a warning.”
“Important update: Mr. Turambar, Miss Faelivrin, Mr. Artaresto, and Mr. Gwindor have been arrested. Mr. Turambar faces assault charges, while the rest are being charged as accomplices. Witnesses at the scene say they heard mention of a ‘Lady Claudia’ in reference to an ill-advised action taken by Mr. Hoynes. More information soon.” The President muted the television, and turned to Debbie.
“Debbie, could you fetch C.J. please?” The President asked.
“Yes, sir,” Debbie responded, standing and heading for the door. “Quite something, them all attacking Hoynes, isn’t it sir?”
“Yes it is,” said the President, narrowing his eyes and focusing on the screen.
“You needed something, sir?” C.J. asked, entering the Oval Office and sitting down when the President motioned.
“It seems the people responsible for the attack on Hoynes have been arrested,” the President said.
“Do you need my help on a condemnation statement, sir?” C.J. asked, her solemn tone briefly betrayed by a smirk as her eyes turned to the television, which was replaying Hoynes running from Túrin.
“Mr. Gwindor and Miss Faelivrin seem to have alluded to a Lady Claudia and an incident regarding Hoynes.”
“There are lots of people named Claudia in the country, sir,” C.J. covered, but the President noticed the panic in her eyes.
“You’re telling me you’re not a part of this?” the President asked.
“I didn’t tell them to,” C.J. said quickly, “in fact, I specifically told them not to.”
“But you are related to what happened.” C.J. prepared a lie, but felt her ears turning red. She sighed. If her past with Hoynes was going to kill her eventually, it might as well be today.
“I’m not going to ask you what happened if you don’t want to tell me,” the President assured her. C.J. nodded. “But I’d like to meet with Mr. Turambar and his associates.” C.J. froze.
“Mr. President, you can’t meet with prisoners,” C.J. said slowly, wondering how this needed explaining.
“Do Mr. Turambar and his friends have gold?” the President asked.
“Then they’ll be out on bail soon. I’m sure there is some way to sneak them into the building.”
“Yes, sir, shall I send for them?”
Túrin unsheathed his sword.
“This is Gurthang, and unlike many of the women it seems that you follow around, it actually wants to get closer to you,” he informed Hoynes.
“Hey, hey, let’s be reasonable about this,” Hoynes said, backing up.
“Reasonable is you begging for forgiveness for pressuring Lady Claudia,” Gwindor informed him casually. “Are you planning on doing that?”
“I apologized to her, isn’t that enough?”
“Oh yes, she told me about that apology,” Finduilas said. “As she was trying to pretend not to be in distress. She said you said ‘it was ten years ago, I’m sorry’ and while the ‘I’m sorry’ part is lovely if insufficient, the rest of it,” she paused, raising a hand to her chin and making a quizzical expression, “implies that you think she is overreacting.”
“Well, she was!” he explained. “She was acting like she, I don’t know, was hurt or something, when she had no qualms about the proceedings.”
“Was her consent before the elevator or after?” Finduilas asked seriously, quiet enough so that no one outside of the five of them could hear.
“Before. The elevator… it was just her first time in an ethical gray area. She was fine. She stopped resisting.”
“I am king of Nargothrond,” Orodreth interjected, speaking for the first time in the exchange. “I consider it my duty to my people to understand justice and all manner of crimes. You, sir, are a criminal. Túrin, you may proceed.”
“The king has spoken,” Túrin deadpanned.
“No! No. I am not about to die because C.J. tried to cover for her mistakes by putting on a sad little puppy dog face and crying to a few freaks!”
“Who said anything about killing you? I just want to get some exercise,” Túrin said.
“Your dear ‘Lady Claudia’ is pathetic, running to her friends every time she perceives a wrong.” Hoynes paused, collecting his thoughts, and then smiling, "But at least she's good in bed."
“That is disrespectful,” Túrin said slowly.
“I honestly don’t care what you think.” Túrin paused, and began to walk off. Just as he looked like he wasn’t turning back he whipped around and prodded Hoynes with his sword.
“Run, run, mocker of women,” Túrin ordered. “Run swift as the deer.”
“This has been very funny but I’m late for a meeting,” Hoynes said, “you’re lucky I’m not pressing charges.” Túrin responded by poking him again.
