“All right, out with it,” snapped the Lord Celeborn at his two marchwardens, Rumil and Orophin.
“Er…er,” said Rumil.
“To err is human,” said the tall elf-lord sternly, “but to er…er…er… is unforgivable. Tell me now – who is responsible for defacing every Mallorn for miles around in this shameful manner?” He pointed at the nearest Mallorn, on the bark of which someone had carved the words:
O Mary Sue
I love thee true
Rumil and Orophin looked at each other helplessly. It was their brother Haldir who had carved what he called “poetry” on every Mallorn in sight. Rumil decided to shamelessly lie about it to the Lord Celeborn, just as Orophin decided to tell him the truth. The two brothers burst out with their answers simultaneously. “I did it,” said Rumil, just as Orophin burst out, “It was Haldir,” after which, both brothers turned attractive shades of pink and mauve, in embarrassment.
The Lord Celeborn looked from Rumil, who was opening and shutting his mouth like a pink goldfish, to Orophin, who was gulping like a mauve toad. To their relief, he suddenly burst out laughing. “Tell your brother that I wish to see him,” he said. The two marchwardens bowed as the elf-lord strode away into the forest.
Rumil and Orophin spent a few pleasant moments exchanging insults before setting off to find Haldir.
“All right, so he’s in love,” said Rumil, “but why does he have to broadcast the fact to the whole world…”
“That’s his job, remember,” pointed out Orophin. “Broadcasting for Radio Mallorn.”
Rumil shook his head in disgust. “Shameful,” he said. “Shameful!”
“What’s shameful,” asked Orophin, cleverly, “his job or his being in love?”
“Oh, shut up,” said Rumil, wondering, not for the first time, which brother he disliked more – the older or the younger.
As they walked in the direction of the studios of Radio Mallorn, Rumil noticed, out of the corner of his eye, a dark shape that followed them, slinking from tree-trunk to defaced tree-trunk. It walked on all fours like a beast, but was not of beast-shape.
“Orophin,” whispered Rumil, “look…”
Orophin turned to look and instantly stiffened, his hand reaching into his quiver for an arrow.
“No,” hissed Rumil, “don’t shoot – I want to see what he’s up to. Just walk along, humming a tune to yourself, and pretend you haven’t noticed him…”
Orophin obligingly opened his mouth and began to bawl out a Golden Oldie that he had heard on Radio Mallorn that morning:
“You ain’t nothing but a Balrog,
Howling all the time
You ain’t nothing but a Baaaaalrog,
Shrieking all the time
Weeeeeell, you ain’t never caught a Hobbit and you ain’t no friend of mine.”
Rumil blenched at the sound of his brother’s voice, but tried to sound pleasant, for Gollum’s benefit.
“They’re a good group – who are they?”
“Elvish Presley, a Golden Oldie…”
“I see,” said Rumil, making a mental note to steer clear of Radio Mallorn’s “Golden Oldies” in future.
It appeared that Gollum couldn’t stand the sound of Orophin’s singing either, for he suddenly disappeared. Rumil wanted to curse under his breath, but was hampered by the fact that the elvish tongue was sadly lacking in picturesque curses.
To his relief, he caught sight of Gollum again, far away, to the right of their path. “Orophin,” said Rumil urgently, “I’m going to follow him. Go straight ahead and give Haldir his message from the Lord Celeborn.” Before Orophin could reply, Rumil hastened away in hot pursuit of Gollum.
Orophin stared blankly at Rumil’s swiftly receding form for a few minutes and then set off at a run to find Haldir. Before long, he heard footsteps following him. Heavy footsteps – hundreds of them…Orophin turned around and nearly fainted at the sight of an army of Orcs pursuing him. But they looked surprisingly friendly.
“Er, hello,” said a tall Orc with greasy purple hair. “Could you direct us to one Haldir of L’Oreal at the studios of Radio Mallorn, please?”
Orophin happened to be the proud possessor of one of the most sluggish brains in the realm of L’Oreal. But even he could see that these Orcs were not to be trusted. And much as he disliked Haldir, who as an older brother tended to throw his weight around a little too much, Orophin drew the line at having him attacked by Orcs. Too terrified to speak, Orophin sent the Orcs off in the wrong direction by jerking his thumb vaguely to the left. They soon disappeared down the path that he had indicated. But it would not be long before they discovered the true whereabouts of Radio Mallorn. “I must warn Haldir,” thought Orophin, and ran so hard that he arrived at the studio purple-faced, panting and speechless.
Haldir sat under a tree at the entrance to the clump of Mallorns that constituted the studio. He looked up rather irritably from the seventy-first poem he was composing, on the charms of Mary Sue. “Well, what is it,” he asked.
Just a few minutes back, Rumil had run past, hot and breathless. In response to Haldir’s enquiring look, he had replied, “Gollum! Gollum,” and run on. And now, here was Orophin, unwittingly doing his frog imitation again. Haldir sighed at this fresh evidence of his younger brothers’ insanity.
Orophin was clearly trying to tell him something. Haldir could see that. But his youngest brother was too breathless to be able to say more than “Celeborn” and “Yrch!”
Haldir stared at him. What could he mean? Had the Lord Celeborn attacked some Orcs? Had he been attacked by Orcs? Had he turned into an Orc? What…?
“Well, what’s going on,” he asked again. “Celeborn,” said Orophin, more distinctly. “Yrch!”
“Sit down, Orophin,” said Haldir. “Get your breath back. Stick your tongue out and catch a few flies for refreshment. Now, tell me what’s going on…”