The Sweary Nuclear Pigeons present...


To France

In a hole in a wall there lived some pigeons. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with pigeon shit and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, dusty hole with bits of rebar sticking out; this was a hole in the containment of an abandoned nuclear power plant, and that means...


Well hello there! Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are the Sweary Nuclear Pigeons. We live in this old power station, eating uranium and shitting fission products. (Being fast neutron birds, we can of course eat pretty well any actinide, but uranium is the most plentiful and usually the tastiest.) We are, of course, highly technologically advanced, and can do all sorts of weird-ass sci-fi stuff; this is one reason why the humans have not thrown us out like the selfish wankers usually do. We tend to act like cunts a lot of the time, for a laugh. Also, we say "fuck" a lot.

Verily, Gentle Internet User, thou art in a universe in which there exist sweary nuclear pigeons.



Nerdanel, still soft with sleep, padded barefoot about the kitchen in the early morning light, collating the requisites for a pot of tea. She filled the kettle at the tap, not noticing that the handle turned more smoothly than usual and without its customary squeak. She placed the full kettle back on the counter top, and reached for the cord to plug it in. She stopped. The cord was missing. She cast about the counter top seeking it; no, it definitely was not there, unless it was behind the breadbin, which didn't seem likely... no, not there either. Most odd.

"Galadriel?" she called, her voice loud in the quiet cottage.

"I am in the bathroom", that lady replied. "What is it?"

"I cannot find the cord for the kettle." Nerdanel looked about the kitchen again, then added: "Nor can I find the socket to plug it in to."

"That is quite remarkable, and also extremely strange", came the voice from upstairs.

Nerdanel snorted. "Nevertheless, it is true. And if you do not give me a more helpful answer, I shall not be able to make the tea."

"Oh... use a pot on the stove", said Galadriel. "I will be down in a minute."

A clattering of pans; a gush of water; the clunk of a pot on the stove-top; a muttered expletive. Nerdanel raised her voice again. "The stove is cold, Galadriel."

"It cannot be cold", said Galadriel. "It has fuel to last ten thousand years."

"In that case, we have overslept", said Nerdanel.

"Perhaps we have", said Galadriel, her tone becoming more serious. Rushing water sounded, then Galadriel's feet on the stairs; she entered the kitchen, examined the stove, then adjusted a handle on the side of it. "The control rods were fully inserted", she explained. "And..." - checking the neutron flux reading, and holding a hand above the hotplate - "...they have been so for a few days at least; it is warming up already. Now, this kettle..."

Nerdanel had been right. The kettle cord was nowhere to be found; the socket had likewise vanished, with not even a mark on the wall to show where it had been. Indeed, the kettle itself lacked a connector, and a glance inside revealed no element beneath the shimmer of the now-warming water. Galadriel looked more thoroughly around the kitchen. The missing cord and socket were not the only changes. The chairs still stood around the table, but the wobbly seats of turd-coloured plastic were now of smoothly-carved, satin-finished wood; the table was surfaced not with formica, but a substance resembling marble, warm rather than cold to the touch. The pressed steel fluorescent fitting on the ceiling was now a cradle of delicate silver filigree, connected by pipes to the stove and holding a bowl of clear liquid, now beginning to glow with a gentle rippling light. The boards of the ceiling itself were not of thin pine, but of solid oak, so accurately fitted that only the change in the grain pattern revealed the joins. Outside the window, Galadriel saw the same familiar view, but with a sky of a more perfect blue, grass of a more vital green, sheep of a pure and spotless white; the path leading to the cottage was paved not with slab concrete, but with precisely-shaped blocks of stone; the galvanised steel gate was now a gate of cedar, as neatly made as the ceiling boards.

"Nerdanel, you are still more than half asleep", said Galadriel with half a smile, her eyes sparkling. "Have you not looked out of the window?"

Nerdanel did so; and as she gazed upon the scene her face took on a strange expression, a compound of joy and puzzlement. "We are... home?" she said, hesitantly. "But... still in this house? And the light is not the light of Laurelin, but of the gravitational-confinement hydrogen fusor of Tellus. If indeed we are home, still I do not think that the world looks more than half as it should look, half asleep though I may be."

