2. Chapter Two
Someone was shaking her. “Luthien, it’s seven o’clock,” her mother’s voice said. Whatever. She had fifteen minutes until she had to catch the bus. And she was in bed. Oh. Crap.
“Thanks, Mom,” she said, bolting upright and trying not to start cursing. “Could you put a Pop tart by the front door for me to grab on my way out? Thanks.”
“I already did,” her mother said dryly as she left. “I know the routine.”
Luthien stuck out her tongue at her mother’s back. She didn’t have to rub in Luthien’s habit of seriously oversleeping. She always made it to the bus, didn’t she?
Trish was waiting for her at the back of the bus. “You will not believe what I heard about Orlando Bloom,” Trish gushed as Luthien sat down next to her. “He broke up with Kate whatshername and is moving to America!” She giggled. “Now all we have to do is find out what city and go find him!”
“He’ll have scads of security and where he’s living is going to be top secret.”
“I’ll look his phone number up online.”
“It won’t be listed under his name, if it’s listed at all, or everyone would find him that way.”
“Oh.” Trish’s face fell. “Then how am I going to find him?”
“Hire a PI and have them track Orlando down?”
“Already tried that. They all laughed.”
“Guess you’ll have to wait until then.” Luthien patted her arm. “Sucks to be sixteen.” She was going to hire a PI to find Figwit. She needed a man who knew elves weren’t Santa’s helpers, unlike most of the morons at school. “Ro the Demon Spawn hacked my computer yesterday and then hacked Dan’s later and Dan tried to kill him and I wanted to go watch but Mom stopped me and I mentioned to her that Ro’s hacked our computers and Mom busted his sorry butt and he came tearing up to my room and tore a wad of pages out of my copy of ‘Lord of the Rings’, including Figwit’s autograph, because he thought I’d ratted him out on what he did earlier after I promised not to. Mom and Dan stopped me from killing him. Mom says she’ll take care of it, but how can she? Dad gave me that copy years ago, and where’s she going to get Figwit’s autograph?” She sighed deeply. “Brothers suck.”
“So do sisters,” Trish added. “They use all your stuff and leave it all over the bathroom or totally destroy it and then don’t replace it. And they’re always taking your clothes without permission and then not washing them before they give them back.”
“Nasty. I’m glad Ro and Dan don’t do that.” She shuddered a bit at what kind of condition her clothes might come back in if they ever borrowed something. If the clothes ever came back…. “So, how should I ask Michael Burns to the prom? I’m so nervous!”
At the end of third period, asking Michael Burns to the prom was the last thing on her mind. How she was going to explain to her parents why she’d totally bombed the geometry test she’d just taken had her full attention. She had to spend more time studying. There was no way around it. Ro could hack in and change her grade at the end of the year, but until then, she’d have to endure being lectured by her parents. Just because they were good at math and her brothers were Einsteins with it, they seemed to think she just wasn’t trying hard enough. “I’m right-brained,” she muttered as she violently twisted the combo lock on her locker. “Art is my thing, not figuring out the area of an equilateral triangle.” Not like you needed that stuff anyway.
“Hey, Luann,” a deep voice said to her right. She tried not to start grinning like a fool. Michael Burns!
She turned slowly, trying to look non-chalant. “Hey, Mike. What’s up?”
“I was wondering if you-if you’re planning to go-if you’re interested, if you’d like to go to the prom with me.” He seemed relieved to have it out.
“Yeah, that would be great.” She was amazed at how calm she sounded.
He smiled, making Luthien feel a bit weak in the knees. He had a great smile. “Great. We can figure out everything when tickets go on sale.”
“Yeah.” He didn’t move.
Luthien watched him watch her and wondered if he was sticking around to kiss her. That would so totally rock if he did. She’d never been kissed before, and she was sure Mike would be an awesome kisser. So why did he keep standing there? She licked her lips and leaned towards him slightly.
The bell rang, making them both jump. “I gotta get to chemistry before Tate kills me for being late again,” Mike said quickly. “I’ll see you later!”
She stared after him, stunned. Why hadn’t he kissed her? Jerk! He must have known she wanted him to. He was such a jerk, standing there like that, letting her think he was going to kiss her when he wasn’t going to at all. And he never got her name right! Luann, indeed! Why couldn’t her parents have named her something easy to remember, like ‘Molly’ or ‘Anna’? She slammed her locker door shut, then remembered her backpack was inside. Grinding her teeth, she opened her locker and grabbed her books and backpack and sprinted off to English.
