For the birthday of Mistress Aislynn, a modest tale I hinted at long ago and have finally been arsed to produce. Felicitations and many happy returns!
" . . . turn those famous eyebrows of yours in the direction of a dark tale by a Mistress Crabaniel, entitled, 'Mail Ghoul,' in which Elrond (the bastard!) signs up poor Thranduil for The Publishers Clearinghouse and the Readers Digest Sweepstakes, plus a large number of unwanted magazine subscriptions, thus putting him on every mailing list and inundating Mirkwood under an avalanche of junk mail. The calumny to Elrond's character is unprecedented!"
Nine and A Half Weeks in Mirkwood, by 'Acharn Lend'
"Manwe's bollocks! Who could be behind this fiendish thing?" Thranduil's bellow, amplified by the stone walls, echoed throughout his privy chamber as three elven-pages stumbled in, stooped beneath the weight of bursting mail sacks. One of the pages emptied his bag, and an avalanche of magazines, scrolls and leaflets bearing the fell name 'Publishers' Clearinghouse' joined the already overflowing piles on the Elvenking's desk.
"Perhaps, Sire," Galion ventured, "you might allow some of the junior scribes to attend to the opening of your mail if you were not so . . . conscientious about your duty."
"Control freak, more like," murmured Legolas, who lounged in a corner flipping through a copy of Boy's Life. From his chair beside him, Aragorn snickered softly.
"Just look at this mess!" He tore open a packet with impatient fingers. "Dear beloved friend, I am pleased to inform you that you are the only living relative of Erufailon Aratano, who perished in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. Five million kulustar awaits you upon receipt of all pertinent financial information, including secret passwords to your gate and vault, sent by foot courier to the First Steward's Bank of Harlond." Thranduil snorted. "How great a fool do they think I am? Kinsman to a Golodh -- that will be the day Orodruin freezes over! Five million kulustar would have been nice, though, what with the bills for all these magazine subscriptions."
"Indeed it would, Sire. The current rate of exchange to gold and white gems is extremely favorable," Galion murmured as he bent to retrieve scattered piles of mail from the stone floor.
Thranduil broke the seal on a plain brown scroll. "Secret Haradren herbs. Guaranteed to turn back thoughts from 'other things' and enlarge the gweth -- curse it, Galion, I have no need for such a thing!" He crumpled the scroll and flung it at the roaring hearth.
Aragorn's hand shot out to snatch it from the air. "I'll just take that," he said, stuffing the balled up scroll into the front of his tunic. Legolas merely raised an eyebrow and turned the page of his magazine.
"Oh, goody -- Soldier of Fortune!" Aragorn exclaimed gaily, grabbing a magazine off the pile with the look of a man eager to change the subject.
"Ai -- what is this new Mannish publication?" Thranduil asked, as Aragorn's subtraction revealed a new magazine with a cover that featured a beguiling blonde adaneth whose bodice lacings seemed to have come partway undone. "Hustler?"
"I do not know, Father," said Legolas. "You enjoyed those copies of Architectural Digest and Lothlórien Interiors well enough. This maiden seems to be of Rohan. Perhaps the title refers to horse herding?"
"Horses. I like horses," Thranduil said, picking up the magazine. A trifold page fluttered open. Silence fell in the room as four sets of eyes, three elven and one mortal, stared, blinked, stared, and blinked again. "Ah . . . er . . . I shall put this safely out of sight," said Thranduil, hastily stuffing the offending publication into his desk drawer. "Lest any of my subjects chance upon it and be tempted to impure thoughts . . . of course."
"Excellent idea, Sire," said Galion, patting the pocket where he kept the spare key to Thranduil's desk.
Legolas snapped his magazine closed. "May I be excused, Father? A sudden desire comes upon me to go into the forest to practice the new skills I have learned within these pages." He cast a sidelong glance at Aragorn. "Woodsmanship."
Aragorn returned the look. "Pitching tents."
Thranduil gave a terse nod. "You have my leave." When the door swung shut on the two departing younger ones, he let his forehead fall forward onto his desk. "Why me, Galion? Who could wish me so ill?"
The butler coughed and gave an eloquent shrug. "Whom have you offended in the last Long-year, Sire?"