"And half right", smiled Galadriel. "The house is similar indeed, but it is not the same house. Rather, it is the house which I constructed in imitation - did I not say it grows on you? - in Aman itself. And only birdie and I, and now you, know of the connection. There can be no doubt: our efforts have met with success. Nerdanel, we are home!" She seized the other's hands, and they began a dance of joy around the kitchen; then, finding the kitchen too small to contain their delight, they ran outside and danced barefoot on the dewy grass.

"Oh, this is wonderful", sighed Nerdanel at last, taking deep breaths of the cool, clean air. "Of a certainty we are back in our own world. The air and the grass alone are enough. But still, what of the light? I see now that it is not quite the light of the Tellurian fusor, but it is not quite that of Laurelin as I knew her, either."

Galadriel did not immediately reply, but cast herself full length upon the ground as if embracing the world; then rolled over and gazed into the blue dome of the sky.

"It is the Valar", she said presently. "They have taken the final fruit of Laurelin, and the last flower of Telperion, and they are causing them to grow large as mountains; and when they are grown they will be set in the heavens to light the world, beyond the reach of Morgoth. Yet it is strange that they have grown already so bright, when at the time of our departure they had not even begun. Something is still somewhat amiss; for though indeed we have returned in the same instant that we left, the instant is not the same."

"So did we succeed, or did we not?" Nerdanel asked. "If you can answer me without contradicting yourself."

Galadriel stood up and brushed herself clear of bits of damp grass. "If we had not succeeded, and yet still returned, we would have returned to a dead world", she said. "But we have not yet had our tea, and that kettle will boil dry if it is not attended to." (And indeed the frantic whistling of the kettle in the kitchen had been trying to make itself known to the distracted Elves for some minutes.) "So let us break our fast and consider the matter over tea."

Side by side the two Elves descended a grassy slope into the valley of a chattering stream. On the far bank the land rose again to the skyline in a patchwork of trees, bracken and furze. Along the hither bank ran a road, wriggling through the space where the slope shallowed as it neared the stream. Reaching the foot of the slope, Galadriel turned onto the road and led the way up the valley. As they went, the stream pressed ever closer to the right, narrowing further and further the space left for the road, which eventually, feeling itself too confined, leapt the stream on a little stone bridge and continued along the level space now opening up on the other side. A small triangle of grass remained before the main declivity and the bank finally merged.

"Oh", said Nerdanel, looking around. "Ah."

"And, indeed, ding", said Galadriel. "For we have arrived at precisely the right time. Come on", and taking Nerdanel's hand she strode briskly over the bridge.

On an instant, the light went out. The bright blue of the sky dimmed in a moment to an inky twilight. The warmth of day was cut off, and Nerdanel gave a shiver in the sudden cool. Above her, she saw not the golden wisps of clouds lit from beneath by the waxing fruit of Laurelin, but the stars of Varda spread over the velvet sky in a sparkling scatter of brilliant dust.

Whooossh - thump; a fearful impact on Galadriel's shoulder. "Ah, ladies, you are precisely on time. Please alter your course ninety degrees to starboard, and hold that course, inert, at not less than one point five metres per second..."

Galadriel plucked the pigeon from her shoulder and held her cupped in both hands, regarding her at close range, nose to beak. "You, birdie", she said, "are a pillock."

"Keli's coronation, back to front", said the pigeon. "Or, well, like, sort of, anyway."

"This anomaly will dlop at dawn", said Galadriel.

"Bikkit", said the pigeon. "Wanna Mr Pootle."

Galadriel rolled her eyes. "(Big tall golden-haired unwrinkled smiling elf is here)", she said, somehow managing to enunciate brackets.

"How can you be so sure?" warbled the pigeon.

"What goes round must come round", replied Galadriel. "What must rise must fall..."

"I see the victims of circumstance convicted without a crime", said the pigeon, at which Galadriel burst out laughing and called her a rude name.

"I did not realise it had been such a strain on you", said Nerdanel in tones of mock commiseration. "I am sorry. But at least you held your mind together for long enough to complete the task."