She gave Trish a run-down on her day on the bus home. “Yeah, I was totally bouncing off the walls that he asked me,” she said, grinning “but then he just stood there and I thought he was going to kiss me but he just ran off when the bell rang, saying he didn’t want to be late for chemistry again. Why are boys so stupid?”
Trish shrugged. “I don’t know. But he asked you! That’s great! We need to go dress shopping. Find out what color his cummerbund is going to be so you can get a dress to match. Or tell him what color your dress is so he can get a cummerbund to match. And find out where you’re going to go for dinner, and me and Brad and you and Mike can all go to the same place and we can share a limo.” She squealed. “We could get similar dresses, so we’d match, and then Mike and Brad would have matching cummerbunds. We’ll look great in the pictures.”
“That’s a great idea!” Luthien exclaimed. “IM me later and we can talk about what to wear. I have to study math this afternoon. Totally bombed the test today, I’m sure of it. I’ll get chewed out by Mom and Dad because I’m not a math genius like Dan and Ro and they’ll practically ground me so I can spend all day on math, which you know I suck at even when I do study all the time.” Trish nodded sympathetically. “I ace every art class and I’ve won awards, but they don’t seem to care. All they care about is math and science and all the boring stuff.”
“Parents always do. They’re evil like that. Oh, it’s your stop!”
Luthien jumped up. “Talk to you later!”? The afternoon was warm and breezy, so Luthien took her time walking back from the bus stop. The bugs were buzzing loudly in the fields on both sides of the road and butterflies were floating from flower to flower. Occasionally, she saw squirrels in the trees, chattering at each other or leaping from one branch to another. She smiled. Maybe she’d just spend the afternoon studying outside and enjoy the weather before things got cold and ugly.
A rabbit dashed into the road, and then stopped dead on the center line. Its dark eyes, large and dark, darted around looking for danger while its little nose twitched, smelling for threats. Its ears were laid back against its mottled grey body, making it look like one of Luthien’s stuffed animals. She stood still, watching the rabbit, smiling at how cute it was. Maybe if she stayed outside, she’d see more rabbits. Definitely a reason not to go home right away. She started walking again, heading for the rabbit to get it out of the road before a car came flying through (like they always did) and turned it into a bunny pancake.
The rabbit took off quickly, heading straight into the field like Luthien thought it would. She kept on straight, using her hands to push the chest high grass aside when she entered the field, aiming for the small clearing on the edge of the woods that ended near her house.
On a whim, when she reached the woods, she kept going. There was a great climbing tree not too far back with an awesome branch to sit and read on. She could study up there and watch the ground below for wildlife. And who knew? Maybe a squirrel would come to visit her while she was up there. That would be awesome.
“Let the fun begin!” she thought she heard a female voice say, and then there was the same laughter she’d heard last night. Luthien stopped walking and shook her head. She hadn’t had any more of that creamer and she’d gotten enough sleep, so it couldn’t be hallucinations. And she hadn’t had to deal with Morgoth’s Spawn yet, so it couldn’t be that either. Maybe she was just hearing things. Probably. She started walking again
And broke through the trees, stepping out into a huge, rolling, grassy meadow. Where the heck was she? Had she somehow gotten turned around weird and come out a different edge of the woods? She didn’t think she had, but it was easy to do when you weren’t paying attention. ‘Better go back and get my bearings’, she thought to herself as she headed back into the woods. No way she wanted to be lost when the sun went down. That would suck. Weird people came into the woods at night, and she didn’t want to be there when they did.
Eru only knows how much later, Luthien was getting panicked. She couldn’t find her way back to the grassy field and the sun was getting lower in the sky. “HELP!” she yelled, hoping someone would hear her. Maybe Dan and Ro were outside. Or Mom was home, and they were looking for her. They’d hear her and come looking. She sat down at the base of a tree. “HELP ME! ANYONE! HELP!” Silence.
More time passed. Luthien was hoarse from yelling and sick with worry. She’d never gotten lost in the woods before, not even when she’d first started going into them. So why was she lost now? “Mommy,” she whimpered, resting her forehead on her knees as she started to cry. She just wanted to get out of the woods and go home. She wanted to sit down at her computer and talk with Trish about the prom. She wanted to hear Ro come running to her to hide her from Dan, or watch Dan pound Ro for whatever the little twerp had done this time. She felt herself smile. Watching those two was better than anything the WWE could come up with.
Her head jerked up with a start. It was completely pitch black now, and somewhere near by, something was breathing loudly. And it was getting closer. Luthien sat, frozen, terrified at what might be lurking behind the tree, about to pounce on her. “God, help,” she murmured softly. “Don’t let me get eaten!”
