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Title: Father, Healer, Lord
Rating: G
Date: 8/2/03
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Spoilers: none
Stats: 368 words, 2153 characters
Summary: In 1636 TA, the Great Plague devastates the lands of Gondor. An appeal is sent to Elrond, the premiere Healer of Middle-earth, but his sons object to their father's response.

*****

"It is almost the onset of winter, Father! Surely you do not mean to make this precipitate journey to Gondor now?"

"And certainly not by yourself, Father! Let us come with you!"

Elrond Half-elven sighed patiently as he tried to reassure his twin sons. "Elladan, Elrohir, calm yourselves. My decision is neither whimsical nor made in haste. The King of Gondor himself has beseeched my aid against the Great Plague, and I cannot ignore the ties that bind Imladris to the scions of Numenor. I must leave now, while the plague is still endemic to the South, and before the agents of Darkness take advantage of this toward the dissolution of Gondor."

"But why can we not go in your place, father?" Elladan insisted. "It would not be discourteous for the 'Princes' of Imladris to journey in your stead, and we are not without skill in healing."

"You and your brother are learned in the perfunctory skills of battlefield-healing," Elrond corrected, "of dressing wounds and maintaining a salubrious fighting condition." Shaking his head dismissively, Elrond laid one hand on the restless steed standing beside him. "You both have far too much to learn yet when it comes to the illnesses that strike the Race of Men regardless of wealth or indigence, of status or power."

The twins remained in matching states of artless concern. "But - "

"Enough." Elrond's voice hardened from the erudite reasoning of a father into the austere command of an Elf-lord. "You two will ride north to Arnor as planned to keep vigil for the return of the chief of The Nine and whatever anachronisms of the Second Age that he may bring forth. No elegy will be sung of either kingdom of the Dunedain come the first leaf of spring."

In one smooth move, Elrond swung himself into the saddle of his elven-steed. From the added height, he fixed an imperiously expectant gaze upon the two younger elves. Elladan and Elrohir bowed low in acquiescence as vassals to their lord, even though worries plagued them yet as sons of their father. With eyes fixed resignedly on a point beyond their father's piercing gaze, they recited the words that decorum required.

"Yes, my lord."

Vocab Words:

salubrious

endemic

perfunctory

indigence

dissolution

whimsical

precipitate (adj)

anachronism

elegy

artless

Title: Righteous Indignation
Rating: G
Date: 8/3/03
Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers: Chamber of Secrets (book)
Stats: 2238 words, 1484 characters
Summary: Snape's thoughts on Lockhart, right before the dueling session.

*****

A sable-clad storm cloud swept down the tortuous hallways of Hogwarts, scattering aside plethora of students disingenuous enough to recognize the imminent loss of house points at the slightest excuse. To say that Severus Snape was livid was a vast amelioration of the state of utter seething antagonism and hatred that simmered within the Potions professor.

It was the ultimate effrontery that Dumbledore had moments ago, in that irksome phlegmatic way of his, admonished him for his righteous aspersions of the bombastic moron that was Gilderoy Lockhart. Never mind that the oblivious fool - Lockhart, that is, not Dumbledore - had the school's entire female population obsequiously propitiating to his every insistence, disrupting the studies of even mildly promising scholars like some of his sixth and seventh year Slytherin girls (and the likes of Granger, if he had to admit it). Never mind the fact that the only talent 'Gildy' had commensurate to his narcissistic boasts was his diffuse and equally egotistical prose. For Merlin's sake! Even the perfidious coward Quirrel had at least a microscopic measure of probity in comparison when it came to professionalism in their field of instruction.

Checking his wand and pulling a mask of ice over his temper, the Potions master stormed towards his next class. Dueling. If Dumbledore insisted on keeping that insufferably vacuous peacock, then Severus would make it his fervent duty to ensure the fool's life be a living hell.

Vocab Words:

perfidious

diffuse (adj)

commensurate

bombastic

ameliorate

disingenuous

probity

phlegmatic

propitiate

tortuous

Title: Eulogy to the Living
Rating: G
Date: 8/4/03
Fandom: Highlander
Spoilers: none
Stats: 119 words, 730 characters
Summary: Humor. Duncan MacLeod gives a eulogy, but things are not what they seem.

*****

"…He was a man of astounding intelligence, pouncing with great alacrity on the unwary with scraps of esoteric wisdom or teasing chicanery gleamed from stolid tomes in dead languages. His sharp wit was often mistaken for an irascible temper, but his truculence lay only in words. He was also a generous soul, who never stinted in providing support for his friends. For that, above all else, he was an invaluable friend."