"Why should I be tarred with the epithet looney merely because I have a pet pigeon?" was Galadriel's reply. "I've 'eard tell that Lord Manwë Sulimo has a pet eagle called Thorondor; you wouldn't call 'im a looney."

"Galadriel", said Nerdanel, "can you be serious for long enough to answer just one question?"

"I don't know, can I? How long will it take?" said Galadriel.

Nerdanel batted her round the back of the head. "What - just - happened?"

"Do you not know?" said Galadriel. "Consideration of the uncertainty principle will show that if anything is compressed to the point which in quantum terms brings it close to vanishing inside its own event horizon and then allowed to expand back to its original size, it cannot under any circumstances, no matter how well controlled, be an isentropic process. Consideration of the magnitude of the energies involved will show that even for a small mass the departure from isentropy, although some local effects may be observed, must overall be insignificantly small if the result is not to be catastrophic, and the percentage threshold for significance drops rapidly as the mass increases. That is all. The mere possibility of concern is proof of the lack of need of it."

"Oh, well", said Nerdanel, "it is no wonder then that I was puzzled. It did not occur to me to seek a solution in such a humdrum sphere as simple physics."

"And now we must concern ourselves with some even simpler physics", said Galadriel. "That of the dynamic stability of inverted pendulums in the context of their use for locomotion. It is a long way back to Tirion, and a long walk without the motorcycle."

"Tirion?" said Nerdanel. "What business have we there? Certainly I have none."

"Nor I, save with my ship", Galadriel answered.

There was little wind, and the ship slipped softly through the dark water with only the faintest trickling sound of water under the forefoot. But Galadriel had no particular destination in mind; she was satisfied simply to be back aboard and moving. The pigeon had taken up her preferred position on top of the mast, acting as lookout, though in truth there was little chance of there being anything to be looked out for. The two Elves sat below in the main cabin, amid the fading smell of the meal they had just consumed, in the soft golden light of one of Galadriel's insta-Silmarils which hung from a beam in a basket of silver threads. Galadriel lay back at ease against the cushioned back of the bench that ran along the inside of the hull, her feet up on another seat opposite, her legs crossed at the ankles, her hands behind her head and the suggestion of a peaceful smile on her face. Nerdanel sat with her head resting on one hand and her elbow on the table, her other hand poking desultorily with an apple stalk at a fragment of uneaten mashed potato on her plate. So gentle was the ship's motion that the tea in their mugs on the cabin table was not discernibly less still than it would have been on land.

Galadriel allowed her head to flop onto her shoulder so as to face Nerdanel. "Consider this", she said, for no apparent reason.

"And what would this be?" replied Nerdanel.

"An entity", said Galadriel. "A sentient entity. An entity of malevolent nature, and powerful; but not unrestrictedly so, by any means."

"I am considering a sentient malevolent entity", said Nerdanel. "It is not very nice."

"To better characterise not unrestrictedly: the entity may be effectively rendered inactive for an arbitrary period by means of conventional fetters or prisons, which while they must of course be strong and well-made, do not present any peculiar difficulties of construction. In combat with an adversary of comparable power, it will not have the victory unless assisted by powerful supporting fighters. In single combat with an Elf skilled in the requisite arts, while it will not be destroyed, it may be rendered unconscious, or it may be crippled for life. In none of these cases is there any damage or injury save to the combatants themselves."

"So although it is strong, it is nevertheless also basically a big pussy", said Nerdanel, the last two words in English.

Galadriel spluttered with the giggles. "Yes, the Tellurian idiom is quite apt."

"So, what of this big pussy, then?" Nerdanel asked.

"Does it, to you, seem reasonable, in the light of those limits, that the process of capturing this entity and fettering it for permanent imprisonment should require a vast and mighty army to fight a terrible and destructive battle, and give rise to collateral damage on the level of the complete destruction of a mass of land thousands of miles to a side? By which I mean not merely simple desertification, but its total demolition and the ocean taking its place."

"It seems completely ridiculous", Nerdanel declared. "It seems that all that is needed is for an Elf to render it unconscious and then it can be fettered before it wakes up."