Without warning, she suddenly found herself pushed backward onto the ground, paws on her chest, extremely rancid dog breath assaulting her nose as whatever animal that had just pinned her to the ground panted. She figured if it wanted to eat her, it would have already tried to, and her friend, Becky’s dog had managed to pin her like this a few times when it wanted her to play. She reached up blindly and felt around for the dog’s face. It seemed friendly enough.
She shrieked when the dog licked the palm of her hand and then snuffled at her face for a moment before licking her from nose to chin. “Getoffame!” she said in a rush as she sat up and pushed the dog off her chest. “Do not do that again. Your breath stinks and Eru only knows what nasty stuff is in your mouth. I need a shower.” She wiped her face on her sleeve, hoping she wouldn’t come down with a rare and disgusting disease from this stinky dog.
The dog circled a few times and plopped down, resting its front paws and head on her leg. Luthien looked down in the direction of the weight on her leg, wondering where the dog had come from. Probably a stray that had wandered into the area. She gingerly felt for the top of its head and patted it, deciding she was glad the dog had found her. She was definitely glad for the company, and in the morning, maybe it could help her find her way out of here and back to food and clean clothes. Sighing deeply, she pulled her leg out from under the dog, grabbed her backpack, and tried to make a halfway decent pillow out of it so she could get some sleep before dawn.
Five minutes later, she dumped the books out and stuffed the backpack with leaves and whatnot off the ground. No way she could sleep with books for a pillow. Way too hard. Eru only knew if this would be any better, but it sure couldn’t be any worse.
Figwit was kissing her passionately, sucking on her ear, her chin, her nose. “mmmmm…yes,” Luthien said, laughing softly. This was the way things should be. It was about time he saw she was just a simple Dunedain maiden that wished to make her home among the Eldar, and not there to seduce Elrond’s sons. He, on the other hand, was fair game. And now, after months of anxious waiting, he was here with her, licking her-
Luthien’s eyes flew open and saw the dog licking the side of her face. “I hate you,” she muttered sleepily. “You made me think you were Figwit. Stupid dog.” She should have known elves wouldn’t do something so tacky. But it was light, so it was time to get up and get out of here. “Let’s go. When we get back to my place, I’ll get you some food or something.” Mom would have a fit, her showing up with a stray, but she’d convince her the dog helped her find her way out and deserved some food in thanks.
The dog bounded ahead several yards as soon as she was on her feet, stopping and looking back at her. “Just a minute, dog.” She dumped the leaves out of her pack, stuffed, the books back in, and headed after him. When she almost caught up with him, he moved ahead again and waited for her to catch up.
He stayed ahead of her like this until they reached the edge of the woods. Luthien stepped out into the open (another field) and, with a start, realized the sun was almost at its peak in the sky. “What the hell is going on?” she exclaimed, tendrils of fear snakiing around her gut, threatening to squeeze and make it hard to breathe. “Where am I?” She looked back at the dog. “Mutt, where are we? Where do you live? Take me to your master.” The dog looked at her, panting, tail wagging. “Let’s go! Home!” The dog stood, but didn’t move. “Or Imladris. Your choice.” His tail began wagging faster. “You know where that is?” ‘Stupid dog’, she thought. “Let’s go to Imladris! Yeah, let’s go!” The dog trotted forward a few steps, and when Luthien moved to step forward, he took off away from the woods into the field, stopping up ahead and looking back at her. Laughing under her breath, she walked quickly towards him. Hey, whatever got him moving towards somewhere with a phone and food.
The field shouldn’t be this large. That was Luthien’s first thought when she realized the sun had sunk significantly in the sky and she and the dog were still walking without any sight of houses or roads. The field had turned more into a flat, grassy plain by this point, stretching unbroken in all directions as far as she could see. “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” she muttered under her breath. “I have no idea where we are, actually. But I need to stop.” She sat down and flopped back, her feet screaming with relief at the lack of pressure on them. “Oh, sweet heavens above, yes, this is wonderful!” she sighed, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.