Duncan MacLeod quietly left the small funeral gathering after delivering the eulogy. Meandering along the levee of the Seine, he looked up when the 5000-year-old Immortal he'd been sensing all day drew near.

"MacLeod, the next time I switch identities, you are hereby proscribed from attending my funeral."

Vocab Words:

truculence

levee

alacrity

chicanery

esoteric

stint (v)

stolid

proscribe

irascible

eulogy

Title: The Art of Potions
Rating: G
Date: 8/5/03
Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers: none
Stats: 489 words, 2881 characters
Summary: Character sketch. A teenage Severus Snape reflects on his potions.

*****

Slowly, almost reverently, Severus ran his fingers down the finely striated surface of the black unicorn horn. The glossy ingredient felt like molten pearls in his hand, and he was almost sorry to grind it up for his potion. But his love of potion-making, as always, won out over his wonder, and as he watched the ebony horn slowly become a bowl of much less refractory sable dust, Severus let himself relax and his mind wander.

The room he had hid himself in was in a little-known and rarely-visited corner of Hogwarts. The silence of the corridors outside had become oddly loud to him, inured as he was to the noisy bustling of the students and the fatuous shenanigans of several banes of his existence.

But it was the winter holiday break now, and few students remained in the school - including himself. He would not have missed this chance under the threat of torture or penury. Well, he qualified mentally, perhaps under the threat of Cruciatus by someone powerful enough to truly hurt. According to Lucius, he had met someone that powerful, some dark wizard or dark lord or other. Severus wouldn't have cared but for the fact that now Lucius wouldn't be quiet about the topic, despite his unenthusiastically laconic responses and several polite requests to shut up.

Taking a deep breath, Severus pushed all thoughts of Lucius and his dark lord out of his mind. Nothing was going to spoil the welcome quietude of the room. No bombastic Gryffindors throwing stereotypical taunts. No classmates wanting him to help them in the exigency of blowing up their cauldron. No hypocritical professors and headmaster to whom a student could do no wrong unless they were in Slytherin. No parental figures who would rather insist that he practice the Unforgivables instead of indulging in his precious potions.

None of them understood, not even the Potions professor currently at Hogwarts. None of them truly understood the meticulous art that was Potions-making. None of them understood his love for the careful preparation of ingredients over the soothing bubbling of a cauldron. None of them would probably even understand why he'd gone to such lengths just so he could brew this potion under the light of a barely occluded moon. To be sure, the Darkling Grace Potion didn't seem to have any practical merits. But to Severus, it was the exquisitely intricate and tortuously difficult process of making the potion that truly mattered.

Assiduously stirring the viscous solution before him, Severus allowed a small smile to grace his usually austere features. It was a smile that he shared with no one but his precious potions and in his dreams. Not that anyone understood those either. Severus simply would never be happy as a mere connoisseur of Potions; he wanted to be a Master in the art. And should the Fates be willing, he hoped that his dream would one day become truth.

Vocab Words:

striated

laconic

exigency

inured

connoisseur

occlude

penury

qualified

fatuous

refractory

Title: King of Gondor
Rating: G
Date: 8/6/03
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Spoilers: none
Stats: 445 words, 2619 characters
Summary: King Elessar of Gondor ponders some matters of state.

*****

King Elessar made his way slowly along the turrets of the White Tower of Ecthelion, head bent in weighty thoughts. The winter chill ruffled his soft white robes and tousled his dark brown locks. Anyone who would have seen the king of Gondor at that moment would have marveled at the austere yet comforting picture he made.

The thoughts that lay uppermost on the king's mind was the fragile peace that lay among the multitudinous kingdoms of Middle-earth that was the coda of the War of the Ring. If the news from the scouts and agents of the Rangers of the South were veracious, many of those who had allied with the now-fallen Dark Lord were not likely to seek diplomatic relations with the victorious alliance of western kingdoms, either out of pride or habit.

However, the welter that those kingdoms had been thrown into, especially the Haradhrim and Easterlings, had yet to abate. Without the Dark Lord and the Nine orchestrating their every move, organization and the positions of leadership would be held in abeyance for quite a while. Without the similarly disarrayed forces of Mordor to buttress their armies, it would also take time before either kingdom would become a military threat.

But still, Elessar felt the wisdom of being ready for those eventualities nonetheless. He had made the same cogent arguments to Imrahil and Faramir just earlier that day, and those two lords had agreed to his suggestion. There would be no ostentatious buildup of the army, nor a specific pronouncement of maintaining military readiness to spoil the happiness of his people in their newfound 'Peace'. Rather, it would be done quietly throughout Gondor, Ithilien, and Dol Amroth. When their enemies do attack, they will find Gondor ready - a strut to the other kingdoms of the West.

