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Interlude 1 – Descent Into HQ

I do not own the PPC, which was created by the amazing Jay and Acacia. Neither do I own the lyrics to "The Wake," and I must apologize to Nightingale for what is done to that particular song in this chapter. I do not own any of the other songs or bands mentioned. Alaric Morgan is the property of Katherine Kurtz, and Morgon of Hed belongs to Patricia A. McKillip. The land of Mordant is the creation of the awe-inspiring Stephen R. Donaldson.

* * *

From the looks of it, saving Maglor's replacement would be more than the matter of simply not killing him. Much as he hated to admit it, Tirsaer was beginning to regret sparing the character in favor of recruitment, a fact that had little to do with his crimes against canon and everything to do with how much work this was turning out to be.

After some urging, not-Maglor was finally convinced to step into the portal that led back to RC #5719. As things turned out, however, Garra the mini-Kyuubi was waiting directly on the other side, and the Elf ended up sprawled on floor after tripping over the creature.

"What's going on?" Tirsaer, closely followed by his partner Ryni, stepped through, the Noldo disguises they both wore fading away as they did so.

Not-Maglor picked himself up from the ground, staring at the disgruntled mini-Kyuubi now lurking under the table in the middle of the room. "I totally just tripped over that—oh my gods who are you?"

"Tirsaer." He gave not-Maglor an odd look. "And that's Ryni. Honestly, what's gotten into you?"

Backing away slowly, not-Maglor shook his head. "I've never seen you people before in my life. What happened to those other guys?"

"Those other—oh. I see." Tirsaer had to laugh. "That was us. We were just disguised."

"Perhaps we should begin our explanations from the beginning, to better allow our newest recruit understanding," Ryni interrupted, pushing past her partner and heading towards her bed. Halfway there, she paused to examine a heavily damaged yellow foam dummy lying on the floor. "It seems we must once more descend into the depths of our Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology, so that we may face the wrath of those who labor for our purpose."

"Ergh. I'll let you handle that. I'm not scary enough to avoid getting eaten or anything." Tirsaer plopped into one of the folding chairs by the table, gesturing for not-Maglor to do the same. Within seconds, Garra had clambered into the necromancer's lap, leaving long tears in the black cloth of his leggings. "Gyaah! Would it kill you to just once leave me in peace?"

Hesitantly, not-Maglor lowered himself into the other chair, eyeing the mini-Kyuubi warily. "So when were you gonna tell me what's up?"

Tirsaer waited until Garra had settled down before answering. "I'm... not sure how to explain this in a way that'll make any sense at all." He considered this a moment, then shrugged. "Long story short, me'n Ryni are members of an organization that keeps bad writing from corrupting worlds."

"What?" Not-Maglor blinked. "What does writing have to do with anything?"

"Everything." Tirsaer ran his fingers through Garra's fur. "See, there's this world filled with people who can, y'know, sense other worlds or something, and they write down or draw pictures or makes images of what happens in those other worlds, but when you record something you define it, so the worlds become the stories, and then other people come along and they change the stories by writing in plotholes and stuff, and then these creatures called Mary Sues and author-wraiths and slash demons come through and take control of the people in those worlds, and we go in and try to restore the original story so the worlds can go back on their proper courses. Got that?"

"... Huh?"

From her bed, Ryni snorted. "Your description lacks clarity, dear partner."

Tirsaer twisted to glare at her. "Let's see you try to explain this!"

"So be it." Ryni turned to not-Maglor. "Orders arrive for the assassination of invading monsters that wear the forms of breathtaking beauty. By slaying these foul creatures, we restore the Worlds of Words to their proper forms."

Tirsaer snorted. "Yeah, like that's any better."

"Wait." Not-Maglor held up a hand. "Are you trying to tell me that you people run around killing demons?"

"Far more complicated and complex than that, I fear," Ryni murmured.

"Close enough." Tirsaer shrugged. "Long and short, yeah. We kill demons. Rather odd demons, admittedly, but demons all the same."