"My thought is similar", said Galadriel. "Yet it..."

"But it does not sound entirely implausible", Nerdanel interrupted. "Rather, it sounds Tellurian. Indeed there was much discussion of such a thing on their internet. Their nation of America saw a need to kill two people it considered enemies. It was, naturally, a task for assassins, of which they had many and highly skilled, but instead they attacked with a vast and mighty army, destroyed two entire nations, and set them to decades of war. For the Americans to do as you postulate is easy to imagine; and all the more since the Americans imagine it also; some of their tales of imagination that we used in our... little experiment... told of Americans destroying entire worlds to slay one single enemy."

"Ye-e-es", said Galadriel. "Tellurian... oh! Oh, dear..." - she hid her face in her hands and allowed herself a brief outburst of slightly horrified laughter. "I think, Nerdanel, that you may just possibly have very nearly hit the nail on the head."

"Oh, well, that is not so bad", said Nerdanel, "considering that I cannot even see the thing." She laid down the apple stalk, and adjusted her knife and fork on the plate to reflect the gleam of light at a particular angle onto the potato. The tiny shadows moved, flowed, and came together to suggest the rippled surface of a sea, across which was sailing a small Elvish schooner with a pigeon at the masthead.

"Oh, that is lovely", said Galadriel, as Nerdanel sat back. "Almost it seems as if it is moving."

She paused, then looked again; then looked up at the lamp, suspended from the beam. It was swinging, just a fraction, and the sound of water against the hull was just a little more audible. Galadriel rose, poked her head out of the companionway and stood there awhile, her face turned to the wind.

"The wind is rising", she said, ducking back into the cabin. "We shall have a blow in due course, and I think it would be wise to reef."

She took a handle from a hook to the side of the hatch, looped the lanyard over her wrist and climbed out on deck. She spun the wheel and brought the ship head to wind. A mass of clouds was forming in the west, and streaks of blacker darkness blew across the black sky, hiding the stars. A gust of wind blew her hair back as she walked to the foot of the mainmast. She slackened the downhaul, unfastened all but one turn of the halyard from its cleat, fitted the handle into the gooseneck and began to wind, paying out the halyard with the other hand as she watched the canvas shrink. Satisfied, she belayed the halyard, tightened the downhaul again, and moved to the foremast to repeat the operation. As she looked skyward she noted that the pigeon was not perched atop either mast.

"Yes", she muttered to herself with a frown. "Predictable."

The foresail reefed, she lowered the jib entirely, bundling up the heavy canvas and securing it with tyers, then did the same with the staysail, hoisting in its place a storm staysail which lay ready at the foot of another stay. Making all fast, she set the ship back on course, adjusted the sheets, and returned below, where Nerdanel was just pouring out another cup of tea.

"Thank you", she said as Nerdanel passed her the tea. "But really, you should have watched, to learn how to handle the sails yourself. What would you do if a wave washed me overboard?"

"I would look at the wave patterns and estimate the probability of them interfering to produce a resultant wave moving in the reverse direction and washing you back on board again", said Nerdanel composedly. "And then I would watch it happen, and if I had only just woken up I might comment that you had been extremely lucky, which you would deny, and then I would probably make some tea."

Galadriel laughed. "You are glad to be back, that I can tell", she said.

"Well, it is home", said Nerdanel. "That at least remains, though all else be lost."

Galadriel reached out and took her hand. "Yes", she said quietly, looking at nothing. "You do have that."

Her musings were interrupted by the approaching whir of wings; the pigeon shot in through the companionway, crashed onto Galadriel's shoulder in a burst of cold sea air, stuck her beak into Galadriel's ear and murmured: "Arseholes, bastards, fucking cunts and pricks."

"I know, birdie", said Galadriel, raising a hand to tickle the pigeon under the crop.

"Can't tell you anything, can I", said the pigeon.

"No", agreed Galadriel.