“Run, run, mocker of women,” Túrin repeated. “Run swift as the deer.”
“You will not-” he was prodded again.
“RUN, RUN, MOCKER OF WOMEN,” Túrin said loudly. “I will not ask again.” He took a fast step forward with his sword and Hoynes jumped out of the way. Túrin advanced, Hoynes stepped back. Eventually Túrin was advancing so fast Hoynes was forced into a run.
“RUN, RUN, MOCKER OF WOMEN,” Túrin called gleefully. “AND UNLESS YOU RUN SWIFT AS THE DEER I SHALL YOU PRICK YOU ON FROM BEHIND.”
“Mr. President, I have Finduilas, Túrin, Gwindor, and Orodreth here to see you,” Debbie called.
“Excellent, send them in, and tell C.J. to come in as well.” The President beckoned the four figures, and motioned for them to sit. “You’ve never pronounced ‘J’ have you?” the President asked as he watched Gwindor trying to mimic the movement his mouth made when saying “C.J.”
“No, sir, how did you know that?” asked Gwindor.
“Because elves can’t pronounce ‘J,’” the President explained.
“How do you know that we’re elves?”
“You have showed up in C.J.’s office before. And ‘Lady Claudia’ is not as good at sneaking around as she thinks. Also, I know that Túrin is not an elf. I have read The Children of Húrin many times, and I’m glad to see your reality is not so bleak.” He absorbed the shock on their faces and smiled. “I assure you, I have marveled a sufficient amount at the possibility of it all. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife.”
“We are very fond of Lady Claudia, Sir,” Gwindor assured him.
“You must have known her for a while too,” the President said. “If you got her to tell you about the Hoynes business.” He sighed, and paused. “If you stabbed Hoynes for the reason I think you did, I will pardon you for stabbing him, you just have to tell me what happened.” He stared down angrily at the carpet. “ No one hurts my family.” They sat in silence for a few moments.
Finduilas spoke first. “Due respect, we can’t tell you. Lady Claudia should remain in control of one aspect of this event in her life. The story is not ours to tell.”
“Besides,” Orodreth said proudly, “we are not in need of a pardon, my daughter here got us out of it.”
“How did you manage to do that?” C.J. asked, walking in.
“I pointed out to his staffers that the longer our case drags out, the longer news stations play the clip of him getting chased around being poked in the rear. They were very receptive to my ideas,” Finduilas said, smiling. C.J. gave her a small smile back.
“Well, it’s been a pleasure meeting with you. King Orodreth, I would love to speak with you if you have a moment,” the President said.
“Finally someone addresses our king in the correct manner,” Gwindor sighed. Finduilas laughed and Túrin patted him on the shoulder.
“Of course, sir,” Orodreth said.
“Finduilas, perhaps we could speak about press strategies in my office,” C.J. said, sensing an end to the meeting. “Túrin, come with me, I think you’d enjoy meeting Kate.”
“Would you like to do anything, son?” the President asked Gwindor.
“Do you have any microwaves?” Gwindor asked.
“Microwaves?” the President asked.
“They are fascinating,” Gwindor said seriously.
“Why, yes, we have a large array of microwaves in the kitchens and the mess. And, if you speak with Charlie, you will find a book about the history of microwaves I forced him to borrow. It is fascinating.” Gwindor smiled.
“Thank you, sir.”
Back in C.J.’s office, Finduilas sat on a sofa while C.J. paced.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” C.J. said, face in her hands.
“It was a lot of fun,” Finduilas said, smiling.
“That doesn’t mean you do it!” C.J. hissed. “What about ‘no vengeance’ do you not understand?”
“We’re not under arrest anymore, I don’t see the issue,” Finduilas said, shrugging.
“The issue is you used my name, they heard you say ‘Lady Claudia!’ I almost had to tell the President!” C.J. half-yelled, pacing faster.
“I’m sorry,” Finduilas said sincerely. “I shouldn’t have put you in that position.” She stood up and put her hand on C.J.’s shoulder. “You know the President would stand by you, right?”
“He called women who slept with Hoynes prostitutes,” C.J. said sadly, “he wanted to help Hoynes ‘beat the rap.’”
