Where am I? Emilie asked. Nothing but darkness surrounded her. She could see nothing. Then images before her eyes appeared. She was walking by a dark river. Bare leafless trees surrounded her on all sides. Emilie knelt down beside the river longing to drink to fill her parched mouth and cracked limbs. And yet, every time she scooped up the water in her hands, it would not allow her to drink. She looked at her hands. They were black, cracked, and dry. Her fingernails were long, soiled, and dirty. Emilie turned her eyes to the water and dared to look in. She nearly screamed in fear at what lay before her. A monster. A dim reflection of herself. Her hair was no longer soft or golden copper. The few strands upon her head were gray and tangled. She bore little more than scraps and rags of clothing. Her body was weak, frail, and gangly. She longed to cry out, but her no call came to her, only a hoarse whisper. She felt pain and hate for whoever had done this. Her throat hurt, and she ached for food longing for water to revive her body. Emilie fell to the dirt dismayed and dejected.
“Oh!” she awoke gasping tears streaming down her face.
Emilie looked at her hands. They were normal. Her hair still fell long and soft to her shoulders. She was Emilie. She looked to her side and saw Leo sleeping peacefully, and like a frightened little girl, Emilie crept beside him and placed her arms around him. She soon fell asleep in his arms listening to his soft breathing and remembering the lingering songs of his voice.
Emilie awoke to the suns rays pouring forth through the cave. She sat up startling Leo who lay beside her.
“It’s morning,” she told him smiling.
He yawned. “I actually slept. And I had no dreams.”
“Neither did I. Maybe they’re gone for good.”
“Let us hope.”
Emilie stood up stretching, as did Leo. Then they ventured out of the cave. Emilie gasped astonished at the storm’s ruinous onslaught. The beach was strewn with broken driftwood, and whole trees dup up their corpses now lying scattered upon the shore. It had been a furious tempest, and Emilie was glad they slept through most of it. They made their way through the woods again and Leo ran to the spot where his car was He kicked a tree in anger.
“Idiots stole my car!” he shouted bringing his fist to a tree receiving bloody knuckles for his action.
“Stop!” Emilie ordered him and grasped his shoulders. “We need to keep calm. I know you’re arrogant and upset when it comes to your car, but we have to think clearly. We can get across the island at the ferry and rent a car in Duluth. Lets go back to the hotel.”
“Its five miles away,” he said.
“That’s nothing,” Emilie shirked off the thought. “I used to run three miles a day remember?” she laughed.
As she walked away, he shrugged and caught up with her taking her hand. They passed down the road, and Emilie saw broken down shacks littered with remains of bushes and trees. Emilie then noticed Leo quickening his pace until he was running. She saw him by a tree kneeling down by something. She hurriedly followed him and discovered what he was looking at. A tear escaped her eye, and she moaned kneeling down beside the unfortunate animal. Emilie had always loved living things and even worked as a vet’s assistant. She ran her fingers across the golden retriever puppy’s now soggy soiled fur. Leo picked it up and began rubbing its back.
“It’s still alive, Em. Maybe we can nurse it back to health. I’m sure all it needs is some food, good attention, and a warm bed.”
“Like us,” Emilie added and nudged the dog once again.
“If it lives,” Leo continued, “what would you like to name it?”
“How about Sam or Dorian Gray? I like Dorian.”
“Dorian is a good name,” he smiled holding the fragile pup within his arms.
Emilie glanced toward Superior. The sun was finishing its rise above the lake. The bright golden circle lit the sky aflame and brought light to the plains, beaches, and trees, which leaned their branches toward it drinking the light like oxygen. The flowers craned their necks toward the light as well. A morning mist had settled over the land, and the blades of grass bore droplets of dew that gleamed like diamonds.
Though all this beauty surrounded them, Emilie could not escape a feeling of dread that something terrible was about to happen. Leo and Emilie finally reached the hotel and discovered something very amiss.
“It says here that Leo Green checked out,” the Concierge told them.
Emilie protested. “No you don’t understand. He’s Leo Green,” she told the Concierge.
