Hobbits in the Basement
Part I- In Which a Secret is Uncovered
Author’s note- Hey everyone! Just to let you know, this is my first try at writing on my own. I normally work in partnership with a lovely gal called Ainariel. (You might know her as the author of “Back to Middle Earth”.) Anyway, Ainariel read this and wouldn’t leave me alone until I promised to submit it. Don’t be too ruthless in your comments, I AM a first time writer:0)
You know what the most annoying thing in the world is? Having someone flush the toilet while you’re in the shower. I mean, one minute you’re half asleep, enjoying nice warm water, and the next minute, FLUSSSHH! BRRR!
Well, that’s exactly what happened to me on this seemingly normal day. A MONDAY morning no less. One of my housemates thought it might be fun to push the lever on the loo and listen to Amelia squeal. It makes for a very nice morning. (Note the sarcasm in my voice)
“So you’ve had a bad start”, I said to myself, “no reason to let your whole day be ruined.” Little did I know that my day was about to be ruined whether I got a warm shower or not.
Mornings at Greenwynn School for Privileged Youth are normally the same every day. The bell rings, I stare at my ceiling wishing I didn’t have to get up and listening to my three roommates getting up and beginning the days’ babble of relentless gossip before rolling out of my own bed and heading to the showers.
The moment I was out, they’d be clamoring in with their dark makeup and hair-straighteners. This morning wasn’t any different save for the icy cold of my shower and the stifled giggles of my roommates as I took my leave of the privy. I flung my bathing articles on my bed and headed to the large wardrobe on the other end of the room. I flung open the door and sorted through the hanging clothes
“Do I wear the dark green skirt, the dark green skirt or the dark green skirt?” I muttered to myself as I dug through the jungle of clothes “My my, such selection!” I ended up choosing the dark green skirt. Just to save time.
The uniforms at Greenwynn are what else, green. Green skirt, or pants for the guys, white shirt, green tie, green stockings.
Tugging my impossibly curly red hair into a ponytail and shoving my glasses onto my nose, I glanced in the mirror and sighed. As usual, I looked like a carrot the wrong way up.
Blowing a curl that had escaped my ponytail out of my face, I gathered up my books. Science, history, Latin, and business. One more book lay open on my bed. It was worn and the cover had been bent several times. I picked it up and smoothed it out. It was my copy of J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring.” I’d never taken the book to class before. I supposed that I wouldn’t be permitted to keep it, as it was a fantasy novel and, after, all I was in this school to learn about the real world. I hesitated a bit longer but the breakfast bell rang so I thought “why not?” And tucked it under my arm.
Grennwynn school is actually a huge old mansion owned by Mr. Aldous Burton who set it up to be a finishing school for kids who had the money to pay for it. Like me. My Aunt Jeannine, who I live with, wants me at Greenwynn to learn the skill I need to take over the family business. I think it’s because she’s not a “teenager person.” I mean, the woman got me a package of chewing gum for my thirteenth birthday. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts I guess. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Greenwynn’s a huge mansion.
Anyway, Mr. Burton is the headmaster. But everyone knows that the REAL ruler of the roost is Madame Humbert. She is the head of the girls’ houses and rules them with an iron hand. Nobody with half a brain gets themselves at odds with Madame Humbert.
Greenwynn is separated into three houses, two for the girls, one for the boys, since the girls out number the boy by… I don’t know…a lot. Each house has four rooms, with four kids in each room. I’m in House 1, Room 3, along with my roommates, Anna, Diane and Charlotte. Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. Let’s skip to breakfast.
With all 32 girls clamoring down to the ballroom for breakfast, the corridors can get pretty congested. I normally stay near the back of the group. Which is where I belong in the opinion of many. See I’m sort of the odd one out. I refuse to straighten my hair, or wear makeup or gossip about unimportant things. It’s sort of a radical idea to the girls here. Most of them are the classic, pampered spoiled brats you know what I mean. They sort of boycott me and I boycott them. I don’t mind it really. I don’t see the appeal in being in the in-crowd. In my opinion, life would be a perpetual soap opera. I’m content to hang out by myself. Actually, I’m not by myself; I’ve got my books.
Sitting at a table alone during breakfast, I thumbed through “Fellowship.” I’d read it so many times; I had it pretty near memorized. The adventures of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee would never cease to provide entertainment for me.
Why? Well…okay. I’m going to confess something that’ll sound really stupid now so nobody laugh. But I know I CAN’T be the only one who’s thought this at least once.