“According to whom?” Finduilas asked. “That doesn’t seem like him.”
“According to Hoynes,” C.J. sighed.
“Well, I just heard him talk about how if we stabbed him for the reasons he thinks he would pardon us, and that no one is allowed to hurt his family,” Finduilas informed her. “Who do you trust more? Him or me?” C.J. paused for a moment before wrapping Finduilas in a hug. They stood there for a moment before C.J. laughed quietly and pulled away.
“So you really got them to drop the charges?”
“You’re a natural. You sure you don’t want to be Press Secretary? God knows Will could use a break.”
“Thank you, but no. I actually have a meeting with a network later today.”
“About setting up a talk show. Apparently the world is in need of lessons from an elf kingdom.”
“You’d be good at that,” C.J. said. “Are you going to do it?”
“I think it would be fun,” Finduilas said, smiling.
“Would Túrin be on your talk show?” C.J. asked.
“I think he would have to be, he is the star of this little event.”
“Túrin on a talk show…” C.J. said, “that would be something.”
“We could do an entire episode on Gwindor making up stories about how he lost his hand… another one about my dad’s secret recipe for 3 a.m. pancakes…” Finduilas said, already thinking. “Lady Claudia, 3 a.m. is a few hours before sunrise, yes?”
“Yeah… I wish you good luck.” She meant it too. Very few people, or elves, deserved success more than Finduilas.
“Will you come on our show?” asked Finduilas, turning the puppy-dog eyes up to 11. “We’d love to have you, and I’m sure the citizens of this realm would too.”
“Maybe after the administration,” C.J. conceded, smiling, “but I assure you, I’m not nearly as beloved as you think.”
“I don’t believe that for a moment,” said Finduilas. “By now, I know you too well.”
C.J. paused, unsure of what to say. “I appreciate everything you’ve done,” she said finally, “I really do.”
In the Oval Office, President Bartlet sat on the couch across from Orodreth.
“Would you like any scotch?” he asked.
“What’s scotch?” asked Orodreth, looking around for a clue. “Would it be a drink, by any chance?”
“Yes, an alcoholic drink good for helping one talk candidly about their problems,” President Bartlet said. “Would you like to hear the history behind scotch? It’s actually rather interesting.”
“I will… respectfully decline,” said Orodreth, and then hurriedly added “the drink, that is. I’m not sure I want to speak candidly about, uh. Problems. Just yet. I would like to hear the history of this scotch, however.” He paused, as if thinking. “Actually… it wouldn’t be as strong as miruvor, would it? If not, maybe I will try some.”
“I’m honestly not sure about how it compares to miruvor, but I can tell you scotch was first brewed commercially in Scotland in the 18th century and has five distinct categories,” the President said.
“I see,” said Orodreth. “What Age was that? You seem to be some sort of scholar of the Eldar, as well… do you think the humans of your world would have a higher or lower tolerance for alcohol than my people?” He was still trying to judge the merits of maybe trying some of this substance that the President Bartlet was offering him.
“Hmmm, in this world he don’t have ages. I can tell you that the 18th century began about 300 years ago, if that helps. And I’m guessing elves have a greater tolerance for alcohol than people, but I don't know. I haven’t been allowed to get properly drunk in eight years.”
Orodreth found himself smiling at that.
“Oh?” he asked. “I suppose that might be for the best… my daughter doesn’t let me, either.”
“Ah… daughters. I have three daughters. They’re all princesses. My oldest son-in-law is a jackass and my younger son-in-law is a fruit fly scientist, but I assure you my daughters are intelligent.”
“I have one daughter, and she is also a princess,” said Orodreth. “Well… by virtue of my being a king. Lady Claudia tells me this is decidedly and purposefully not the case with you.”
“Yeah. I get all of the responsibility with none of the getting to behead people for drugging Zoey,” the President sighed.
“Your daughter?” asked Orodreth, suddenly on edge. “Who did what?”
“Her ex-boyfriend was a pompous French clown who thought it would be fun to put a drug in her drink. Believe me, the number of ways I thought of to kill him… but alas, being the President means you have to protect everyone, even the kid who almost got your daughter killed.”