A small smile momentarily graced the countenance of the king as that particular metaphor brought back memories of his childhood - of being mentored in military tactics and domestic governance in Imladris. He could still see, in his mind's eye, the knowing disappointment in Glorfindel's shining eyes that would shame and spur him more than any word spoken in vituperative castigation whenever he missed a point. He could also see the understated smile of pride in his foster father's stormy eyes when he was finally deemed ready to leave the safe haven of Imladris.

Your lessons shall not be forgotten, Adar. Elessar thought as he looked to the ocean that stretched across the western horizon. I shall not fail my people and my kingdom. I shall not fail the hope that your people and my mother had named me. This do I promise. Adar.

***

Footnotes:
"Adar" is Sindarin for "Father".

Vocab Words:

castigation

vituperative

buttress

strut (n)

abeyance

ostentatious

coda

welter

veracious

cogent

Title: Kings and Pawns
Rating: G
Date: 8/7/03
Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers: Book 5 (OotP)
Stats: 569 words, 3128
Summary: Snape's thoughts the evening that Harry violates his pensieve in Book 5.

*****

What was Dumbledore thinking?!

My hands are even paler than normal as they grip the edge of the balcony railing. I stand atop the highest vantage point of the Astronomy tower, hoping that the cool rarefied air whipping across my face would serve to blunt the welter of rage and humiliation that simmered within me, threatening to break through the austere mask I had kept throughout the tedium of dinner.

I should have known. I should have insisted. It was far too much to ask that the damned boy would curtail his usual intransigence in the face of far more important matters such as life and death - that he would know his place and concentrate on studying than to deliberately and totally antagonize the fool sent to teach him.

A bitter laugh spills from my throat.

Oh yes. The fool sent to teach him. And I was a fool to agree to this - to think that two decades of bottled-up hatred and four years of resentment could be attenuated with a paltry handful of private teaching sessions. Or was it Dumbledore who was more the fool to believe that merely "getting to know the boy" would somehow desiccate the sea of bitterness that lay between Potter and I?

My eyes drift down from the rising moon to the lights of Gryffindor tower that lay across the castle.

Did they really think that I couldn't separate the boy from his father? One Potter from another? Did they really think that I am prodigal in my castigations and spite because I see him as James?

A snort drags itself out of my throat and I can feel my face molding into my customary sneer.

Had they but asked, I would have averred that I had never mistaken Potter for his father. How could I, when confronted with his ungainly diffidence in his first year?

Oh, I knew there was much of James in the boy as well. I'm hardly blind, after all. But those flaws I hated for the flaws they were - the desultory recklessness, the blind naiveté, and the conceited impertinence - not for the fact that they were bestowed on him by James' nature rather than nurture. More, I despised him for the things that were all his own - for the approbation lauded on him for doing nothing but simply existing, for the excuses made for him by everyone around me to cosset him from himself and reality, and for his stubborn blindness to the fact that his staunchest supporters were in reality his puppet-masters.

My eyes drop to my fingers, which are still gripping the railing as if in a death-hold. They are pallid, and stained with the potions I work with everyday… with blood both past and present.

I wonder if Potter sees the similarities between his life and mine from his illicit peek into my pensieve? I wonder if he sees past the superficial parallels of our less-than-stellar childhood? I wonder if he sees that we are alike in that we are both tractable chess pieces, both molded by the grandmasters of this decades-old war?

But therein lies the difference, doesn't it? When all is said and done, he is the King that is protected by all, the piece that is last to be toppled. And me? I am but a pawn that is played by both sides, expendable from the first.

Vocab Words:

rarefied

diffidence

attenuate

prodigal (adj)

tractable

approbation

aver

intransigence

desultory

austere

Title: Temporary Setbacks
Rating: G
Date: 8/8/03
Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers: OotP
Stats: 511 words, 3126 characters
Summary: A look at a Death-eater meeting after the events in Order of the Phoenix.

*****

"The current views of the Ministry are but a temporary setback, my Lord. If you would but allow me some time to convince Fudge-"

"Crucio!" A bright flash of the Unforgivable halted the flow of words from the hapless Death-eater, instantly turning the officious pleading into tortured screams. The raw power of Voldemort's frustrations added to the efficacy of the curse, much to the consternations of the Dark Lord's audience. It seemed that Lord Voldemort was not in a good mood that night.

