The Book of TORC - ~Chapter One: Stuck in TORC
The humming silence of the library surrounded Boromir. But his mind was far away, as he typed furiously to finish his post on Tolkienonline. Suddenly, the site was torn from him, forcing Boromir back into reality. The rain lashing against the window, and the washed-out fluorescent lights made the tall, thin librarian look like a daemon-wraith of Mordor silhouetted against the ceiling lights.
"Young man!" The librarian admonished in her stern, school-teacher voice. "I'm sorry, but your time is up on this computer. There's a long line of people waiting to use these computers." She stalked away, now looking more like a vulture than any less foul creature would dare. Boromir looked longingly at the blinking cursor one last time, then tapped out a signature and posted the message.
A moment later, he had logged off and walked away from the computer. *If only . . .* Boromir thought, not even sure what he wished for. Sitting down at one of the wide, shellacked wood study tables, he stared into his homework. But Boromir looked up a moment later upon hearing a loud sigh. Any thing to get him away from the curving lines and dots of calculus.
A girl with wavy red hair and startling green eyes was just huffing away from one of the computers, the same librarian standing at a distant computer carrel. She sat down just across from Boromir. The whiff of air from her book as she slammed it open blew through his hair impatiently, as if it had better things to do than mess with it, and was only doing so because the girl wanted it to.
"What's the matter? Everything all right?" Boromir asked her.
"I was on my favorite site - tolkienonline.com - and my time ran out. The comp at my house is way too slow and I have to come here." She frowned and looked at Boromir's textbook. "Math? Ouch."
"Yeah, it's - wait, you know TORC?" Boromir looked incredulously at the girl. "That's where I just came from. What's your name?"
"Online, I'm Evenstar_Elfstone . . . but, well, you can call me Lexi." She smiled indulgently at him. Someone after her own heart - could be interesting. And he certainly seemed nice enough.
"Cool to meet you. I'm Nicholas Demerov, online as Boromir209."
"Wow, meeting a fellow TORCer in person ... this is an occasion." Lexi's grin widened. Then she remembered the computers again and sighed (though not so loudly this time.) "Yeah, my guilds are really busy right now, too."
"Well hey, since we can't get on TORC right now, do you want to go for some coffee or something?" Already, Lexi seemed one of the nicest - and most interesting - people Boromir knew. Plus, all this calculus (a whole three seconds) was making him thirsty.
Lexi looked out behind her to the weather. It was overcast and looked like rain, but they might have a few minutes. "Oh why not. Where'd ya' have in mind? I've got to call my folks real quick, though."
"No problem. Anyway, we can walk over to the shop. It's called `Krakatoa Koffees' or something like that. They change the name like once a month." Boromir stood and stuffed his well (if not happily) used textbook into his pack as Lexi went to find a phone.
Meandering slowly to the sliding glass door, Boromir pondered the likelihood of him meeting Lexi. It certainly was . . . lucky. But odd that they'd never met before -- especially considering Lexi's memorable appearance.
"Thinking deep thoughts?" Lexi asked from next to him, breaking Boromir's reverie.
"Hmm? Oh, right. Are you ready to go?"
"Sure," Lexi replied. And they were off.
It wasn't far to the coffee place (though the rain did decide to visit early after all, making the walk somewhat less pleasant) and they barely had time to exchange TORC stories before arriving.
Boromir stopped before the coffee place and paused, looking up. "I'm gone for one day and they've already changed the name."
Lexi followed his gaze. "Isn't that plagiarism or something?"
The sign above the café read: "Tom's House."
Boromir shrugged, "Probably. But they still have the best coffee within a couple miles, and I'm getting wet. We can ask a waiter about it."
The two of them entered . . . a VERY different place from Boromir had been before. Instead of a modern coffee joint, and old fashioned café with small, circular maple tables and cheery - though again, old - lamps illuminated every table. A little music played in the background, and Boromir instantly felt his spirits lift. This was a happy place.
Feeling more than a little curious, Boromir motioned Lexi to follow him as he walked towards one of the tables. Attached to the lamp, there was a little sign reading: "New Game: Fortunately, Unfortunately!" The one next to it read: "VeggieTales," and another, "Pick your poison". Boromir stared.
