Wednesday, 27 January 2016

News from the OFUs: OFUM - A Change in the Stars

There are some sounds the entire staff of OFUM are attuned to: The outbreak of Round #5602 of Morgoth versus Sauron (with Smaug joining in for fun and profit, these days). Gandalf entering the kitchens. The onset of a Legoluster stampede.

This last broke through the peace of Gimli’s early-morning doze, shaking him to full alertfulness. Beside him, Lina was already up, pulling on her clothes with a wide-eyed expression. “I thought Thundera Tiger was doubling Legolas' mini quota until the movie aftermath subsided?”

“She did,” Gimli said, running a hand through his beard to tug out the worst of the knots while he reached for his armour. “She put Legolaz and Leholas on duty – you know how they are about fangirls.”

“Then where are they?” Lina asked, dragging a comb through her hair. “Why aren’t there more screams?”

Gimli cocked his head, listening. The stampede was more like a full-blown riot now, with none of the cracking whips that meant that mini-Balrogs were dealing with it. “Perhaps they’re still in bed?” he suggested. “Miss Cam scheduled his ‘Whose Tribe Is It Anyway?’ class early in the morning so the fangirls would still be half asleep, but if it backfired…”

“Hard to believe,” Lina disagreed. “There’s always minis about. Unless-“

Her speculation was cut off by a pounding on the door. Gimli settled his chainmail in place and tugged the heavy door open to reveal the furious face of Thranduil, king of Mirkwood.

“Dwarf,” the Elvenking practically growled, his eyes narrowing even further, “I will ask this only once: where is my son?”

Gimli’s hand flashed to his axe. “Are you trying to threaten me, Elf-lord?” he demanded. “Do you think I’m one of yon Lake-Town humans, to be bullied so easily?”

“I think,” Thranduil ground out, “that I have had enough of the insolence of dwarves to last me a lifetime. Answer me, you burrowing rat.”

If looks could kill, Gimli’s would have left Thranduil smashed beneath a thousand tonnes of granite. “If you don’t-“

Lina grabbed Gimli by the beard and yanked him backwards into the room. “Sorry about him, your majesty,” she said over the sound of the dwarf’s cries of pain. “Legolas isn’t here. He’s supposed to be teaching right now…?”

Thranduil gestured abruptly in the direction of the ongoing riot. “But he manifestly is not,” he said. “No-one has seen him since last night – since, in point of fact, the moment he stepped throughthis door in the cause of some… pointless frivolity.”

“You malign the name of Risk?” Gimli called. “Your dainty tresses shall decorate-“

“Oit!” Lina snapped over her shoulder. “Shut it, or I’m bunking with Shadow for the rest of the month.” She turned back to smile at Thranduil. “He gets like this in the mornings. Yes, Legolas was here yesterday evening. We talked about your films. He, uh…” Lina decided not to mention how upset Legolas had been (once he had a couple of glasses of wine in him) at the way his previously-affable father had been transformed by the release of the Hobbit films. “… left fairly late. Said he wanted to… what was it, Gimli?”

“Get some fresh air before bed,” Gimli supplied in a subdued tone.

“Right, that. And that’s the last we saw of him.” Lina shrugged. “Have you checked the grounds? They’re quite extensive these days.”

“I assure you, I am well aware of that,” Thranduil said. “I will accept your story for the time being, but if I find you have attempted to deceive me…”

“Then I’m far more frightened of Miss Cam’s reaction than yours. Good morning, your majesty,” Lina said, and shut the door firmly.

Gimli stepped up to Lina and placed a hand on her shoulder. “That was impressive,” he told her. “Masterful. I’ve always known you had iron at your core – I never realised it was cold steel.”

Lina’s laugh was shaky, and when she turned Gimli saw the trembling in her hands. “Let’s hope it fooled him as well as it did you, then,” she said, and wiped at her eyes with one sleeve. “Right. Okay. Right.”

“Come back to bed,” Gimli suggested, taking her in his arms. “Anyone would need a lie down after facing down an elf king like that.”

“I’d love to,” Lina said, briefly yielding to the hug, “but we can’t. Right now we need to finish getting dressed, and then track Legolas down. Preferably before the fangirls find him… or his father does.”


Legolas, when they eventually found him, was in the old planetarium. The gigantic dome had been built some years ago to teach the students about the constellations of Arda, but the class had been cancelled after a single semester when the PPC’s Department of Intelligence pointed out that virtually no fanfics bothered to mention the stars, let alone the constellations. Varda had been extremely put out to lose her only teaching position, but Miss Cam had been firm: “There’s no point getting them mildly annoyed at learning facts they won’t use when we can better use the time traumatising them with information they will.”

Now the glowing interior of the dome (Varda had refused to turn it off, claiming it would be needed ‘someday’) was covered in dust, and tended to be visited only when an elf needed somewhere to think (or a student couple wanted privacy; students can find their way into anywhere). Legolas was sitting cross-legged in the centre of the floor, staring upwards with an inscrutable expression, and didn’t look round even when Gimli and Lina stopped beside him.

Not looking didn’t mean he hadn’t heard them, of course. “One of my strongest memories of the fighting before Erebor used to be the night before,” he said, his tone almost dreamy. “The dragon was dead, but it takes more than a handful of days for such a stain to clear itself. The reek from the Mountain was a visible cloud, blotting out the stars.” He turned at last, shooting Gimli a thin smile. “No more. Not in the new history.”