Even as the young man lay twitching on the ground from the aftermath of the Cruciatus, Voldemort had already turned his attention onwards. His mad glowing eyes swept across the assembled host of Death-eaters that remained un-incarcerated since the Ministry's public admission of the Dark Lord's return. The assembled Death-eaters reflexively genuflected - or perhaps cowered - in obsequious deference.

The next victim of his attentions did not fare much better than the first. There was little the man could say to ameliorate the fact that the Dark Lord's emissary to the Vampires had been returned a desiccated corpse. The fear lay on everyone's minds that Dumbledore had gotten to them first, though none dared voice the suggestion to the seething Dark Lord.

As well, the reports from the Giants and Werewolves were mixed. While initially both groups seemed amenable to the attempts to foment their separation from the intolerant society that chained them with regulations and humiliations. But now that the Ministry was actively working against Voldemort, they had once again returned to the position of neutrality, wary of being caught on the losing side of the upcoming war.

And the Centaurs… they had vocally and actively repudiated any and all connection to wizards categorically. There was no point in asking them to choose a side.

Only Wormtail, it seemed, had any welcome news to the increasingly impatient Dark Lord. In his garrulous squeaking, he reported that the Demetors of Azkaban, at least, were prepared to throw their lot behind Voldemorts forces. Hopefully, that alliance would also lead to the escape of many of his high-ranking Death-eaters.

Of course, whether said escapees would escape the wrath of their lord for their failure at appropriating the Prophecy from the Department of Mysteries and their defeat by Potter and a bunch of school children… that was anyone's guess.

It was perhaps a relief to his servants when the meeting finally ended and the Dark Lord apparated away with an angry CRACK. No words were exchanged among his erstwhile audience as they straightened back up from their parting bows. No solicitous aid was given to their fellow Death-eaters as the ones felled by the Cruciatus were perfunctorily pulled to their feet and given pain-reduction potions to quell the wobbling plasticity of their pain-wracked limbs.

Then, one by one, they each apparated away, returning to whatever lives they lived in the daytime, leaving nothing behind but an abandoned clearing marred here and there by spots of blood and vomit, and a cold bright moon that bore silent witness to it all.

Vocab Words:

garrulous

repudiate

foment

efficacy

solicitous

desiccate

deference

appropriate (v)

plasticity

officious

Title: Meeting the Family
Rating: PG
Date: 8/10/03
Fandom: Highlander
Spoilers: none
Stats: 594 words, 3562 characters
Summary: D/M. Duncan worries about his 'friend' to his kinsman. He shouldn't have bothered.

*****

Duncan idly pushed unfamiliar bits of food around on his plate, wondering how in the world he had been talked into this. By 'this', he meant sitting in an unassuming little restaurant in a rarely traveled part of New York City, picking at a plate of some unpronounceable foodstuff randomly chosen from a list of iconoclastic items composed of a eclectic concoction of several ingredients from disparate cultural backgrounds. Well, at least the end results were palatable, as long as one did not give excess thought to its constituents.

"Do you have another Challenge on your dance-card, MacLeod, or is the food making you abstemious?"

Oh yes. He remembered now. That was the reason he was here - because a certain 5000-year-old degenerate had taken advantage of his preoccupied ambivalence at bringing the aforementioned reprobate to New York to meet his equally irascible kinsman, and chose the place for dinner tonight.

"The food's edible, Adam," Duncan replied laconically, making sure to use Methos' current identity while they were in public, "and I haven't taken a Challenge in over a month, since…"

…Since that rainy night when, contradictorily enervated and inflamed by the powerful Quickening he had just taken, Duncan had - his mind tried to shy away from the memory - kissed his friend. They progressed no further than that, and neither had mentioned the incident since then, which was both relief and torture for Duncan's peace of mind. There were times when Duncan just wished that Methos would put his oft-mendacious tongue to work - whichever way he meant it - and put him out of his misery.

"Then what's wrong?" came the uncharacteristically direct question.

"There's nothing wrong…" Duncan tried to gainsay.

"Oh please," Methos drawled as he leaned back into his chair. "You can't dissemble to save your life, MacLeod. So why don't you save me the trouble of delineating every possible scenario and tell me why you've cajoled me into accompany with you to New York? Without any more specious excuses, mind."

Duncan bristled at the slur on his acting ability and was about to return a similar sarcastic retort when the thrumming buzz of an Immortal Quickening washed over them both. Both Immortals stiffened in their seats, their eyes fixed onto the door of the establishment as it swung open to admit a familiar figure clad in trench coat and tennis shoes.