Orodreth did not know what French meant, but in context, it was said in much the same way as the Doriathrim might refer to the sons of Fëanor. He nodded.
“That is… an honorable if frustrating responsibility,” he said. Politics back in Arda were so much more personal. Maybe it was a ‘living thousands of years’ thing. “I question the men of your world.”
“You must have troubles in Nargothrond,” the President sighed, “you should talk about them, even if you don’t want scotch. I’m probably one of the only people in the world who can understand them.”
Orodreth considered this for a solid few seconds. It was probably a terrible idea to start talking about troubles so soon after meeting someone, but it was a brave new world, quite literally. Maybe it wouldn’t do any harm. And maybe a tiny bit of scotch wouldn’t, either.
“That would be… nice,” he conceded. “Of course, Lady Claudia has helped clear up most of the recent issues, to my unending gratitude.”
The President smiled. “She is quite something. But if you don’t mind me asking… is she okay? Ever since, well, Toby, her friend, left, she’s been closed off. I wonder if you might have any insight, since she’s clearly close to your daughter.”
“Quite bluntly, if you don’t mind,” said Orodreth, “when she came to us, she was not. She and Finduilas have grown quite close, as you say, but Lady Claudia has also become friends with Gwindor and Agarwaen. I’m glad that she has. I think it did some good for all parties involved.”
“That’s good. She was like my fourth daughter for a very long time,” the President paused, “and she still is, of course. She’ll be alright, the kid always lands on her feet,” he said, pausing again. “But, forgive me, we seem to have veered off topic, how is Nargothrond?”
“Alright, shockingly,” said Orodreth, smiling a little. “Things were… contentious, for a time. I’m not sure how, but I have a suspicion that you would know why. And before that, we had some trouble with Fëanor’s sons, but they are gone as well. It’s just the usual now.”
He knew that if Finduilas had been there, she would have interjected with some exasperation that the usual was a rather awful cocktail of war and sleep deprivation, but she was off with CJ and Orodreth was pretty sure he could get away with it this time.
“Well, just look out for Glaurung, okay?” the President joked. “And it seems you’ve done pretty well for someone who never even sought the throne. I campaigned twice for a year each time and there are still days when I think nothing good will ever come of it.”
“Ah, so you know about that too,” said Orodreth with a tired laugh. “Well… it’s my duty, I suppose. And it isn’t as if I can just run off and leave Finrod’s legacy unattended. I’m sure Finduilas would offer to take the crown, but I couldn’t do that to her. She’s a lovely princess, but I don’t think she’d be happy as King, at least just yet.” Damn, he thought. He didn’t even need the scotch to start saying things like that. “She should have fun. She’s not yet 450, you know… but it’s war. People grow up so fast.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” the President said, “my youngest daughter was in high school when I was campaigning, now she’s out of college and I hardly see her anymore.”
Orodreth was quiet for a moment. He hadn’t been expecting to find someone who actually understood, least of all in this strange world. Finally, he relaxed.
“If it’s fine by you,” he said, “that scotch might be nice now.”
Túrin had managed to get lost on the way to Kate’s office. He wandered the hallways, asking every woman who passed if she was Kate. To his irritation, he had found three Kates, but none of them could claim friendship with Lady Claudia. When he finally ran into a woman named Nancy, she managed to point him in the right direction. The correct Kate, it turned out, worked in a small office with a dark colored desk.
“My name is Túrin Turambar,” he stated at the doorway. “Lady Claudia told me to seek you out.”
“Does she need me for something?” Kate asked.
“No,” said Túrin. “She said that she believed I would enjoy meeting you, though, and I am prepared to trust her judgement.”
Kate noticed his good posture and poorly concealed sword. “Are you military?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Captain of Nargothrond,” Túrin confirmed. “I manage matters of war against the creatures of Morgoth on our borders. Before that, I was… an outlaw, and before that, a marchwarden of Doriath.”
“Well I understood maybe three of those words but I’m guessing the answer to my question is ‘yes,’” Kate said. “I’m military as well. Served in the Navy for several years, the CIA for a time, now I’m here. Making sure China and Russia don’t blow each other up.”
“Navy?” asked Túrin curiously. “Where’s that?” He would have asked the same question for every other unfamiliar proper noun in Kate’s response, but he didn’t want to ask all at once. First things first.
