Another thank-you to my guest reviewer, 5SecsToThrowItFB!
The history of the Black Speech had, to Crackers, always been somewhat shadowy. She knew, of course, that it was Sauron's personal brainchild (though she wasn't exactly fond of the idea that he had devised something so innately ugly). However, its relation to-and distinction from-the Orkish jargons of the First and Third Ages had always left her in something like the dark. At any rate, though, she never would have fathomed that the tongue-devised long after every one of her Plushies' untimely demises-would have proved so terribly offensive.
"...this I have read: Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatuluk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul. -Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring"
The black square of origami paper, with its silver ink that, Crackers thought, could bloody well have been ithildin (despite the obvious fact that she could see it by the light of day), had failed to include That Bit about the 'astounding change' in the Wizard's voice. Stupid black sqaure of origami paper.
But don't place all the blame on the paper (nor on the Envelope from which it sprang). Our beloved nincompoop (whose snack food of a name shall not be mentioned) saw fit to recite the sheet's contents at the moment she saw them.
"Ash nazg durbatuluk-" And her high, clear voice suddenly resembled the anguish of a trash compactor with a hangover. "-ash nazg gimbautl, ash nazg thrakatuluk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul."
Perhaps it was mere coincidence, but Anor chose the instant Crackers ended to emerge from behind the grey winter clouds and pour her light into the living room once more. Fingon slowly removed his hands from his ears, as nasty a grimace on his face as if he were watching the lovers' tryst of a pair of Balrogs.
"What in Arda was that sound?" exclaimed the High King indignantly. "I know not what sort of curse you have placed upon us, yet rest assured it shall bite you, as well!"
"Wait, no," stuttered Crackers, distracted, "it wasn't a curse, no." Come on, come on, was her mental plea. Let this have worked... Let them pack up and leave now...
"Of course it wasn't a curse!" agreed Maeglin, whose face and hands had remained motionless throughout the brief affair. "I heard far worse than that in Angband." He shrugged.
"As did I," returned Maedhros pointedly. "And afterward I've never wanted to hear anything so similar to those oaths." He frowned and added gravely, "But today I have."
"Only because all you can cover is one ear," snickered Eöl.
"How very mature," said Curufin in a voice like black ice, "to mock my brother's handicap."
Maedhros emphatically cleared his throat. "I thank you, brother, but I can defend myself against such a childish slight."
"If only you thought the same of me, Russandol... EIf you don't appreciate my efforts, consider them merely a taste of your own medicine." Crackers and StarrySea thought nothing of the turn of phrase (and were more concerned at the thought of the two Feanorians fighting out their dispute on the carpet). The other four elves, however, turned toward Curufin with expressions of confusion.
"What?" said Maeglin, slender eyebrows scrunched like a pair of malnourished caterpillars.
Curufin sighed, made a great show of haughtily straightening his form. "Am I the only one who studied his euphemisms?"
While Curufin and StarrySea launched into a convoluted explanation of the idiom's meaning ("Medicine," Crackers' sister was soon saying, "but not like drugs. Like not marijuana or cocaine or anything- 'cause the other person might actually want a taste of that..."), Crackers bit her lip and glanced uncomfortably at the ceiling. She tapped her fingers impatiently against the cat-scratching dining room tablecloth; she was watching, waiting, hoping for something, but she didn't know what. If the Black Speech was going to work, it seemed that the results should have been fairly immediate... Maybe it was time to try again?
"What the sam-patch are you doing, Crackers?" Mom had finished washing up the breakfast dishes and was nearly ready to leave the kitchen entirely. Her daughter, however, was hunched between the gaping refrigerator-door and the fruit-drawer at the open appliance's bottom, rummaging through the crisper's contents.
"All right, yes! We've got five..." the authoress was muttering, daintily removing first a red apple, then a green and more. She arranged the shining spheres on the kitchen floor beside her. "Stupidest idea I've ever heard of..." she continued beneath her breath.
Her mother tried again. "What are you doing? I don't really think you're getting a snack... And what are you getting them all dirty for?"
"Oh, shoot!" she exclaimed, ignoring her mother's first query. "I'll probably have to take a bite for good measure... And now I've got to wash them off... And extra calories from five bites of apple, too." Her prattle had become quite glum by the time she shut the fridge, gathered the fruits in her arms, and walked the single step to the sink. The dish-bubbles the basin still bore were slowly dissipating.
It was a rather slapdash job she made of rinsing the apples, but what did it matter? She was going to try and bite the sides that hadn't touched the floor, and besides, they were going to be very small bites... She turned to leave the kitchen, eyes downcast.