The dog licked her cheek. “Hello, Dog.” It licked her cheek once more and sat down next to her. “I wish you could speak and tell me where we are and how you found me and where you’re taking me. But you’re a dog, so you can’t.” She turned onto her side so she was looking at Dog. “I’ll trust you’re not leading me to any balrogs or orc patrols or white slavery or anything really evil, so wherever we’re going, let’s get there fast. I’m very hungry.” The mention of her hunger make her mouth water and her stomach growl loudly. Dog stood up and stared at her gut curiously. When it didn’t growl again, Dog sat back down. “Go hunt for food or something. Bring me a rabbit. Or something.” Dog didn’t move. Luthien pursed her lips and, for lack of anything else better, pulled up a handful of grass and ate it. It didn’t taste too nasty, so she ate a few more until her stomach felt fairly full. She was so going to scarf burgers, fries, and chocolate when she got home to make up for having to eat grass. And why wasn’t anyone out looking for her? She’d have words with her parents when she got home.
The sun was just starting to set when a small hut, smoke floating out of a chimney, appeared on the horizon. “Finally!” Luthien exclaimed. People! Maybe they had a phone or something, and they could help her get back to civilization. Through her parents, she knew, or was at least familiar, with all the hippies and New Age-type people in the tri-county area. Hopefully, they’d remember her and give her something to eat and clean clothes and take a bath. Or maybe just feed her. She’d deal with the rest after she ate. The grass had only lasted just so long.
Luthien began running and Dog followed suit, quickly outdistancing her to the hut, barking loudly the whole way. Someone came out and looked in the direction of the barking, exclaiming something when they realized it was Dog. Dog jumped up on the person and allowed his head to be scratched, then dropped down and started back towards Luthien, sitting down about halfway between her and the person. The person shouted something, but Dog didn’t move. The person shouted again and, when Dog didn’t move, started out towards Dog.
Luthien, clutching the straps of her backpack tightly, also started walking towards Dog. She sent up a silent prayer things would go her way.
As she and the person drew closer to Dog, she saw the person was a woman wearing a brown dress under some kind of dark cream-colored smock. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a bun that looked like it was coming loose and, even at a distance, she could see deep lines in the woman’s face. Luthien stopped walking, the fear from last night returning. She’d never seen this woman before. She would have remembered someone who looked as much in need of facial moisturizer as this woman did. Where was she?
Dog led the ugly woman over to Luthien and gave a short bark, looking at the woman and then at Luthien. When neither person moved, Dog barked again, looking between the woman Luthien. The woman, face unreadable, asked something Luthien didn’t understand. Luthien shrugged and tried to indicate she was confused. The woman repeated the question, slower this time, but Luthien still had no idea. She shook her head, shrugging again. Why didn’t the woman just speak English? Was she an immigrant that hadn’t bothered to learn English? Her parents thought people like that should be made to go to government-sponsored programs so they could learn enough English to get a job and make a better life for themselves. She’d never had to deal with anyone like that, but if this was what it was like, she was with her parents. Those people really needed to learn English so people could understand them. And they were in America now, so they needed to speak English. Maybe she could teach this woman some English. Her dad would like that she had helped someone.
A tug at her sleeve brought her out of her thoughts. Looking down, she saw Dog tugging on her sleeve. The woman was saying something and gesturing towards the house as she walked in that direction. Luthien nodded and started after her. Dog dropped her sleeve and ran ahead, occassionally running back to Luthien.
The reek of unwashed bodies, animal poop, burned food, and other things Luthien couldn’t identify, and wasn’t sure she wanted to, hit her nose before she reached the house, making her dry heave a few times. Oh, Eru, what was she getting into? Who lived like this anymore? She was so going to tell the police about this place when she got home. It wasn’t healthy.
The reek got stronger as she drew closer to the house, causing her to fall to her knees about fifty yards away and puke until her gut muscles were aching. When she got back to her feet, the woman was standing by the door, an annoyed expression on her face. ‘It’s not my fault you can’t keep your house clean’, Luthien grumbled to herself as she plodded up to the house, holding her nose. If she wasn’t so hungry and it wasn’t dark she’d go back to the woods and take her chances finding her way home.
The inside of the house was surprisingly clean. There were a few barnyard animals at the far end, a trough near their back ends scraped mostly clean. A few lamps were along the walls, guttering slightly as they burned some kind of really obnoxiously smelly oil. Over the fire, a pot hung from an iron hook, whatever was inside bubbling. The few windows were covered with some kind of opaque material that, when the sun was out, must let in some degree of light. There was a long table not far from the fire and a stack of mats by the left wall, she assumed, were the beds. But where was everyone else? The only person she’d seen so far was the woman.