"This is weird . . ." Lexi said, helpfully stating the obvious. "But it feels kind of like home, you know? Hey, look!" Boromir glanced up to see a door on one end of the café that read "The Bird and the Baby." Slowly, knowing what he was going to see, he turned to look for more of the doors -- there were only two more: one that lead to what looked like a library, and was called the "Reading Room" and another labeled: "Middle-earth Online."
"Finally someone else is here" came an excited voice from behind them. Boromir turned around to see a girl of medium height (and rather baggy clothes). She gestured to a short, elven-looking girl with blond hair who waved energetically. "It's just been Ainariel and me here. Isn't this place amazing?" Boromir stared at him, almost in recognition. His confused brain (for things were very strange here indeed, and he did not know quite what to make out of this place yet) couldn't quite place the girls - though he could have sworn the short one looked almost . . . elvish.
"Where are we?" Lexi asked quietly, coming up beside Boromir to look at the girl addressing them. "Do you know what's going on?"
"We're in Tom's House, of course," the younger girl grinned. "I always knew it was real. I'm Tigerlily, by the way. But you can call me `Jeanlily' - most people do. They think I'm crazy."
"Who? Jeanlily?" Boromir and Lexi asked together. The former grinned: "I know you; I'm Boromir - this is Lexi."
Up until that point, the half-elven hobbit (whom Jeanlily had called Ainariel) had been writing something in a notebook, but now she looked up, and said, despite the fact that it was rather sudden, and probably rather more insightful than was necessary: "That's weird - how come we all know each other? Out of the thousands of people on TORC nowadays, the four of us just show up in the same place . . ."
Boromir shrugged. He was still trying to wrap his mind around the concept that this was really TORC. It was impossible! This was just a really weird dream! He desperately hoped he *wouldn't* wake up.
A door slammed in the distance and Boromir jumped along with the others. "Oh!" Ainariel exclaimed. "Maybe someone else is here!" and she was off running through the door marked "The Bird and the Baby."
Jeanlily rolled her eyes. "She's been like that the whole time. I think it's the hobbit in her; she just doesn't ever run out of energy. Kind of like me, really. Want to see something really cool?" Boromir just stared at her, thinking *please, slow down and let my brain catch up.* "Sit down at one of the tables."
When Boromir didn't move to obey, Lexi sat down at a table marked only `Fortunately, Unfortunately.' "The names are almost all shortened," Jeanlily explained at Lexi's dubious look, not actually answering the latter's question, but making sense anyway. "Go ahead - pick a card."
Feeling a little apprehensive, Lexi reached into the envelope that lay just to the side of the lamp. The next moment, she was looking down on a green landscape that Lexi recognized after a moment as that of Middle-earth. It was . . . different from what she had imagined. Nonetheless, everything seemed at peace, but there was something strange about the whole scene. What was it? Oh: nothing was moving. Gazing upward, Lexi found herself staring at the sky - it was covered with words. The most recent said "Unfortunately, Legolas was still stuck in the cellar of Bag End."
"You have to add to it," Jeanlily prompted her, popping up beside Lexi as she sat down. "Play the game."
Frowning a little, Lexi said, without really knowing why: "Fortunately, someone was there to keep him company. Jeanlily, what's going on?"
"You're in the thread - look!" She pointed at the sky. As they spoke, their words had become written on it with all the others. "Everything we say or do is written on the thread - just like back home . . . only real."
"Oh," Lexi said, standing up very quickly, with the tone of one who has little idea what is going one, but lets it excite her notwithstanding the curiosities of her situation. As soon as she stood, the scenery changed back to Tom's House - and Boromir's hand, which was being waved over her eyes.
"Aah! Stop!" Lexi exclaimed, pushing it out of the way as she jumped in astonishment. "What did you do that for?"
He shrugged. "After you sat down, it was like you were zoned out - for ten minutes! Are you okay?"
"Yeah, sure, I'm fine." Lexi turned to Jeanlily, who was still sitting in her chair, looking for all the world like she was . . . well, like she was in a different world. "What's going on with her?"
"I think she's stayed to play the game." Boromir looked back down at Jeanlily as her lips moved, almost as if she were saying `Unfortunately . . .' "She told me all about it before coming to get you. Apparently, Ainariel was the first one here and figured everything out first." He grabbed her hand and pulled her toward one of the doors. "Come on, I want to see the Reading Room!"