"What in the world are you doing with those apples?" repeated Mom, still standing in the doorway to the living room.
Crackers didn't quite answer. "Mama, this is my last good-bye," she said, and marched past her mother with a sniffle.
An infrared, apple-shaped Post-It Note of Doom still lay adjacent to the Envelope on the dining room table. After half a dozen dismayed read-throughs, its veritable curse had emblazoned itself onto Crackers' mind:
"With a sudden flick, quick as lightning, an apple left his hand and hit Bill square on the nose. He ducked too late, and curses came from behind the hedge. 'Waste of a good apple,' said Sam regretfully, and strode on." -The Fellowship of the Ring
Why've you gotta be so impulsive, Sam? Crackers complained of the words that would clearly get her taken out of the house in a body bag. Throw an apple at him? Seriously? What about the poor, innocent nerd who's gonna have to throw apples at a pack of elven warriors, thanks to you?
"So," Maedhros slowly began to summarize, "'a taste of your own medicine' is like when the patient puts hemlock in the bad healer's tea? Or when somebody shoots the drug-lord who sells powdered sugar instead of the good stuff?"
Crackers had meanwhile moved into the living room and resumed her seat at the dining room table. Maeglin had cast an odd look toward her and the apples, but she just smiled demurely and took a nibble out of each one.
"I guess so," started StarrySea, but she never finished the reply.
"Okay, everybody," Crackers interrupted, holding up a particularly red apple with a trembling hand, "I'm about to do something really-stupid-and-really-mean-but-the-Envelope-sai d-to-and-yeah. I'm sorry; don't hurt me?" And with that she hurled the apple at Curufin's face.
It smacked his already-bandaged skin with an unsavoury pop. "What in Varda's name was that for?!" swore the Elf.
Crackers winced apologetically. "Do you want to get out of here or not?"
She took the next apple-this, a livid green-and chucked it at Maedhros. "So sorry!" She placed a hand to her blanching cheek even as the red apple, returning to her through the air, ricocheted off her forehead. "I can't help it!" she said to Curufin.
"That doesn't mean it wasn't painful." He tilted his head to one side and quirked an eyebrow. Maedhros, meanwhile, sighed and took a bite out of the Granny Smith that had just alighted on him.
The next burgundy missile was for Eöl; only after it had left her hand did Crackers realize how squishy its skin was. "Oh gosh, I'm sorry..." From her angle, the only place it could hit him was directly on the top of the head. So it did-with something like a splat.
Had Eöl lifted the dented fruit off his crown with more gentility, he'd have said, "Top of the morning' to ye, gov'nor," as he did so. Crackers couldn't see well (but everyone else could) that his face was a mask of superficial tranquility. He swallowed visibly and sniffed, then delicately pinched a small pile of sallow apple-mush out of his hair. He rotated silently, slowly, around in the recliner, until he was kneeling on the cushion, sitting backward in the chair, and looking Crackers square in the eyes.
Nervously, she began scraping the dry skin off her lips with her teeth. "Sor-" she began, which was the exact moment at which a flicked pinch of apple-mush landed in her eyelashes.
"Why didn't you throw that one," said Eöl, giving a counterfeit smile through gritted teeth, "at Curufin?"
"Trust me," replied the authoress, "I wish I had." She flashed Curufin a just-kidding-you-know-I've-gotta-humour-Crazybeans -over-here grin. She gave the Fëanorian no chance to respond before lifting another apple; the fruity sphere had soon taken wing for Fingon.
Fortunately, the High King responded like his copper-haired cousin. After the apple bounced off a purple Band-Aid on his nose and into his lap, he merely rubbed the spot with a "That'll leave a bruise," and raised the fruit to his mouth as a free snack.
Maeglin heaved an immense sigh. "I'm next?"
Crackers nodded, but as he was sitting next to her, the airborne weapon proved all but innocuous.
"Well," said Maedhros several seconds later, with a stern glance toward Crackers, who cringed and began examining her fingernails. "I should hope that accomplished its purpose?"
"Maybe?" replied Crackers dismally. "I guess I can check..." She slipped the Post-It back into the Envelope with a dark glare, folded the flap, and waited.
"I swear I'm not making these things up..." moaned Crackers, surveying the white card's elegant gold calligraphy for a third time. "I'll pass it around to you all to prove I have nothing to do with this." She handed the Envelope's latest piece of advice to Maeglin.