"So why'd you have to kill Anduril?" not-Maglor demanded, blinking back tears. "We were getting married!"

"Hoo boy." Tirsaer sighed and slumped into his chair. "This could be messy."

"The foul being you name as Anduril was no more than one of the demons known among us as Mary Sue," Ryni said, examining her fingernails, "and you yourself are but words bent to her will to serve her purpose."

"No I'm not!" not-Maglor protested. "I'm Maglor Feanorian! And Anduril loved me!"

"No, she lusted after the real Maglor," Tirsaer corrected. "She only made you to deal with that lust when she couldn't get a hold on the real Maglor."

"But I'm the real Maglor!"

The agents looked at each other. "I have no desire or will to explain the certain nature of reality to this naïve child."

"Shame." Tirsaer sighed, then looked back at not-Maglor. "Mind telling me some of your childhood memories?"

"When I first met Anduril!" Now the tears began to flow. "My horse wouldn't listen to me, and then she showed up—"

"No, no. Earlier."

"Earlier?" Not-Maglor blinked, wiping away tears.

"Yeah. Give me a memory that doesn't involve your... Anduril." Tirsaer couldn't help but shudder as he said the name.

"Well... that one time... I...." His words stumbled to a halt.

"Or what about your time during the Exile?" Tirsaer pressed. "Tell me about your stint as leader of the Noldor while your brother was hanging by his wrist from a cliff."

"... I don't remember." A pause as he stared at the carpet for a few moments, and then not-Maglor looked up incredulously. "Someone messed with my memories?"

"Charter give me patience," Tirsaer muttered. Louder, "Yeah, you could put it like that."

"And that thing!" Not-Maglor twisted to point at the remains of the crash dummy on the floor. "After Anduril...." He flinched before continuing, "She turned into that!"

"Course she did." Tirsaer shrugged. "Like we've been telling you, your Anduril wasn't real."

"Not real," not-Maglor repeated softly, still staring at the dummy.

"Do you now accept and comprehend the truth of your existence?" Ryni said after a few moments of quiet, not quite paying attention as she measured out lengths of string on her bed.

"She could still be out there!" Hope lighting in his eyes, not-Maglor jumped up from his seat. "Anduril could still be alive!"

Aghast, Tirsaer was stunned into silence. "Not really what I was saying," he eventually managed.

"Please!" Not-Maglor grabbed Tirsaer's hands. "You've gotta help me find my girlfriend! She could be anywhere!"

"Um...."

"You said that these demons come from other worlds, right? So maybe this 'Mary Sue' stored her in one of those other worlds before it took her place!" His grip tightened. "I'll do anything to find her again!"

"Ow." Tirsaer shook his hands free. "Look, that's not going to be possible. She's dead—"

"You have no proof!" not-Maglor shot back. "You travel to other worlds, don't you? If I join your agency, I can look for her!"

Tirsaer opened his mouth. Shut it again. Then he sighed. "Sure. Let's just get you registered, and you can find your girlfriend in your own time."

Ryni snorted.

* * *

"Are we there yet?"

"No. Again. Like all the other times you've asked."

"So when will we get there?"

"No sooner than your own pointless blathering ceases to spew forth and contaminate the air which we must breathe."

"... Huh?"

"Oh, for—" Tirsaer threw his hands up in exasperation. The three of them had been walking through HQ for about an hour, now, and the gray hallways showed no sign of ending anytime soon. "Look, we've gone through this. Don't think about arriving. Think about a book or something, and we'll be there in no time at all."

"That doesn't make any sense!"

"Doesn't matter. That's the way HQ works. So stop talking!"

"Fine." Silence as Ryni led them through a cramped corridor, then, "So, how long?"

"Shut up shut up shut up!" Tirsaer stopped and spun around, glaring. "We would've been there by now if you would just stop talking! One more word—just one—and I'm going to start singing. Got that?"