“If that is so, I shall give you back your room. It must have been a mistake. Can you produce some identification?”
Leo checked his back pockets and threw his hands up. He turned to Emilie.
“My id’s in the car!” he told her.
Emilie bit her lip. “Look doesn’t worry. We’ll get through this ok. I still have my driver’s license, and I have a little bit of money. Let’s take the ferry to Duluth and rent a car. But first come with me to the restaurant.”
Leo wondered why she was taking him to the hotel restaurant, but he said nothing trusting her. She was normally the emotional breakdown, but at this point she was the logical thinker who kept him together. He smiled at the silly thought. Emilie reached the outside of the restaurant and turned back to Leo.
“This little guy needs some food,” she told him motioning to the pup still within Leo’s arms.
“What are you going to do?” he asked.
“Watch and see,” Emilie smiled producing a tube of lip gloss from her pocket. He watched her apply the mixture over her lips and she pulled the straps of her top further down her shoulders exposing a part of her chest. Leo looked at her in shock as she entered the restaurant making her way up to the young Hispanic host. The host grinned as she approached.
“May I help you senorita?” he asked her sweetly.
“Yeah,” said Emilie acting like the perfect bewildered girl in danger. “See I was wondering if you had a bowl of warm milk I could give my dog. He had such a rough time during the storm last night, and I don’t think he’ll live to make it across the ferry. I wish I had some blankets to give him, but our car’s still in Duluth, and I need to keep the poor guy warm.”
“Of course I can help you,” he said flipping back his curly dark hair.
Emilie winked toward Leo as the host went to the kitchen quickly. He returned a short time later carrying a thermos of steaming milk and a couple of warm blankets. She gushed in happiness.
“Thank you so much,” she took them and kissed him on the cheek. “I am very grateful.”
“Anytime,” he said grinning back at her.
Before she could leave, the host caught up with her and said, “Can I have your phone number?”
She turned and grinned uncontrollably. “If I had one to give. Sorry. Thanks again.”
The host looked crushed, and Emilie did feel a twinge of guilt, but at least she had blankets now. Emilie smiled and carried them up to Leo.
“Impressive,” he told her.
She lifted her shoulders. “Ah don’t mention it.”
Leo lifted up her shoulder straps again.
“Oh thank you,” she said blushing.
“As you say, don’t mention it.”
Leo and Emilie walked out into the lobby and sat the pup down upon one of the corner sofas. Emilie covered the animal in the warm blankets and took the thermos of milk out pouring it into a cup. She slowly dipped her finger in the milk and brought it to the pups mouth opening it slowly. She placed her finger on the pup’s tongue and closed his mouth again. The dog’s eyes still closed, and she hoped he was ok. Leo continued to rub the poor dog’s back until it finally stirred. The pup’s eyes slowly opened, and the creature looked at its nurturers. The pup licked Emilie’s hand and fingers and moved towards the bowl of warm milk. She smiled at Leo, and they watched the animal quickly drink the remains. Leo leaned over and brushed his lips across Emilie’s. She closed her eyes and smiled again turning her attention back to the pup. She softly ran her fingers across the dog’s head. The pup crawled into her lap and settled down comfortably a content expression on his face.
“We should go,” Leo suggested.
“I agree,” Emilie said.
eo picked up the pup rolling it within the blankets, and they made their way out of the hotel. The ferry was close by, and they had no trouble walking there. They climbed onto the ferry and sat inside. Emilie said nothing as they sailed back to the mainland, but Leo could see she was troubled. He took her hand.
“It’s ok. We’ll be home soon,” he told her.
“Those guys got your id, Leo,” she said abruptly. “They know who you are, and they’ll be looking for you. I don’t think we’ll be able to go home.”
“Let’s not think about it. I’m hoping you’re wrong, and these guys were just loonies or thieves. They can’t be the Ringwraiths. It’s unethical and ridiculous.”
“Leo, when are you going to learn who you really are? Who I am? You proposed to me in Middle Earth. You loved me.”
He turned to her looking at her aggressively. “You don’t think I love you?” he asked abruptly.