Tolkien’s Middle-earth is so different from my everyday life. So much more exciting and colorful and diverse. Sometimes I wish that I could leave my world behind and get into that one. I wish… well, I wished Middle-earth were real. Stupid sounding I know, but I have a severely over active imagination. I wish that the books were real and that they weren’t just the dream of a linguistics professor. Somewhere in my heart I knew it HAD to be real. But, I may be just too big of a fan eh?
All too soon, breakfast was over and I had to put away my book. Trudging up the stairs to class my mind was still on Tolkien and all the places I’d go if I had the chance to visit Middle-earth. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I didn’t see the leg stretch out in front of me. I went sprawling. My glasses flew off my nose and books scattered in every direction. People around me laughed as they hurried to class. I sighed and got to my feet. Just as I picked up my last book, the bell rang.
“Wonderful” I murmured “Simply splendid.”
“Amelia Godwin.” Madame Humbert circled me like a hungry vulture. I stared straight ahead of me. Why does she have to pull me to the front of the class? Couldn’t we humiliate me some other way? I thought focusing all my attention on a poster at the back of the room. “What do I always say about promptness?” My teacher continued.
“To be on time is to be late. To be early is to be on time.” I recited robotically.
“And you were neither Ms. Godwin.” Madame Humbert said sharply. I still stared ahead refusing eye contact. “I expect a full page essay on punctuality on my desk tomorrow as punishment,”
It was unfair but what else could I do?
I walked briskly to my seat in the back still not looking at anyone and ignoring whispers and giggles.
The day dragged on. I made it to science class without delays. But the next blow came in history class.
I’m afraid the chapter test didn’t go very well for most of you.” Our teacher, an old man with huge classes was shuffling up and down the rows of desks handing back papers. “In fact only one of you received full marks.” he stopped next to my desk.
Not me. I thought silently. Oh please just keep walking! But no, he handed me a paper and gave me a smile.
“Well done Ms. Godwin.” He said. Then he turned to the rest of the class. “You should all take a leaf from Amelia’s book.” I buried my face in my hands. Just shut up. I prayed. I peered through my fingers and saw every eye in the class glaring at me. “Great” I mumbled and concentrated furiously on the war of Austrian Succession.
My troubles were just beginning. Sitting at lunch, I buried my nose in Tolkien. I was perfectly content minding my own business until the book was pulled out of my grasp and held impossibly high above my head. I whirled around to see one of the older boys; Ray I think his name was, accompanied by his friend Tony. They found boundless entertainment in picking on me.
“Can I have my book back please? I asked staring up at him.
“You can after I take a leaf from it.” He said grinning. He opened to the heart of the book and seized one page.
“Don’t you dare!” I said jumping up
“What sort of book IS this?” He asked dangling it in front of my nose.
“It’s no business of yours!” I said. I lunged for it. Tony grabbed me from behind and flung me out of the way. The two boys turned to run but I reached up from the floor and caught Tony’s pant leg. I clung to it with iron strength as he tried to shake me off.
“Let me go you freak!”
“Give me back my book!” I glared at him.
By some miracle, the bell rang. Tony glanced at the clock. Knowing if he was late he’d have to answer to Madame Humbert.
“Give her the book Ray. It’s no use to us.”
Ray hesitated, but tossed on the floor next to me. Tony gave his leg one final shake and cast me off. Then the two of them ran up the stairs to the classrooms.
I got gingerly to my feet and picked up my book. I riffled through it until I found the page Ray had grabbed. It was wrinkled and torn at the top. Thinking naughty words to myself, I ran up the stairs.
Somehow, I made it to class on time. Come to think of it, I don’t know why I even bothered to hurry. The class was a class especially for the girls. It was supposed to teach us the things only women in polite society need to know. Like how to greet somebody who works for this person, or how to throw a fancy dinner and other stuff like that. It was all very medieval if you ask me. The topic for today was (gadzooks) polite conversation. We were split up into groups to practice talking about what Madame called- “Topics of General Interest.” She would walk around the room and evaluate each conversation.
“Compliments are everything ladies!” she called out in a singsong fashion. “Remember to use them!”
In my group were two of the most popular girls (to use a cliché) Karen and her friend Chelsea. A small quiet girl with straight brown hair who had only recently come to Greenwynn was also in the group. We began the exercise.
“Oh Chelsea! Where DID you get that hairstyle? It’s lovely!”
“Why thank you I do rather like it.”
I rolled my eyes. We’re going just a bit overboard on the compliments ladies. I thought. Unfortunately for me, Karen caught the eye roll.
“And here exactly did you get YOUR hairstyle Amelia?” she said. Chelsea joined in.
“Oh my yes. I’d have to stick my tongue in a toaster to achieve the same effect.”
Both girls smirked. Their eyes gleaming at their own pathetic cleverness. If it had been any other day, I would have ignored it. But this irked me too much to keep my mouth shut.