There was a hissing sound and a sprinkling of spray flew into the cabin; Galadriel rose to put her head out for a final survey of sea and ship. Both wind and sea were rising with startling speed. Here, still close to the land, the sea was not deep and its floor was uneven, and the shoreline alternated between sandy bays and jutting, steep-to chalk promontories; shallowness, diffraction, reflection, and interference turned and combined the straight-running waves as they fled from the wind, producing a white-capped, leaping confusion of water. With the wind on the port quarter and a handkerchief of canvas, the ship hissed through the tumbling mass, the motion growing rougher by the minute. Galadriel's hair streamed forward past her face as she surveyed the random emptiness ahead. Satisfied that their course was clear, she closed and fastened the hatch. The tea things, which were sliding back and forth, clashing against the fiddles round the edge of the table, she cleared from the table and deposited safely in a bucket.

"You could tell me, though", said Nerdanel. "While your language is picturesque and expressive, the number of possible referents is vast."

"Those self-important puffed-up fucking windbags", said the pigeon, taking her beak out of Galadriel's ear and jumping down onto the table. "They fucked up so everyone else has to take the shit, because none of it can be their fault, oh no, course not, thought never even crossed the collective brain cell. So they've just sent someone out to tell everyone that. Only with lots of long words and pompous holier-than-thou bollocks and weather effects to try and look more impressive. I've just been watching the performance, and now the bugger's coming over here to hassle us as well." She nibbled briefly under her wing. "Got him smack in the forehead with a really hot one from 500 feet, wind and all. That was fun."

Galadriel snorted. "Really, birdie, you are incorrigible." She reached up to touch the hanging lantern, and its glow faded, leaving the cabin lit only by the faint traces of starlight that made it through the portholes from the remnants of clear sky.

"Am I to understand", said Nerdanel, "that you have just... dive-bombed a herald of the Valar? You do not fear their anger?"

The pigeon slid unconcernedly across the smooth top of the table as the ship tilted on a wave. "Why should I? Fuck all they can do to me. I'm not of this world, is it. Be fun to see 'em try." She took hold of a tail feather and pulled it through her beak. "Anyway, there's this bugger giving it this and that, going on about how we - well, you - are all to be shat on from a height, so I thought a bit of quid pro quo would fit the situation nicely."

"Hmm", said Nerdanel. There was a sluicing sound as a breaking wave tossed a lump of water across the deck. "Would you care to enlighten me as to what this "shitting on from a height" might entail, exactly?"

"Oh, you know", said the pigeon. "Just the usual estimation of the effects of wind, calculation of trajectories, and all that, and then bombs away at the right moment."

"That is not what I meant, birdie, and you know that", said Nerdanel.

"Oh, Gala knows", said the pigeon, sliding back across the table as the ship tilted in a different direction. "Anyone who goes to Middle-earth you won't be allowed back and all your shit will fuck up and you'll have a really miserable time, blah blah blah, this is your last chance to kiss arse an' shit. All that stuff about not being allowed to constrain the Children of Ilúvatar seems to have slipped their minds, well either that or they just don't care any more. Bastards."

"You did not - " Nerdanel stopped and clutched the table as the ship tore down the side of a wave, leaving everyone momentarily weightless. The pigeon flew into the air. The ship hit the trough with a tremendous crash, and a rush of water poured past the portholes on both sides of the cabin; there was a lesser crash as the pigeon landed on Nerdanel's head. "Are you sure this is safe, Galadriel? I did not think it was supposed to be a submarine."

"It is perfectly safe", said Galadriel with a laugh. "This is not a cygniform, designed only for coastal work and dependent on being able to run for harbour should the weather turn, but a true blue-water vessel, although the water is not very blue at the moment, built to survive unscathed storms far more violent than this will be. The wind is off the land, there is nothing to leeward for thousands of miles, and we have reduced sail enough to stand a much worse blow than this. Besides, it will not last very long... And no, I did not tell you, but it appears that we have encountered another anomaly. The event should be some weeks ahead of us yet, but it lies on a flat part of the curve, and so the barrier against it moving in time is not very broad."

A momentary glare of lightning stabbed through the portholes; the thunder crashed in a detonation like that of a bin liner full of stoichiometric oxyacetylene. Galadriel rose and peered aft through a porthole. "And now we have the special repeat performance for those who did not attend the main event", she said. "Very thoughtful. A consideration which I can very well do without, thank you very much."