“The Navy a branch of the military. It’s any number of places,” she paused. “Hey… you’re Sword Guy, aren’t you? The one who took down Hoynes?”
“I see,” said Túrin. “I’m— yes. That would indeed be me, although regretfully, I would not say I ‘took him down.’ Took him down a notch or so in his own mind, maybe.”
“Well, it was very funny. Nice form, by the way, with your sword. Nicely done.”
“Thank you,” said Túrin. His expression didn’t change much, but he glowed with pride nonetheless. “I learned swordcraft under the other marchwardens.” At that, his gaze flickered into the distance for a moment before he drew himself back to earth.
“Your guards don’t appear to be obviously armed,” he said. “You don’t learn swords or bows here?”
Kate was still focused on his facial expression from his words about his teachers. “Are they dead? The other marchwardens?” she asked matter-of-factly.
“Not all of them,” said Túrin. “Just… the one I was closest t— the one I loved the most. Well, and others, but they were killed by the Enemy’s forces. It’s not the same.”
Kate nodded sadly, reaching out to put a hand on his shoulder before thinking better of it. “We use guns,” she said. When Túrin looked confused she elaborated, “Our guards use guns. They’re very deadly. I too have lost friends to the enemy.”
There was something in the way Kate said enemy that seemed different to Túrin. Like it wasn’t as solid as it was in Middle-Earth.
“Who is your Enemy?” he asked. “In my world, we have the Dark Lord Morgoth, who took my father and my sister and my homeland. In yours, I suppose my enemy is that… man, Hoynes, but surely your entire military cannot be focused on individuals.”
“The enemy is any number of countries,” Kate said. “It changes. The enemy twenty years ago took my father, but in their defense he was trying to take them too. I wish national security was as simple as one Dark Lord, though I’d probably be out of a job if it was,” she joked.
“That seems confusing,” said Túrin. It really had never been that tangled in Arda, at least not in his lifetime. Well, the Noldor didn’t really like the Sindar sometimes, and he was aware of politics going on, but… there was always Morgoth to fight if you really got frustrated with everything else.
“You seem an honorable warrior, Kate,” he said. Surely one had to be, to decide who the true Enemy was.
Kate chuckled. This strange man was certainly entertaining.
“Well anyone who sticks it, literally in this case, to that arrogant jackass is fine in my book,” Kate said. “You take care of yourself, against the Dark Lord.”
“Thank you,” he said. “I will. Well, enough that I don’t worry Finduilas and Gwindor too badly. You should take care of yourself too.” He didn’t feel the need to say that he and C.J. had had that back and forth with each other before, but maybe Kate would know even so. They were friends, weren’t they?
“Thanks for helping out C.J.,” Kate said, confirming Túrin’s theory. “I try to be there for her… but she did need your help. I don’t know what you did, but your companionship helped her. And if running around and chasing Hoynes with a stick helped her at all… sign me up for round two.”
Gwindor really liked how tomatoes looked when they were about to explode. He also just liked microwaves. How they hummed, the beeping noises. They were interesting. He figured he had bought himself much more time because every time a different kitchen employee came over to yell at him, he made an excuse that his lack of a hand had caused him to slip. Although this should have been highly suspicious, it had yet to fail. Maybe they had a lower number of blade-induced amputations? That would certainly make his presence more of a rarity and therefore more awkward to dispute.
He pressed the buttons that he had found out meant ‘five minutes.’ The little dish inside, with an egg on it, began to turn in its fascinatingly regular way. Gwindor made a bet with himself over whether or not the egg would explode.
It did. He won the bet, too, but that satisfaction was somewhat dampened by the fact that he found himself being shepherded stubbornly out of the kitchen. Ah, well, he thought— it had been bound to happen at some point.
Lord President Bartlet had said something about a book of microwave history, had he not? And someone who kept it? Charlie, right? He decided he would find Charlie.
Gwindor retraced his steps, until he found himself directly outside the round room. He waited patiently, and every time someone entered he casually asked if they were Charlie. To his relief, Charlie appeared after ten minutes.
“Are you Charlie?” Gwindor asked.