“Oh go boil your head in a toilet you two!” I said irritably.
“Amelia” Oh crap “That is hardly a topic fit for conversation.” Madame chose that exact moment to stop to listen to our conversation. I should have known. I wound up with another two-page essay on manners.
So, you’re thinking that my day couldn’t possibly get any worse? Well, it was basically a continual downhill slide. My shoelaces were mysteriously tied together; the water fountain magically spurted up into my face, the rug at the top of the stairs slid out from under my feet. I took all of it with gritted teeth. I wouldn’t give my classmates the satisfaction of their pranks.
At long, long last the final bell rang. I threw my books in my room and headed to my favorite spot in the whole of Greenwynn: the library.
Mr. Burton has a HUGE library on the second floor. I had adopted it as my sanctuary since no one ever went in there anyway. I love every inch of that room. With it’s high arched windows and window seats and of course it’s rows and rows of books. This particular afternoon, I needed the tranquillity of the library more than ever.
I pushed open the door and breathed in the library smell. If heaven has a smell, than I bet it smells exactly like the library. Like paper and ink mixed with coffee and pipe tobacco. Lovely.
“Hello Amelia me girl!” A cheerful accented voice called between the shelves. A moment or two later, the librarian and my loyal friend Mrs. Mentha Mungo came out pushing a large cart of books.
The best way to describe Mentha Mungo is a four foot two inch ball of fire, with curling blonde hair and wide green eyes. Don’t let her size fool you though, she doesn’t put up with nonsense.
” A difficult day my dear?” She asked. I flopped on my favorite window seat.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you Mentha.”
Mentha clicked her tongue in sympathy.
“Well dear, make yourself comfortable. I’ll be back. Master Burton’s requested some books.” She struggled to open the heavy doors and push the cart at the same time. She finally succeeded and left me alone in the library. I leaned back in the window seat and looked out the window. The boys played soccer on the lawn below and the girls sat on the mansion’s steps talking and laughing. I felt tears prick my eyes. I rubbed them frustrated. Honestly Amelia. Half of me thought. If you want to join them, just go down and DO it. No, The other half thought. They wouldn’t accept you. Then stop feeling sorry for yourself! Stop it. I told them both. You’re making me as bad as Gollum. Yessss precioussss. You’re pathetic. I told my two selves. They thanked me and then disappeared.
I sighed and turned away from the window. I ran a finger along the engraving on the window seat. A vine, with leaves. I stopped for a moment. One of the leaves looked like it had been knocked out of place. I pushed on it to put it back in and surprisingly, It gave way under the pressure I applied. A “pop” issued from the shelves near my left. I gave a start. What was that? I got up and went to the shelf. It appeared to be a normal shelf. I ran my fingers along the edges of it and then started to walk away. But my skirt got caught on a protruding screw when I tried to pull away; the shelf came with me. I mean it OPENED like a door. I rubbed my eyes and blinked. It couldn’t be real. Stuff like that only happened in movies and books. I took cautious step towards the opening between the shelf and the wall. A HUGE hole gaped behind it. Beyond the hole was a flight of steps leading down into utter darkness. I blinked some more and pinched myself. Was somebody putting me on? Did Mentha know this was here? I peered even farther down the tunnel. I couldn’t help but wonder what was down there. I glanced around me. No one was in the library. It wouldn’t hurt to have just a little peek would it? Worried about the door closing behind me, I grabbed a thick book off the shelf and shoved it between the door and the wall. I hesitated only a moment before I descended into darkness.
The tunnel was made of stone and the steps were steep. I wished I had thought about this a bit more before I plunged in here. It was so dark; I could barely see my hand before my face.
Soon I thought I saw a light ahead of me. It was little more than a glow but nevertheless I made my way towards it. Presently I heard voices as well. Somebody was singing.
“The road goes ever on and on…”
Where had I heard that before?
“…Down from the door where it began…”
I stopped. A little round door was hung on the wall of the tunnel not far ahead. The light was pouring out from around its edges. If I didn’t know any better I’d say that was- a smaller voice cut through the singing.
” I don’t care what you say! It’s so cramped in here! I’m opening the door!”
The door opened. A small shadow was cast on the floor of the tunnel when the door opened. The small figure in the doorway gasped. My mouth dropped open. The figure ran back inside the door.
“What is it Pansy?” Another figure came to the door. By then, My eyes had adjusted to the sudden light and I saw clearly what stood before me.
He was about three feet and six inches tall. He looked quite young, wearing a waistcoat and cut-off trousers from which protruded large hairy feet. Pointed ears poked through a mop of curly brown hair. He was a hobbit! I gaped at him. He gaped at me.