All airborne sound faded to nothing, leaving the cabin almost silent save for the rush and crash of water against the hull. Lightning flashed again, soundlessly. Nerdanel joined Galadriel at the porthole. The white wake of the ship cut a straight swath of foam across the jumbled, spray-streaked wilderness of directionless rolling waves, in all the chaos of shallow water and reflections from headlands the only sign of order; already the land was but a distant line of darkness, visible only when the ship lifted on the seas, but at the limit of sight she could just make out a suggestion of a figure standing atop the cliff, its forehead surmounted by the faintest pale blue glow.

"Sore gonk wire, tmair", said the pigeon, her voice the loudest sound in the cabin.

"Iron gunwale, hiss into duck hunt", replied Galadriel in incomprehensible kind as she turned away from the porthole.

"Still hasn't washed his face, either", said the amused pigeon, peering out in her turn.

"Let me get this straight", said Nerdanel, looking from Galadriel to the pigeon with a somewhat stunned expression. "If I am not mistaken, that is Mandos out there, is it not? And you, wee flying shitehawk, have shat on him, with the most active offering I have ever seen you produce..."

"So you have been measuring them, then", interrupted the pigeon. "We'll make a pigeon of you yet, Nerders."

Nerdanel spluttered, but carried on: "And you, Galadriel, are not only refusing to listen to him, but you have so completely blocked out all sound that he cannot even be heard. This ship may be safe, but it seems that I cannot say the same for my companions. I have to ask, do you think this is wise?"

"And what would you?" said Galadriel, her eyebrows rising. "That I should answer him? I will not. And to say what? His words do not deserve the dignity even of such answer as birdie would give."

"His words are not audible", Nerdanel pointed out.

"So?" Galadriel flashed. "I do not need to hear them, Nerdanel. I know already what he has come here to say. I could set it down accurate to the word on paper had I the desire, and not hear any of it. I could set down every one of all their petty little thoughts until the end of Arda complete to the last detail did I not have a surfeit of less nauseating ways to waste my time. It would hardly be taxing. Oh, this is not about the massacre, Nerdanel, else why should their wrath encompass those who took no part, those who were not there, those who did not even know until it was over? And I halted it. Oh, no, this is about egotism, Nerdanel, the egotism and denialism of those who betrayed their trust through thousands of years of scarcely believable blindness, obtuseness, and ignorance, and yet would still demand by force the respect of those whom they betrayed. Oh, it is all the fault of the Elves, for being the victims of Morgoth's deceits. Though not his deceits alone, for we were deceived also by the supposed guardians, who promised to protect us from him, who sat wringing their hands while allowing him to spread his evil among us. Who offer not one word of apology, nor even of acknowledgement of their betrayal; who do not even seem to realise that there is anything to be acknowledged. Who assume that it must be the fault of the victims because they cannot conceive that there might exist any fault of their own. Who even now refuse to lift a finger to right matters, though he has wronged them as well as us. Such are the giants with the minds of children who are appointed to authority over us, yes, and the fact of that authority I must respect, and will, though Mandos may fear otherwise; but the minds of those who wield it still after thousands of years have failed to learn the least of the understanding necessary to wield it wisely, nor even perceived the need to learn, and that I cannot respect, nor will. I need only know what has been decreed, and I do; I will not suffer to have the arrogance and blind injustice of it thrown in my face with a special performance for my personal attention, and I do not see the humour in raising a westerly gale and then offering a last chance to return, either."

Galadriel swung round, and her gaze fell on the cabin table. Something lay on it; something flat; a document, indeed, with the emblem of Mandos at the head.

"Not - on - my - ship", hissed Galadriel, fists clenched and her eyes blazing. A cloud of spray burst into the cabin as she threw open the companionway doors. She made a flinging gesture with one arm; the outraging document shot off the table and streaked out through the opening into the face of a wave, where it vanished. A few seconds later there came a heavy thud as it detonated. The pigeon followed, pulled a splitarse J-turn and cannoned into Galadriel's chest as she began to climb out herself.