“You haven’t said it,” Emilie replied.
He lifted her chin to his face. “I do love you.”
She breathed in the words relishing them that he finally had said it. Her feeling only lasted a few moments however. A cloud descended over her, and Emilie’s nerves wracked. She could feel them. Simply because she had left Middle Earth, did not mean that her senses and impulses did not disappear.
“I feel it too,” Leo said.
Emilie looked out toward the deck of the ferry, and she saw them. She instantly stood up as she watched one of their swords slice clean through one of the workers spilling innocent blood upon the deck. She grabbed Leo’s shirt and pulled him to the back door. She could nearly see the mainland and wondered if they could swim. She knew those jerks couldn’t. But could her pup swim? She would at least try. She knew golden retrievers were very good swimmers, and even if he couldn’t, she would hold his head up above the water.
Emilie pulled Leo to the back as the black men burst through the inner deck where people cowered against the benches holding their hands up to the offenders. They seemed to carry an essence of pride and fear knowing this new land was peaceful and hardly seen war. The people were easy to frighten.
“We have to jump!” Emilie said to Leo.
“I’ll do whatever you want me to,” he told her.
Emilie set the dog down on the deck to see if he would jump in the water. His tail wagged back and before, and she sighed as the pup jumped into the water happily and began to swim. Emilie dove in, Leo following behind just as the Nazgul emerged from the inner deck. They fired instantly. Leo cried out as the bullet tore through his skin grazing his shoulder. Emilie saw a small trace of blood pouring forth from his black top. Emilie offered a prayer up thanking God there were no sharks in Superior. Dorian (the puppy) swam beside her. She smiled knowing the pup would not separate from her now since she was his saver. She heard shots firing from the ferry, and she knew the Nazgul would not pursue them into the water. The mainland was not far, and Emilie collapsed as soon as they reached the beasts. The puppy sat beside her pawing at her and licking her face. Tourists and nearby people crowded around the couple watching them curiously. Emilie turned to Leo and touched his shoulder.
“Ow!” he said.
“Sorry. Great! Now I’ll have to take you to the hospital.”
“No. We can just get a first aid kit. We don’t have time. Those morons will be here soon. Come on,” he said lifting her up.
Emilie noticed a lot of guys looking at her. She blushed realizing that when she had jumped, her white top was now soak and sticking freely to her body, and the fact that her bra was white didn’t help either. Leo held her preventing the guys from looking at her any further. She smiled loving the fact that he was so protective.
Leo and Emilie did not have a very hard time acquiring a car since Emilie had her driver’s license. Since she had a little money, she bought a leash and collar for Dorian. Emilie took some money out of her account and made her way to the nearest clothes store since her suitcases were done. Leo waited for her, and she emerged with a bag of clothes. Emilie was wearing plain khakis and a red tank top. Leo took her hand.
“I don’t need to change. I can wait.”
“Thanks. I knew I needed to be comfortable if I wanted to outrun those morons. I just can’t imagine what they want. I don’t have anything they want.”
“Emilie, you told me our entire story. Maybe he wants revenge.”
“That’s impossible. He’s dead.”
“But the Ringwraiths did not die when the Ring was destroyed. Their souls dwindled and were sent to Mandos to be judged. But what if someone already in Mando’s grasp had the power to call to them and bind them to his service?”
“You mean Morgoth?!” she asked amazed.
“It is not so farfetched. He could have provided a way of escape. He only needed to sidestep the Valar not trick them but slip past their grasps. The perfect way to do that would be to flee to another world.”
“But why would Morgoth or Sauron want revenge on me?”
“No on Frodo.”
“Perhaps he thinks you are the first to know where he is. You joined the Fellowship first remember?”
Emilie sighed. “Yes, lets hope that’s not it. And anyway, Frodo is dead. He sailed to Valinor and lived out the remainder of his life with the elves.”
“Well, if the wraiths capture us, we will know why we are being hunted.”
“Let us hope it does not come to that.”
Emilie climbed into the driver’s seat. The pup jumped into the backseat and curled up comfortably. She braced herself. This would be a long drive.