Meekly, not-Maglor nodded. Once more they began walking, and then, "So why—"

"Argh! That is it!" Tirsaer clenched his jaw. "I will tell you now that this is entirely your fault, so don't blame me for any trouble we get into because of this."

Ryni winced. "I would implore and request that you reconsider this perilous course of action."

"Sorry. I warned him." He drew in a deep breath, paused, and let it out in a burst of noise. "COME INTO MY GAME OF—SOL-IT-AAAAAAARE YOUCOULDENTERIN—AND READ ME LIKE A SCRA-AAAAAWL...."

"Oh my god." Not-Maglor stared with all the horror of a legendary singer as Tirsaer roundly slaughtered a perfectly innocent ballad.

"ADRIFT UPON THE TIDE AND—IN-THE-AAAAAAIR IWILLLETYOUSEE THE DREAMER THROUGH THE WA-AAAAALL...."

It wasn't that Tirsaer's voice was bad, as such. In other circumstances, it could even be considered pleasant and soothing on the ears. He simply looked at singing with a view that could best be summarized as "Tone Is For The Weak," and his approach to key and timing was haphazard at best and hideously unrecognizable at worst.

"I WISH THAT WE COULD PICK THE WOOOOORLD A-PAAAART I BELIEVE THERE IS SOME-ONE IN-SIDE THE PA-AI-AIN LIFE IS WASTED HERE BE-HIIIIIIIIIND THE VEIL I WILL NE-VER BE FREE, CAN'T YOU SEE I'VE MOU-OURNED AGAIN...."

Mouth twisted into a grimace, Ryni reached up to rub her temples. "Let this be a warning unto you, one who calls himself Maglor: heed all threats and cautions before you reach a decision you may come to regret."

"I WATCH THE DAYS THEY CRASH IN—TO-THE-NIIIIIGHT ALLTHESECRECY THE ANGELS NEVER CA-AME...."

"Nobody can sing that badly. I can't believe it." Not-Maglor shuddered as Tirsaer hit a particularly off note. "I just can't."

"THE FINE LINE BETWEEN WHAT'S—YOURS-AND-MIIIIIINE ISITMINEALONE THE SOLITUDE OF SHA-AAAAAAME...."

"Surely you must believe it, for who can deny the power and supremacy of such a voice?" She stopped, tapping a section of the wall. "It is to our fortune, however, that we have finally arrived at the destination for which we have searched endlessly."

"THE WHISPERED WORD AND NOW YOU'RE OOOOON MY SIIIIIIIIIIDE I AM AL-MOST A-LIVE IN YOUR CARE, MY LO-O-OOOVE—"

Will you cease that infernal racket? The words echoed in their minds, and Tirsaer snapped his mouth shut. Thank you. Come in, then.

Now that he knew what to look for, not-Maglor could see the faint line of the doorway set into the gray surface of the wall. With a shove from Ryni, the door swung open, and the three entered.

And to what, may I ask, do I owe this pleasure? The Marquis de Sod looked up from his desk, pen still held ready over a stack of papers.

"A new recruit, ready and prepared for assignment into this honorable organization." Ryni gestured towards not-Maglor, who for his part was staring at the Marquis with undisguised incredulity.

"Um, guys?" he hissed to the others. "There's a giant daisy sitting over there."

"Aye?" Ryni looked from said daisy to not-Maglor and back again.

"And it's wearing a bowler hat," not-Maglor added, voice filled with a certain morbid curiosity.

"Didn't we already tell you about the Flowers?" Not-Maglor shook his head in answer to Tirsaer's question. "Really? Oops."

Are you finished? I'd like to get on with this, if at all possible. The Marquis slid a thick sheaf of official-looking forms across the desk. And yes, I am a 'giant daisy,' as you termed it. I am called the Marquis de Sod.

"Most of the important people around here are Flowers," Tirsaer said helpfully, guiding not-Maglor over to the desk. "Big, telepathic, sentient Flowers."

Stepping up to not-Maglor's other side, Ryni scooped up a pen and pulled the form over. "Shall we begin this laborious and grueling task, then?"