“Uh… yeah,” Charlie said. “Who are you?”
“My name is Gwindor, son of Guilin, and I am in need of your information guide to microwaves,” Gwindor said.
“Uh huh. Well… Gwindor son of Guilin, all my books that I keep in the office are at my desk. It’s near C.J.’s office.”
“But I thought you worked for Lord President Bartlet, so wouldn’t the book be here.”
“Well I used to work for President Bartlet, but now I work for C.J. So my books would be at my desk. Near her office.”
“Do you have a map that could point me on the correct route?” Gwindor asked.
“Uh… no. But I can take you there once I drop off these files.” Charlie quickly placed a folder on Debbie’s desk and then motioned for Gwindor to follow him. “So why would anyone willingly read that book?” Charlie eventually asked.
“I like microwaves,” Gwindor said, shrugging.
“Okay, but why?” Charlie pressed.
“We don’t have them where I’m from,” Gwindor answered.
“And where’s that?”
“Nargothrond. The city,” Gwindor repeated. Charlie paused, noticing Gwindor’s clothing.
“Is it a hippy commune?”
“No, it’s an elf city.”
“Whatever you say, man,” Charlie said.
“You don’t believe me.”
“Can’t say I do.”
“What about this?” Gwindor pushed his hair out of the way to show his ears. Charlie jumped back slightly.
“Elves don’t exist.”
“I’m going to not take offense at that comment, and you should be grateful,” Gwindor said. “You should ask Lady Claudia.”
“You mean C.J.?” Charlie asked.
“Yes! We’re friends, she’ll tell you.”
“If you say so.” They had reached Charlie’s office, and Gwindor followed Charlie inside and helped him sort through the books. “The President gave me all of these a while ago,” Charlie explained.
“Did you read the one about microwaves?” Gwindor asked.
“Why not?” Gwindor couldn’t understand.
“This happens a lot. The President gives me all sorts of books and tells me to read them. I’ve actually read maybe five of them.”
“So you are not interested in microwaves, but he gave you the book anyway?”
“Yeah. Something about ‘expanding your knowledge,’” Charlie said.
“That is wise,” Gwindor noted, “Lord President Bartlet seems to be a good ruler.”
“It’s more annoying than anything else,” Charlie corrected, exclaiming triumphantly as he finally found the book. “But you’re right. He is a good leader.”
“This is the book?” Gwindor asked, examining it carefully from over Charlie’s shoulder.
“Yes,” Charlie said, handing it to Gwindor.
“It’s very small for a volume detailing the complete histories of the device,” Gwindor said, lifting the book up and down a few times.
“Well microwaves have only been around since 1946,” said Charlie.
“Is that the same age as the present year?” Gwindor asked, opening the book and flipping through the first few pages.
“It was less than a hundred years ago, if that’s what you mean.” Gwindor paused. Less than a hundred years? That was quite recent. He was amazed that the author of the book had managed to use as many pages as they had.
“Wait, you said you hadn’t read the book, yet you know the year in which the first microwave formed.”
“Well I read two chapters because the President was sitting behind me staring over my shoulder talking about how ‘we must know the origin of great inventions to spur on discovery,’” Charlie said, smiling. Gwindor laughed. He had not laughed in quite some time. He could tell by Charlie’s facial expression it must have sounded like a dying frog.
“He reminds me of King Orodreth,” Gwindor said. “King Orodreth is wise, and a good father,” he continued, thinking about the multiple times he had entered the main palace dining room to find Orodreth and Finduilas eating pancakes at all times in the day.
“He is,” Charlie said. “You know he resigned the Presidency so that he could be worried about his daughter without compromising national security.”
“That is an act of valor,” Gwindor said, nodding. “If it were possible, King Orodreth would do the same.” Charlie nodded, and walked over to the water cooler at the corner of the room. He poured two cups of water, and handed one to Gwindor.
“To good leaders,” he said, raising his cup. Gwindor raised his as well.
“And to microwaves,” he added, drinking the water. Charlie paused for a moment before drinking as well.
“It was great to see you again, C.J.!” Finduilas said, wrapping C.J. in one last hug as they all gathered by the least monitored entrance in the building.
“My our paths cross again,” Gwindor said, shaking hands with the President, Charlie, Kate and C.J.