Still feeling a little dazed (she had seen the Shire!) Lexi followed Boromir through double glass doors to a more magnificent library than she could imagine existed. There were thousands upon thousands of books and scrolls in rows of maple cases. Each section of the library was titled: poetry, humour, essays, and (by far the largest) stories were among just a few. It seemed to Boromir they had everything there a Tolkien nut could ever need.
As if in a trance, Boromir wandered forward past the many armchairs and couches set out for likely readers (and writers.) As he went by, a part of him realized there was actually someone shelving the books - and that in the back there were a stack of new ones. *Of course,* Boromir thought. *They haven't been posted yet.* Lexi watched him dubiously. Okay, she'd go *this* way. . . .
As Boromir made his way farther and farther into the depths of the stacks, he noticed with some surprise that the books were not only getting older, their shape was quickly deteriorating - it was almost as if something were . . . were *eating* away at the stacks! But that, of course, was impossible. TORC (this was really TORC, not some joke!) was completely safe . . . it must just be the wearing of time, insects and mice. Were there mice here? Probably not, but everyone had bugs.
Boromir quickly banished the thought of actually *seeing* a computer bug in this place. On the other hand . . . what would it look like? He had never been squeamish around such things, and felt curious. In any case, the books were only nibbled -- it couldn't be very big at all. Rolling his eyes at having actually spent the last couple minutes thinking about bugs, Boromir turned, nearly knocking over a tall and . . . dull person over.
No, dull wasn't quite right . . . more like extraordinarily plain, almost like an android without any features. The person was dressed entirely in a beige color and had a small name tag that said "Search" printed on his shirt. "May I help you?" he asked.
Quickly covering his surprise, Boromir answered rather abruptly: "No thanks. Uh - who are you?"
"I am Search," the other said. "I help people find things. If you need something, I'll be on my way to one who does. Best of luck to you," and with that, Search had disappeared into the stacks once more.
Shaking his head at his and Search's pointless and quick meeting, Boromir wandered back towards where he had last seen Lexi - was it this way? No, here . . . where was she?
"Aah - what?" Boromir gave a half-jump (in a very masculine way, of course) and turned to Lexi, who had tapped him on the shoulder. "You surprised me," he said shortly.
"Uh, huh," she replied. "Where have you been? You just wandered through the stacks and left me standing! I've been looking for you for almost an hour!"
Boromir stared at her. It hadn't seemed *nearly* that long. On the other hand, maybe she was right . . . "Sorry," he said. "I lost track of time. Some jerk ran over my watch yesterday with his truck. Actually, it's kind of a funny story. . . ."
"You lost track of an entire hour?" Lexi asked disbelievingly. She frowned disapprovingly at him, much as she had seen her teachers do. Actually, she was rather grateful for the time to explore by her self - it was very . . . educational. But she wasn't about to tell Boromir that. "Okay, anyway, we have to go - my mom's going to kill me if I don't get back soon."
"Go?" Boromir asked. "Are you kidding? This place is awesome! Sure, you're mom might be a little mad, but this is . . . it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing! We can't miss it! I mean, TORC is *real!*"
"And it'll be just as real tomorrow," Lexi argued. "What, is this place just going to disappear? I know you really like it, but . . . I don't know, something feels *wrong.* Why here, and why now? How in the world did we get here? This is not normal. How can people from all over the world - oh, that just *happened* to know each other - come together at their favorite site? It just seems weird to me, that's all." Why did she feel so uncomfortable here? This was the place she had always wanted to be. But there *was* something wrong - just as she had said. What? Who knew.
Boromir grimaced at the thought of leaving so soon - but she had a good point, he had to concede that. Yet somehow he couldn't imagine TORC as anything but what it was here . . . and it was benevolent, so what could go astray? On the other hand . . . it would be there tomorrow, and Lexi wasn't the only one with people worrying about her.
"Okay," Boromir said sadly. "I guess you're right - it's late. I'll walk you home."
Lexi grinned broadly at this. "Sounds great, let me just tell Jeanlily and Ainariel - "
"You called?" came a low voice from behind them, causing both to jump.