"Don't I get to fill it out?" not-Maglor asked. "I'm the one signing up, after all."

"Nah. We know more about this than you do." Tirsaer leaned over to squint at the paper. "Fun."

If you'll excuse me, then. The Marquis turned back to his paperwork, ignoring the others in the room.

"Okay, first question." Tirsaer frowned. "Name, huh?"

"Maglor Feanorian, of course!" not-Maglor said. "That's easy enough."

"Haven't we already gone through this? You're not Maglor." Tirsaer exchanged a glance with Ryni. "We're going to have come up with something, aren't we?"

"Aye, Tirsaer." Ryni tapped the pen thoughtfully. "Something of suitable connotation and meaning."

"Don't I get a say?" not-Maglor asked plaintively.

"No. We recruited you, we name you." Tirsaer suddenly blinked. "Hey, Ryni—this is like we're his parents or something!"

"Aye?" Ryni gave him a dubious look.

"Yeah." Tirsaer nodded, eyes wide. "See, we recruited him, which is like bringing him into the world, and now we have to define how he'll integrate into HQ. Whatever we name him will stick with him the rest of his life. So we need to make sure we give him a perfect name."

"Um, maybe we should just come back to this..." not-Maglor said.

"I believe your point is understood and comprehended." Ryni bit her lip. "I truly fear, however, that the choosing of names does not lie within the realm of my strength. What suggestions have you?"

"Bob?" Tirsaer offered after a moment of consideration.

"Surely not." Ryni shook her head firmly. "A name must be unique, must define him who wears it."

"Nothing wrong with Bob. Okay, what about, uh, Fred?"

"The same concern applies. The name must not be simple and generic, but hold the values we wish to pass onto this untouched recruit." Ryni frowned. "A dilemma of much perplexity."

"Maybe something from whatever 'verse you're from?" Tirsaer suggested. "That should be pretty unique."

"Aye, your plan and suggestion seems quite sound." Ryni pondered a moment. "I have once known and respected a man who called himself Naelin."

"Naelin?" Tirsaer considered it. "Not bad. Has a nice sound, I suppose. Who'd it belong to?"

"It was the name offered by my first official kill as I stood over his broken and bleeding body," Ryni announced with a certain amount of pride.

"Er, maybe not the best choice, then." Tirsaer coughed discreetly. "No offense or anything. Okay, what about, uh, Mordant?"

Ryni snorted. "And have those who would encounter him unaware believe him sharp and bitter? I think not. A name which calls to mind appropriate traits for our newest member would be far more appropriate."

"Actually, I was more thinking Mordant as in Stephen R. Donaldson, but whatever." Tirsaer shrugged. "Nancy?"

"No!" not-Maglor protested.

A moment of consideration passed. "No," Tirsaer eventually said.

"No," Ryni agreed. "Might I instead suggest Morgan, a name I find most appealing?"

"That's a girl's name, Ryni."

"It is a name of androgyny, suitable for the use of both the male and female genders. Do you not recall Morgan of Corwyn and Morgon of Hed?"

"His full name is Alaric Morgan, Ryni. Morgan's his last name. And Morgon of Hed doesn't count."

"I fail to see why not." Ryni crossed her arms.

"Because I said so. Anyway, what about Agamemnon?"

"Surely you speak in jest! That infamous commander is no suitable namesake."

"But it's so fun to say!"

"I repeat, no."

"Maybe as a middle name?"

"Tirsaer, neither you nor I can lay claim to even a familial name!"

"Doesn't mean we have to deprive him of a middle name. C'mon, please?"

Not-Maglor, who had been listening with dawning horror and dread, sighed. "I really wish I had a say in all this, guys."

Much to his dismay, his words went ignored.

"I will allow for Agamemnon as a secondary name if you will agree to Morgan as a surname," Ryni conceded.

"Great! Now we just need a first name." Tirsaer bit his lip. "Something Agamemnon Morgan...."