A hand grabbed her arm. Luthien jumped and looked over, seeing only the woman, who was holding a wooden bowl of something grey and steaming. The woman nodded her head at the table. Luthien took the bowl and went over to the table. That had been easy enough to figure out. But where was the spoon? She looked back at the woman, whose face was blank. Okay, no silverware. This was definitely strange. Like going to Medieval Times, except it wasn’t a show and the food definitely didn’t look, or smell, as good as what they’d had there. Not that the food there had been good, but she was sure it had been better than this would be. Luthien picked up the bowl and took a tentative sip. Yeah, Medieval Times had definitely had better food, but, right now, she didn’t care. This was food, even if it was tasteless and greasy, and she was hungry and she’d get picky when she was back home.
The woman stood next to Luthien while she drank the soup, and when the bowl was empty, the woman took it from Luthien’s hands and, using a piece of coarse brown bread, wiped the bowl with the bread and lifted the break to her mouth, but instead of eating it, she handed it to Luthien. Guessing she was supposed to eat the bread and the bowl scrapings, she bit off a piece and was rewarded with a relaxing of the woman’s expression. Luthien smiled, nodded, and rubbed her stomach. The bread, while dry, had a nutty flavor and wasn’t half bad. Luthien hoped she could get some butter, and maybe some honey, the next time she had the bread.
The next time. Wait. There wasn’t going to be a next time. Luthien was going to try to find out how to get to the nearest town so she could find the police and get home. She’d be gone after breakfast in the morning.
Luthien was just finishing the bread when she heard loud voices, shouting and laughing, appoaching the house. Uneasy, she stood and looked over at the woman. She was smiling and scooping soup from the pot into a bowl. The voices must belong to the others that lived here. Luthien relaxed. Affecting a questioning expression, she reached for the bowl and nodded towards the table. The woman nodded and handed the bowl to Luthien. Seven more bowls followed, as did slices of bread when the woman moved to the small counter area near what looked like a Dutch oven. Luthien smiled to herself, glad she’d been able to communicate with the woman. And she’d done something nice, so the woman would know that Luthien was just a simple girl and no one to worry about. Something else her dad would be proud of her for. He always said she never helped around the house.
Eight males, all of varying ages, came bursting into the house moments after the last slice of bread was put down. They all immediately sat down and, almost in unison, lifted the bowls to their mouths and emptied them with a speed Luthien found slightly disturbing. Small wonder there was no flavor to the soup. With the speed these guys ate at, they’d never taste it anyway. The bread was gone almost as fast, but was quickly replenished by the woman, who was obviously used to this routine.
Only after everything was eaten and mouths were wiped on sleeves did anyone notice Luthien standing slightly behind the woman. One of the younger guys, sitting next to the older man at the far end, said something to the woman, who launched into a long explanation that Luthien didn’t understand a word of. Whatever the woman said, the older guys looked confused and two of the younger guys said something that made both of them laugh loudly. The woman barked a sharp command, silencing the laughers and causing them to wear sheepish expressions.
The older man at the far end stood up and said something to the woman, who followed him out the door. The other seven guys waited a moment, then stood up and surrounded Luthien, all speaking at once. She looked around at them, eyes wide, wondering what the heck they were saying. She shook her head and shrugged, but they kept on speaking. “I don’t understand!” she yelled. “I don’t know what you’re saying! Leave me alone!”
The guy stepped back, wary looks on their faces. One said something. She shrugged. He frowned and furrowed his brow and said something to one of the other guys, who made a gesture in Luthien’s direction. This caused several of the others to laugh and make comments and gestures of their own. The first guy who spoke nodded, smiled slyly, and said something that made everyone else nod enthusiastically and then look at her in unison.
Luthien felt her stomach sink into her feet. Guys laughing and then looking at you in unison was never good. They were always up to something. She started to edge sideways, eying the door, hoping to escape before they did whatever they were planning.
No such luck. The guy that had made everyone laugh was suddenly blocking her escape and holding her by the elbows. Luthien felt her eyes grow wide and her mouth go dry. ‘Whatever you do’ she begged silently ‘don’t kill me or rape me. Be nice to me. I’m lost and want to go home.’
Suddenly, his mouth was on hers and she was pushing him away and the guys were laughing and hollering and there were shouts from the doorway. The guy was pulled away from her by the oldest guy.
The woman pushed through the guys and came over to Luthien, anxiously looking her over. When she didn’t find anything, she sighed and muttered something under her breath, shaking her head slightly. She gestured to the table and gave Luthien a small push towards it. Mind still spinning, Luthien woodenly obeyed, putting her head down on her arms when she was sitting. This was all too weird to be real. She had to be dreaming. She’d fallen asleep in the field and this was all a dream and she’d wake up and everything would be fine and she’d blame this on too much school food at lunch time. Or something. But this was all a dream. It had to be.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.