"No," said Maeglin upon reading it, "you certainly have no part in this. Even you wouldn't think of an idea this bad."
"Gee thanks, sassy-pants," she wanted to reply, but (fortunately for the-mainly-nonviolent reputation of this narrative) she held her tongue. (Not literally; that would have looked quite strange.) Instead she opted simply to nod as Maeglin passed the card to his father.
Eöl glanced it over briefly, then laughed aloud, a dark, foreboding laugh, like stormclouds making faces. He was grinning from ear to ear when he handed the (apparent) joke to Fingon.
"Just read it aloud, Káno," sighed Maedhros. "The suspense is too much for me." He twisted his lips into a wry smile between bites of sour apple.
"As you please, Russandol," answered Fingon genially, and clearing his throat, read with dignity: "...he made the Song of Parting, in praise of Luthien and the lights of heaven; for he believed that he must now say farewell to both love and light. Of that song these words were part:
'Farewell sweet earth and northern sky,
for ever blest since here did lie
and here with lissom limbs did run
beneath the Moon, beneath the Sun,
more fair than mortal tongue can tell.
Though all to ruin fell the world
and were dissolved and backward hurled
unmade into the old abyss,
yet were its making good, for this-
the dusk, the dawn, the earth, the sea-
that Lúthien for a time should be.'
"And he sang aloud..." Fingon's grey eyes widened and he stared down at the card in enigmatic silence.
"No," said Curufin at once. "No. I refuse to sing anything in praise of that vile, despicable, condescending, hair-flinging, high-singing, pet-stealing, Silmaril-robbing wench of a peredhel."
"Hmm," remarked Eöl, blasé, "I wonder what he really thinks of her."
"Well..." Crackers put her (figurative, at least in this case) 'Helper-Buddy' nametag on. "It just says 'he,' so I don't think it means all of you... And I don't think it means me, either."
"Then which of us does it mean?" Eöl pointed out. "There's no way to know unless we all sing, correct?"
"I suppose not..." Fingon conceded dismally, glancing warily at Maedhros, who had let his apple (half-eaten) fall to the ground, crossed his arms, and was staring stonily into his lap with his jaw rigid.
"Does anyone even know the tune?" Maeglin pointed out.
"I do," said Maedhros morosely. "Thingol's messengers sang it all the way to Himring and back."
"Ohh," murmured Crackers into her lap, "those must be the 'scornful words' when Thingol refused to give up the Silmaril the first time..."
"That's a lot of singing for them," Eöl snorted. "But then you'll certainly know it well enough to lead us..."
Maedhros sighed until his shoulders heaved. "I suppose I do."
Curufin's eyes grew to the size of the Silmarils themselves. "What is wrong with you, Russandol?"
"If it's the only way..." responded his brother, then cleared his throat. "Lalalalala, mememememe..."
"Do re mi fa so la ti!" exclaimed Crackers helpfully.
Maeglin gave them both a look of disgusted confusion.
"I've been Plush since last I sang," Maedhros explained, dignity flowing off his words like a dress's train. Shooting a glance at Crackers, he added, "I don't know what's the matter with her."
"It's okay," put in StarrySea. "Nobody does."
Crackers shot her sister a teasingly reproachful look, then suggested, "Should we all just gather around the lyrics, then? I've never memorized this one... I'm with you, Curufin-bad subject matter."
"Finally!" declared the younger Fëanorian. "She says something intelligent."
But in the end the five elves (with the additions of StarrySea and Crackers) found themselves clustered over the pristine, white card, clearing their throats and beginning to sing.
Crackers stood next to Curufin; she didn't hear him actually open his mouth once in the song's duration. He instead opted for a series of grunts and guttural humming to the general rhythm. When the tune ended, his visage acquired a terrible grimace, and he quickly seated himself, crossing his arms and glaring moodily at a cat-puke stain on the carpet.
"Did it work?" Fingon inquired.
"I don't think so..." Maedhros replied, turning to Crackers. "Unless you have proof otherwise?"
"We can wait, can't we?" said Maeglin smoothly. "It might take several minutes to take effect."
They did so, standing in the middle of the carpet with eyes darting around like they'd all just had one too many Red Bulls. (For most present, one would have been too many.) One minute passed, then two and three: nothing happened, nothing changed, and it was the fourth set of instructions.
Crackers had had it. "This is just getting stupid!" she announced.
"'Getting'?" remarked Eöl.
"Whatever," she answered, disembarking from her chair and snatching up both the Envelope and the card. "Excuse me, but I'm off to speak my mind."