"Perhaps we are approaching this quandary and predicament from the incorrect course," Ryni murmured. "More useful to first locate an appropriate theme and subject, then work our way forwards."

"Hey, not a bad idea." Tirsaer eyed not-Maglor, who fidgeted uncomfortably. "You like to sing, right?"

"Yeah. I'm great with instruments, too." Not-Maglor tried to smile.

"Let's start from there. Maybe a musical instrument, then?" Tirsaer thought for a moment. "Violin Agamemnon Morgan, Tuba Agamemnon Morgan, Saxophone Agamemnon Morgan—"

"No, no." Ryni shook her head. "You think on far too simplistic a level, partner mine. Think rather of crumhorns, of sackbuts, of shawms."

"Sackbut Agamemnon Morgan?" A pause, and then as one everyone winced. "No. What about something directly song-related, then?"

"A suitable idea," Ryni noted. "What ideas have you, then?"

"Been listening to Opeth a lot recently, so...." Tirsaer thought for a moment, then lit up. "Got it! April Ethereal!"

"What?" not-Maglor yelped.

"As you dismissed a primary name of Morgan on account of overwhelming femininity, I can hardly accept such a name as April Ethereal," Ryni pointed out.

"But that song is so awesome! You know, 'It was me, peering through the looking-glass,' so on and so forth. And I know you like that song. Not as much as 'Demon of the Fall', but I've seen you smile when you hear it. In fact, you like that whole CD!"

"Still, the name is not remotely acceptable or satisfactory. You would do best to search elsewhere."

"Fine, fine." Tirsaer sighed. "You're so restrictive. But if we ever recruit a female character, we're naming her April Ethereal. What about Icipher, then? Like the Dark Tranquility song."

"I doubt you would truly believe that an ideal name," Ryni remarked.

"Why? Icipher is badass. What's the problem?"

Ryni coughed, flicking a glance at not-Maglor, who stood watching the exchange in confusion.

"... Oh. Good point."

"I don't get it," not-Maglor said, wrinkling his brow.

"Okay, let's see here...." Tirsaer wracked his memory. "Nightingale's a good band. Maybe one of their songs? Like... Shadowman?"

Ryni gave him a Look. "Does our newest recruit appear as one called 'Shadowman' to you?"

"Well, no." Tirsaer scratched his head. "Why don't you see if you can come up with something?"

"If you truly insist." She thought for a moment. "I do enjoy and appreciate that band known as Agalloch."

"Agalloch, huh? Not a bad choice, except all of their songs are called things like 'You Were But A Ghost In My Arms' and 'She Painted Fire Across the Skyline'. Not exactly ideal material for first names."

"You asked that I choose, and indeed have I chosen."

"Yeah, yeah. Agalloch songs...." Tirsaer tapped his fingers against the desk. "'Hallways of Enchanted Ebony', 'The Misshapen Steed', 'As Embers Dressed the Sky', 'A Celebration for the Death of Man...', 'A Desolation Song', 'The Hawthorne Passage'—" His eyes lit up. "Got it! Hawthorne Passage!"

"Perhaps we can shorten it to simply Hawthorne, and thus render the full name as Hawthorne Agamemnon Morgan," Ryni suggested.

"Good idea." Tirsaer turned to beam at not-Maglor. "Guess what? You've been named!"

"Indeed." With swift movements, Ryni scratched "Hawthorne Agamemnon Morgan" across the top of the application sheet.

The newly dubbed Hawthorne blinked mournfully. "But my name's Maglor...."

"Not anymore, it's not." Tirsaer peered critically at the Elf. "For age, I'd say about seventeen mentally. No idea about physical age."

"I would concur and agree, and note it as such." The pen continued to move, slowly working its way through the form.

Tirsaer read the form over Ryni's shoulder, helpfully answering the questions moments after Ryni had already filled them out. "Species, Tolkien Elf, presumed Noldor. Continuum, Silmarillion badfic. Character status, canon replacement."