Thranduil picked his head up from the piles of papers and crinkled his forehead. "The men of Esgaroth? Surely not! I helped rebuild their town not seventy years past."
"Think hard, Sire."
"The dwarves of Erebor? I suppose they might harbor some lingering hard feelings. But I returned that Golodhren sword and the Arkenstone right away, and all this printed material doesn't seem Dain's style somehow. Why, I even named their hobbit companion Elf-friend and blessed!"
Again, Galion coughed. "Thus conferring upon him a lifetime right to free lodging at any Homely House east of the sea. Of course, there is only one Homely House east of the sea . . ."
Thranduil's expression turned from perplexed to suspicious. "Galion, fetch me the archive copy of Master Elrond's latest epistle. I seem to recall it containing some odd phraseology that puzzled me at the time."
"Happy to oblige, my Lord," said Galion, turning to pull a rolled up parchment from the shelves behind him.
Thranduil took the letter and began to read aloud. "Damn you, Thranduil. Bilbo Baggins is eating me out of house and home. What is worse, he fancies himself a poet and insists on composing impertinent doggerel about my family, torturing us all nightly with it in the Hall of Fire. Although he turned one hundred and twenty-seven on his last birthday, the little beggar shows no sign of aging, so my torment is not soon likely to cease. I never forget a favor, old friend, and I always repay with interest. Dutifully yours, Elrond Peredhel, Master of Imladris."
Thranduil laid down the parchment with a puzzled look. "I interpreted that to mean I owed him the favor of imprisoning that stinking gangrel creature the Dúnedan brought us. You don't suppose . . .?"
"Hmmm, you think?" Galion replied, as the door creaked open and footmen staggered in with yet more sacks filled with offers of low-cost cave-equity loans and missives announcing that the recipient had won the Rhûnish lottery.
Thranduil's eyes narrowed. "Elrond! The bastard!" He turned to his butler with a feral gleam in his gaze. "Two can play at that game, Galion. Bring me pen and paper . . ."
* * *
Two months later, Elrond Peredhel, stood on the front porch of his Homely House, staring at a long line of wagons, each bearing the fell inscription 'Sharkey's Pizza: We Deliver for Saruman' emblazoned in the side, that stretched along the path leading up from the ford.
"I ordered no pizzas," he said helplessly. "Glorfindel, did we order any pizzas?"
Beside him, the former balrog slayer shook his golden hair and shrugged. "No, I don't recall ordering any pizzas."
"Yer Elrond Halfeven of Rivendell, Eriador, ain't ya?" said a very swarthy man in ill-fitting white livery.
"Well I got an order here for two thousand large pizzas with the works. That'll be eight bags of gold, and we ain't leavin' until we get it." He held out a bill in his clawed hand.
"Very well. Bring them in." Elrond sighed and passed the bill to Glorfindel. "Have Erestor open the vaults. We can always sell off a few tapestries to make up the difference. Denethor of Gondor will buy anything if he thinks it's old enough."
The two of them stood watching as the deliverymen in the white livery of Isengard shuffled past on bowed legs, arms laden with flat boxes.
"At least there is enough food here to feed us all for several nights, including that gluttonous hobbit," Glorfindel commented.
"Who could have played such a jest on me? I am kind as summer -- a friend to everyone!" Elrond snatched a box off a passing stack and opened it. He plucked something that resembled a bit of dried leather off the surface of the pie and held it up for closer inspection, wrinkling his nose. "What is this? It smells atrocious."
"I believe, my Lord," said Glorfindel, "that is known as an 'anchovy.' The Falathrim are said to enjoy such things."
"Anchovy? Falathrim . . .?" Elrond's eyebrows knitted into a single dark mass. "Cirdan!"
Glorfindel stared blankly.
"Yes: Cirdan," Elrond said. "And two can play at that game . . ."
* * * * * * *
The end . . . or is it?
Author's Note: My thanks to Darth Fingon for several witty ideas concerning the 'spam missives' Thranduil is receiving, including the 'dead relative' mugu and the gweth enhancing products. Thanks also to Darth Fingon for the name of the dead Noldorin relative, which translated to 'John Smith'.