Gimli nodded slightly. “We’ve all felt the tremors from the movies,” he said. “The Lady Galadriel and Sauron are at each other’s throats, Celeborn is suspicious of Gandalf, the Witch-Wall is writing laments for himself over being dead for thousands of years…”

“And you’ve lost about sixty years,” Legolas put in. “I’m guessing Miss Holling appreciates that, at least.”

Lina blushed. “He’s been… uh, energetic of late,” she admitted. “But the changes to Thorin have affected all the dwarves.”

“Some more than others,” Gimli muttered, thinking of the late (but still on the teaching staff) Oakenshield’s nephews. Fili had managed to retain most of his book characterisation, enough to render him something of a non-entity. His beard was long and yellow, he wore a blue hood with little tassles on – and he looked extremely askance at his brother Kili, who had flipped fully to his movie appearance, barely-there stubble and all.

“It’s not the same,” Legolas said. “We spoke of my father last night…”

“I remember him from my first year,” Lina said. “He was strict, sure, but not like this.”

“I’m still not convinced he’s not just suffering from lack of sleep,” Gimli said. “His room shares a wall with Tauriel’s, remember.” Which, since the third movie in particular, meant that Thranduil had been glaring daggers at Kili every morning when the dwarf left Tauriel’s chambers. There were rumours in the staff quarters that the Elvenking had been seen conferring with Fili, but of course that was impossible.

“He hasn’t been himself since the second movie, though,” Lina pointed out. “It’s been more like… do you remember that time Miss Cam had Evil!Thranduil and Evil!Denethor in for a lecture series?”

“If you’re done mocking my pain, I’m trying to angst over here,” Legolas said. “I thought you were here to listen, not to provide a running commentary.”

“Can’t imagine why you’d think that.” Gimli leant on a convenient table and looked across at his friend. “I know it’s hard, dealing with movie changes. But Miss Cam is trying to help you all. Meir Bryn’s support group meets every week; father tells me the Harry Potter characters are very understanding.”

“’Except for the evil ones, but what did you expect?’” Lina quoted, in a passable imitation of Gloin’s accent. At Gimli’s quieting gesture she shrugged, but fell silent.

“It isn’t the same for me, though,” Legolas said. “Motivations shifting, appearance changes, storyline alterations – I can deal with those, I remember them from last time. But this…” He stopped, closed his eyes, and took a breath.

“The movies grafted an entire backstory onto me,” the elf explained. “Before, I was just… me. Now, I have a long-term near-romantic friendship with Tauriel and an antagonistic relationship with my father. I've known Aragorn since he was either ten or twenty-seven, depending on which timeline you believe. And for the first time, I have a mother – but she’s dead, she died fighting Angmar which we shouldn’t even have been in a war against, and her death caused my father to become…” He looked at Lina, shrugged. “Evil!Thranduil, if you like.”

Gimli and Lina exchanged a look. The dwarf was at a loss for words. Lina walked over to Legolas and knelt down in front of him. “It’s getting you down?”

“It’s tearing me apart,” Legolas said, his voice going ragged around the edges. “I don’t know who I’m supposed to be any more.”

“Whoever you want to be,” Lina told him firmly. “Book, movie, second movie – take what you want to keep, and let the rest fall by the way.”

“Isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to make our students stop doing?” Legolas asked.

Lina waved a hand vaguely. “Details,” she said. “It’s different when you’re doing it to yourself. It’s… well, we all do it. We start out life as one person, then take on board the ways people see us on the way. If we like something, we try to keep it; if we don’t, we try to get rid of it.” She glanced over her shoulder, winked at Gimli, then went on: “Of course, most of us don’t have fangirls to worry about, but… if it’s really worrying you, then as a former Legoluster, I can assure you that they’ll be after you no matter who you decide to be.”

The smile that crossed Legolas’ face was miniscule, and lasted less than a second. Then he stood up in a single swift movement, stretched, and looked down at Lina. “Your motivational speeches are almost as bad as that Lickspittle person’s,” he said, and then he smiled, a proper grin. “But thank you.”

“Are you back with us, laddie?” Gimli asked, pushing off the table and walking to the elf’s side.

“I think I am,” Legolas said, “for now. There’s still this great tangle of decisions and problems looming over me, but somehow it seems lighter now.”

“That’s what friends are for,” Gimli said, reaching out to take Lina’s hand and help her up. “And we are your friends.”

“And truer friends there have never been,” Legolas agreed. “Again – thank you.”

“Don’t thank us yet,” Lina said, nodding in the direction of the door. “Now that you’re back on your feet, you have to go out there – and there’s a lot of people waiting to talk to you.”

“So you’ve got a choice to make,” Gimli said as the trio set off towards the door. “On the one hand, you could go to class and deal with your fangirls. On the other, you could face your father’s questions about where you’ve been hiding – and why.”

Legolas’ face paled. “Is there a third option?”

“Depends,” Lina told him. “Do you want to explain to Miss Cam why half of OFUM is in an uproar over your disappearance? I understand she’s rather put out.”

“Irked,” Gimli agreed.

“Maybe even… annoyed?”

Legolas groaned. “Maybe I can get Smaug to incinerate me…”

Acknowledgements/Disclaimer: First and foremost, credit goes to J.R.R. Tolkien for creating Middle-earth and all its inhabitants, and to Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and Fran Walsh for their incredible movie adaptations of the books. Credit is equally due to Camilla Sandman, for the creation of OFUM and the character of Lina.
Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, and Lee Pace are responsible for the depictions of Legolas, Gimli, and Thranduil referenced here. The manner in which the characters cope with the new movies is based partly on The Hogwarts Fanfiction Academy, and partly on the (unrelated) Roommates and Girls Next Door fan-comics.

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