Duncan relaxed as he recognized the man. "Connor!" He called, rising to his feet. So much for finding some way to tell Methos that he wanted to introduce him to his kinsman. There wasn't much choice for him now but to introduce the two to each other, and so he did. Then, he waited in anxious consternation as two similarly recondite stares sizzled across the table. As time dragged on and neither Immortal showed any signs of conceding the impromptu staring match, Duncan began to worry that the night was going to end in bloodshed.

Suddenly, Methos relaxed, quirking his lips in a way that Duncan recognized as amusement. "Russel."

Connor returned a sardonic grin, his version of a welcoming smile. "Matthew."

In unison, the two Immortals reached across the table to clasp their hands in a friendly - and familiar - greeting. Duncan blinked, suspicion creeping across his mind. Two pairs of eyes turned to regard him, one glittering with laughter and the other utterly ingenuous.

"You… you…" he sputtered and glared, "You know each other! Why didn't either of you ever tell me?"

Two wicked smirks accompanied two voices replying in unison. "You never asked."

Vocab Words:

ambivalence

recondite

enervate

iconoclastic

gainsay

ingenuous

delineate

specious

mendacious

abstemious

Title: King in Training
Rating: G
Date: 8/11/03
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Spoilers: none
Stats: 682 words, 3950 characters
Summary: Thorongil, a Captain of Gondor, ponders about himself and his future in the dark hours before dawn.

*****

Denethor was staring at him again.

The man whom the men of Gondor call Thorongil took another puff from his slender pipe, and concentrated assiduously on not turning around to meet the burning gaze he could feel upon his shoulder blades. Only the slight clenching of his jaw, obscured from view of his observer, belied the outward calmness that he projected and gave away his growing irritation. He already regretted rising early that morning instead of attempting to doze through the last few hours of the night. Unfortunately, it seemed that Denethor had awakened early as well, and had decided to engage in a one-way staring contest with the captain of the army.

Thorongil knew that the young lord envied him his favor with the current Steward of Gondor, Denethor's father Echthelion, and he had been regretful at first that friendship did not seem possible with the young man who would become the next Steward. But it was not in him to dissemble at playing the complaisant malingerer merely to satisfy the ambitions of another, nor to hold back his knowledge and skills like an overly inchoate neophyte. Besides, he recognized the Numenorean keenness in the son of Ecthelion, and knew that Denethor was more than disingenuous enough to see through such an act, and his pride would resent Thorongil all the more if his father's approbation was less than truly earned.

A soundless sigh escaped from Thorongil's lips as he consciously stopped himself from shifting uncomfortably where he sat. He could feel the reigns on his temper attenuating as Denethor continued to stare, and in a momentary burst of frustration, considered returning a glare of his own.

Patience. The oft-repeated advice came to his mind in the comfortably familiar erudite tones of Elrond, his foster father. A tiny smile tugged at the edge of his mouth, quickly quelled before it could take form.

He could not afford to act impulsively with someone as observant as Denethor, who was already suspicious of his immunity to his Numenorean-descended abilities. To give away too much now would obviate the entire exercise of him learning the ways of the soldiers of Gondor from the perspective of one among them, as well as placing himself in considerable danger. No, he would have to continue bearing the simmering resentment from Denethor every time his deeds were praised before the coda of Ecthelion's speeches. Perhaps he would even learn something from it, as his foster father would no doubt tell him had he been present.

Decision made, Thorongil allowed his mind to drift from thoughts of his foster father to dwell upon Arwen, as it always did. The daughter of Lord Elrond of Imladris shimmered before his mind's eye, beautiful and untouchable as the Valar. But thoughts of his beloved Undomiel also brought forth a wistful sadness; for his could not see if he would ever win her hand. If his and Arwen's greatest desire came to fruition, the price would be the loss of her immortality - such a precious sacrifice, one that he agreed must not be made until he was worthy of it… hence why he was here in Gondor, learning all the arts of military command and statesmanship.

And if he did eventually win Arwen's hand, he would still grieve for the pain and loss that they would bring to Elrond. Even though the Lord of Imladris had not banished him in opprobrium after discovering his love for Arwen and hers for him, he knew that his foster father felt more keenly than him for the possible futures of the world. For if he failed, it would mean the dissolution of the kingdoms of Men to the rising Shadow in the east; but if he succeeded, the Evenstar of the Elves would join him in mortality.

Tilting his head up to greet the rosy dawn, Thorongil, whom his father named Aragorn and whom the Elves call Estel, carefully locked his uncertainty and melancholy deep into the recesses of his mind. For with the day, he was once again but a simple captain of men.

Vocab Words:

belie

obviate

opprobrium

inchoate

dissemble

malingerer

complaisant

assiduous

coda

attenuate