"Aah - will you people stop sneaking up on me?" Boromir exclaimed. "Geez."
"Sorry," Ainariel said, grinning. "But your face . . . sorry. Are - are you going?"
"Yeah, we have to get home," Lexi supplied. "What about you?"
Ainariel shook her head of golden curls. "I can't go," she said softly. "Neither can Jeanlily - we tried. The entrance... it's - it's sealed from the outside. But . . . but while you were gone, Luthy arrived. She could get in, but not out again, just like us. We're all stuck."
"That's impossible!" Boromir exclaimed, dashing through the open double doors to Tom's House, only to stop and stare at the door he had come originally come through. It was marked only "My Content." "What's that supposed to mean?" Boromir asked, turning back to Ainariel.
"Your room!" Ainariel exclaimed, perking up again. "It has everything - mine was this elegant suite with a pool and my colors and everything! I think it's because I'm a premiere member - they made it extra nice. But yours is probably white, and in the design of the Stewards of Gondor. That is your alliance, isn't it? And yours" she said turning to Lexi. What alliance are you, Gondor? Black and white, probably." She laughed a little. "Jeanlily told me all about hers, it was a suite also and -"
"--A wonderful green and yellow blend." Jeanlily finished, coming up behind Boromir.
"Why is it everyone are Silent and Stealthy walkers around me?" Boromir exclaimed, stopping himself from jumping again. I mean, make some noise, would you!"
He shook his head as the girls laughed, walking into his room. It wasn't a suite like those of the Premiere Members, but nice anyway, if a little too white for his taste. Everything was hung neatly. Boromir saw a food box in the corner, from which he retrieved a biscuit. The place had white hangings and an elegant bed in one corner as well as a connecting bathroom (more white) and closet. It did, however, have some shades of beige as accents, for which Boromir was grateful.
Boromir felt strangely at home in there, almost as if it were made for him . . . He still had to find a way out, but it wouldn't hurt to spend a couple days in that place. And for all he knew, time worked differently here. It *was* possible. Plus, it would give him a chance to think up an excellent excuse as to why he was so late.
Waving a little, and muttering he'd be back, Boromir stepped back out into Tom's House. "Well," he said. "It looks like we're going to be here a while. Do they have any coffee?"
Ainariel grinned. "Right this way."
Ainariel led Boromir through Tom's House, down a short hallway, and through a door marked "The Bird and the Baby".
"There's lots of food in here, you know," Ainariel said, leading him to one of the tables. "It being named after a pub and all, probably. You wanted coffee? Anyway - oh, look, it's Jeanlily and Luthy." Jeanlily was leading a confused (but elated) looking Elf through a door marked "The Prancing Pony".
"Oh, there they are," Jeanlily said to Luthy. "That's Boromir, and of course you saw Ainariel already."
"Great," Luthy breathed, staring around the room. "This is so cool." She looked to Boromir to be completely full of energy. "Hi, Boromir," she said, seating herself gracefully (she was an Elf, after all) in a chair.
"Hello, Luthy . . . erm . . . you are the same Luthy I know on TORC, right? You're never this hyper. . . ."
"Only when I'm excited," she giggled.
"So, how did you like your room?" Jeanlily asked Boromir, at the exact same moment that Ainariel said "Does anyone know where Lexi went?"
"Her room, probably," Jeanlily said to Ainariel as Luthy exclaimed, "We get rooms?"
"Yes, go look at the door you came in," Ainariel said to Luthy as Boromir said "It was a little too white for me." All four of them stared for a moment, and then erupted into laughter.
"Well, I came in through the Prancing Pony," Luthy said after a few minutes, when the laughter had died down, rising from her chair. "It was the strangest thing... I was going to work. I work in a bookstore in the evenings, and instead of "Sarah's Books" it said "The Prancing Pony"! I thought it was some sort of promotional thing, but I ended up here." She giggled again.
"The Prancing Pony's here also?" Boromir said. He wondered what the Role-Plays looked like. He grabbed his coffee mug (which Ainariel had supplied for him) and rose, following Luthy through the door. "I'll just see what it's like," he called back to Ainariel and Jeanlily. They waved and continued their conversation.
The Following People Contributed to the Book of TORC Editing: Writing: Official Members:
Wandering but not lost
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