“If you ever have any enemies that need disposing of, you call me,” Túrin said, nodding at each person.
“Noted,” Kate responded, smiling.
“Good luck with your meeting,” C.J. said, flashing the visitors from Nargothrond a rare sincere smile.
“We will report back,” Finduilas assured her. “And you need to come on our show.”
“C.J., did you land a gig we didn’t know about?” the President asked.
“Nothing concrete, sir,” C.J. answered, jokingly glaring at Finduilas.
“Lady Claudia, we would never have known this world were it not for you,” Gwindor said, “it would be an honor to have your company on our show.”
“You guys are getting a show?” Kate asked. “Should I be asking an autograph?”
“We have one meeting,” Orodreth responded, “as Lady Claudia mentioned, it is not concrete.”
“We should get going,” Finduilas said reluctantly, motioning for her friends and family. As they left, Finduilas waved one last time.
“It has been a strange day,” the President noted.
“A strange month for me,” C.J. said, nodding in agreement, watching them leave.
Finduilas wondered when she would find her thing in this new world. For Gwindor, the thing was microwaves. For Túrin, as she had just discovered, the thing was swivel chairs. The person they had been sent to meet with, Mr. Edwards, apparently, seemed only mildly irritated by Túrin’s antics, so Finduilas didn’t ask him to stop spinning until he almost knocked over what was certainly an expensive snow globe.
“Are you all ready now?” Mr. Edwards asked, making eye contact with Túrin for the first time since the beginning of their meeting.
“Yes,” Finduilas said, somewhat sheepishly.
“So you should all know that you’re a hit on the Internet,” Mr. Edwards began. “People find you fascinating, especially since Mr. Hoynes has been on the receiving end of quite a bit of backlash after it was revealed he was inappropriate towards at least two women.”
“That outweighs people’s distaste for violence?” Finduilas asked.
“Yes, believe it or not. They’re also interested in you, sir,” Mr. Edwards said, turning to Orodreth. “Many people found how easily you delivered the ‘I’m king’ joke while maintaining your dignity to be incredibly impressive. Many people specifically inside this building.”
“I am the king of Nargothrond,” Orodreth said, confused. At least they’d said he had maintained his dignity.
“Yes, excellent, say it exactly like that. Like you actually mean it.”
“He is the king. Orodreth Artaresto. It is disrespectful to imply otherwise,” Gwindor protested. Mr. Edwards clapped his hands.
“This is brilliant! Okay, here’s what I’m offering. Five episodes with the potential for multiple seasons. You’ll have creative control, just run the scripts and topics through our writing staff.”
“You’re making us that offer, now?” Finduilas asked. From her discussions with C.J., she had expected the process to move slower.
“Yes. Now. Look… our network is on its last legs. You guys are a hit. I’m envisioning a sort of talk show… you’d take phone calls of course… but with an added spin. You could do things like cooking, going out shopping, it’d be reality TV, you know? Just keep doing that ‘elf kingdom’ element as well as you have and we’ll all make a lot of money.”
“Could I teach people how to fight?” Túrin asked, squinting and nodding thoughtfully.
“Sure, that would actually be a great bit,” Mr. Edwards said.
“I like making pancakes,” Orodreth added.
“Finduilas would look great in some of the clothes I saw in the store windows,” Gwindor said thoughtfully, earning him a swat from Finduilas.
“These are great ideas. I take it you’re in?”
“We’re in,” Finduilas confirmed.
--two days later--
“We all watched as Túrin Turambar chased down former Vice President Hoynes with a sword. We all were amazed as we watched Finduilas Faelivrin casually explain their reasoning. We all laughed as Orodreth Artaresto declared himself king of the elves! We all wondered at Gwindor’s fascinating defense. Well, now these fascinating figures have made a deal on their new show: Lessons from an Elf Kingdom that You Should Really F-ing Know By Now !” the newswoman enthused. “Billed as a talk/day-in-the-life show, the pilot for Lessons from an Elf Kingdom is set to launch in March 2007! If continued Miss Faelivrin has stated that the show will cover topics such as familial bonding, dealing with trauma, and identifying a bad person! We can’t wait to see what they do next!”