"What do you mean, 'Silmarillion badfic'?" Hawthorne asked.

"We'll explain later. For the moment, shut up. Is therapy needed? Oh, yeah."

Time passed, and eventually the last question was answered. Sighing, Ryni dropped the pen and slid the stack of papers across the desk. "I must express relief and thankfulness that we are finally through with this laborious exercise."

Oh, you are? The Marquis de Sod looked up from his paperwork. Finally. A frond snaked over to grasp the application, and the Flower shuffled through the pages with seeming boredom. Unlikely to handle assassination well, eh? Fortunately for you, we have an agent in the Department of Implausible Crossovers whose partner just retired. Consider yourself recruited, Agent Hawthorne.

"My name is Maglor," Hawthorne muttered under his breath, but it was a halfhearted protest.

The Marquis de Sod pulled out something from his desk and tossed it to Hawthorne. Your flash patch. You'll want to attach this to your uniform, whenever you manage to get one. For now, put it in a pocket or something.

Hawthorne examined the flash patch, which featured an image of a flying pig embroidered onto it. Next to him, Tirsaer grinned.

"DIC's a good department," he said approvingly. "I used to work there, long time ago."

Report to RC 9843 and ask for Agent Key. She's your new partner, by the way. The Marquis returned to his paperwork. Dismissed.

"We bid you farewell and goodbye." Ryni turned to leave, and the other agents followed.

After the door slammed shut, leaving them alone in the blank gray hallway, Hawthorne sighed. "So what do I do now?"

Tirsaer slung a friendly arm around his shoulders. "Meet your new partner, of course!"

* * *

The Department of Implausible Crossovers was dark. Not so much dark, actually, as it was black. The walls were black, the floor was black, the ceiling was black, and some genius had neglected to install any sort of lighting whatsoever. Most of the illumination came from the occasional open doors that they passed, which splashed shapes of light onto the black floor.

All in all, Hawthorne was rather depressed about his new home.

"Why is it so dark?" he demanded. "It's just so... emo."

"Emo?" Tirsaer gave him an exasperated look. "You're a Tolkien Elf. Don't ever use that word again."

"Why not?"

"Because it's wrong. Tolkien's Elves did not use the word emo." Tirsaer shoved his hands into his pockets. "So what RC were we looking for again?"

"Response Center Nine-Eight-Four-Three would be our destination, dear partner," Ryni answered. "Can you not remember such a simple phrase?"

"Nope. I'm bad with numbers."

"Perhaps that is fortunate, then, as your ignorance has likely led our wandering feet true." Ryni pointed at a nearby section of wall, on which a tarnished brass plaque labeled "RC 9843" hung.

"Is that it, then?" Hawthorne eyed the section of wall, which upon closer inspection was revealed to be a disguised door, with trepidation. "What am I supposed to do?"

"Knock on it, obviously." Tirsaer rolled his eyes. "What else?"

Gulping, Hawthorne stepped forward and rapped lightly at the door. After a few moments, he turned back to the other agents. "No one's answering."

"Then knock louder. Honestly." Tirsaer shook his head.

This time, the knock echoed down the hallway, and within seconds, the door was flung open by someone blonde and female.

"You're my new partner, I suppose?" She sighed, looking Hawthorne over dismissively. "A newbie. Figures. Well, come in then." That said, she disappeared back into the RC.

At Hawthorne's pleading look, Tirsaer made a shooing gesture towards the waiting doorway. Hesitantly, with no small degree of nervousness, the new agent stepped inside and pulled the door shut behind him.

Tirsaer and Ryni glanced at each other. "Shall we return to our own home, to await our next assignment?" Ryni asked.

"Nah." Tirsaer shook his head. "How about we go bother Nara for a bit instead?"

"As you will it, then."

With that, the two agents continued on down the endless hallways of HQ.

* * *

A/N – I do not condone the naming practices illustrated within this fic. They are used for humorous purposes only, and should not be taken as an example of how to name anybody.

New agent! Yay!

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