"Gala - Gala - Gala - Gala - Gala, for fuck's sake", the pigeon expostulated, clinging to the front of Galadriel's dress with both feet and buffeting her wings to maintain balance. "Leave it. Leave it. Don't fuck it up, my love. He's just one cunt, and the world's full of 'em, even this one. Let him fester in his own discharge. Anything you say would be too good for him."

Galadriel stopped, put both hands to her face, stood a brief while motionless, then drew her hands down her face, and further down, caressingly, over the back of the pigeon. "Yes, birdie, you are right", she said with a sigh. "It would not achieve any useful result. I shall leave things as they are." She closed the hatch, set the pigeon down on the table, and turned with a faint smile to Nerdanel, who had not moved, but was standing there with widened eyes. She raised her hand to Nerdanel's shoulder, then ran her fingers gently down the other's arm, and stood lightly touching her elbow for a few seconds; withdrew her arm, and stood a few seconds more. "I am going to bed", she said, and made her way up the cabin to disappear through the door forward.

Nerdanel lowered herself into a chair, and sat back, one arm draped on the table and the other hanging at her side; she let out a long breath that she did not realise she had been holding, and looked at the pigeon, who wobbled her beak in return.

"She's going to bed", murmured Nerdanel, apparently to the cabin ceiling. "She's blown her top at Mandos, we're in the middle of a storm, racing madly off to who knows where, and she goes to bed."

"It would be if she didn't that it'd be time to worry", observed the pigeon, looking at Nerdanel with her head on one side.

"You're just as bad", Nerdanel replied, returning the look with an expression that was half twisted smile and half formless, uneasy resignation.

The ship lurched, and the pigeon slid across the table; one foot collided with Nerdanel's hand, sending her swivelling round until the other foot brought up in turn. She took the width of one of Nerdanel's fingernails in her beak, briefly tugged at it, then hopped onto her hand and trotted slowly up her arm to her shoulder.

"She loves you, you know", she murmured gently to Nerdanel's ear.

"She scares me", murmured Nerdanel equally quietly.

"No, she doesn't", said the pigeon. "That's just the first word you found."

"Yes..." said Nerdanel eventually. "I wanted to... to hug her. But..."

"But it's like standing next to a volcano when it goes off? Yeah", said the pigeon. "Thing is, most people run away when a volcano goes off. There aren't many who hang around thinking they ought to be hugging it." Pigeons, while they may on occasion close one eye to clear some irritant, or when half asleep next to a friendly wall, do not wink, in the sense of the gesture; but she gave Nerdanel's cheekbone a brief but forceful nuzzle.

Galadriel lay face downward in her bunk, feeling herself rising and falling with the movement of the ship, her face buried in the slightly damp pillow. It was too much, it really was. No sooner was she back in this world, this eggshell world where at times it was almost as if she was afraid to breathe, than this enraging thing happens... Oh, not the message, that had long been known and planned for. It made no difference anyway. It was the manner of its delivery, the self-righteous arrogance and ignorance... If only she could have departed in peace. Now her last memory of home was forever ruined by that bastard's insistence on getting on her case. And she had nearly lost it... thank you, birdie, for giving me that time to pause... She could so easily imagine him turning grey as she explained by just how slim a chance the decree had retained any relevance at all. But that, of course, would be fatal... That was the trouble with spending so long on Tellus. It was too easy to get used to thinking in holiday mode, enjoying the freedom of thought and action that was simply the normal state of being for everyone else...

A quiet click from the latch of the door; a voice little above a whisper. "Galadriel?"

She stirred, and rolled onto her side.

"I am Galadriel."

She reached out with one arm, and her fingers brushed against Nerdanel's hand.

After a while there was a fluttering in the dark, and the pigeon dropped onto the pillow and snuggled herself into place between the heads of the two Elves.

Ah, nothing ever goes smoothly... And even now they did not learn. For how could they, with not even themselves to teach them? Though if you have read Tolkien, you know this already... and the manifestations of their ignorance are for a later tale. - Galadriel x

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