“Togo? Do you see it?” a girl hobbit with curling gold hair stepped up behind the boy hobbit. TWO hobbits! There! In front of me! I stood there, unable to speak.
“Look! Togo! A Big Person!” The hobbit girl took a step towards me. The boy grabbed her shoulders.
“Stay back!” he said forcefully. Pansy ignored him. She pulled out of his grasp. She took small steps toward me.
“Are you REALLY a big person?” she circled me slowly. Her head barely came to my waist. Togo seized Pansy again
“Don’t talk to it Pansy!” He tried again to pull her back inside the door.
“Leave off Togo!” I stared stupidly at them. I tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come.
“Wait!” I managed to get out “I won’t hurt you! I’m down here by mistake!”
Togo harrumphed and kept tugging on Pansy.
“And how do we know that’s the truth?” he demanded. “Mentha’s told us stories-“
“Mentha? You know Mentha?”
Togo stared at me.
“Why?” he asked suspiciously.
“I’m a friend of Mentha’s!”
Pansy yanked out of Togo’s grip.
“See Togo? She won’t hurt us!”
She stared up at me.
“What’s your name?”
“Amelia. Amelia Godwin”
She held out a hand. “I’m Pansy Grubb and that’s my brother Togo.” She smiled at me. “Come in, it’s terribly drafty out here.”
“Pansy-” Togo said warningly. Pansy rolled her eyes.
“Honestly Togo! What on earth is she going to do?” He still glared at me. Pansy took my hand and pulled me inside the door.
I found myself in a little round room. I nearly bumped my head on it’s low ceiling. A little wood table stood in the center of the room, and a fire crackled merrily in a hearth on the far side of it. Two little beds were made up near the glowing fire and a gleaming sword hung above the mantle. Mind you, it was a hobbit-sized sword, Little more than a long knife to me. I was standing in a real-life hobbit hole!
I blinked several times. I was still half-sure this was some sort of bizzarre dream.
“It’s not much, but it’s home.” Pansy was saying. I stared down at her utterly bewildered. She stared back. “Something the matter?” She asked.
“You’re a hobbit!”
Pansy gave me an odd look. “Yes.” She said. “At least I was the last time I looked.”
“But hobbits don’t exist!”
Pansy laughed “Of course we exist!”
Excitement began to grow in my chest.
“But then that means that Tolkien was right! It’s not a figment of imagination! They’re true!”
“What are true?’
“The books of course!”
The ones about Frodo and Sam and Aragorn, and the ring!” Pansy looked excited but Togo rolled his eyes and snorted.
“Those stories? Nothing but fairy tales those are.” Pansy stamped her foot.
“They are TOO true Togo!”
I shook my head there was still so much that wasn’t explained. “But what are you doing down here?”
“Not you specifically. Just, big people in general.”
“Are there more of you? Hobbits I mean.”
“We think there are some of us left in the wilder parts of the country but we can’t be sure.”
“Why are you down here then?”
Pansy sighed. I’m not certain you’d want to hear it. Besides, I was quite small when it happened.”
“Please tell me.”
Pansy must have sensed she could trust me, because she sat me down in a chair that I could barely get my bum in and handed me a steaming cup of something that was no bigger than my palm. She seemed a decent sort. She was very kind. As for Togo, well, let’s just say if looks could kill, I’d be dead and rotting. He sat across the room glaring suspiciously at me.
“I’m warning you,” Pansy said. “It’s a long story.”
“I have time.”
She sat down in a chair. “Very well.” She folded her hands around a mug and began.
“We used to live in a hill, where exactly, I can’t be sure. But Da built a very nice hole for Mum when they got married. Mum loved that hole. She kept it up very nicely. We had thought we lived in a very secluded place, far from the big people. But we were wrong. Togo and I went out to pick wild flowers for Mum’s birthday in the meadow two hills away. When we returned, huge yellow wagons without horses were rolling all over our hill. Most of it was already flattened. There was no sign of our parents. We still don’t know if they escaped.”
Pansy stopped and wiped her eyes on a little hanky. She took a deep breath and went on.
We were afraid of the big people and we didn’t want them to find us. So we went back to the meadow and hid there for two days until Mentha came and found us.
“Mentha?” I asked. She nodded.
“Mentha was a friend of our mothers’. She found us and brought us to her friend Mr. Burton. He remembered the secret passages under his house and said we could stay here.”
“How long have you been down here?”
“Going on three years I’d expect.”
The hobbits and I talked for another hour or so. I explained about the school above them and how I’d got down there in the first place.
In the middle of our conversation, I heard a voice calling my name. It sounded distant and far away.
Pansy perked up. “That’s Mentha!” She said.
“Oh my giddy aunt!” I exclaimed. “I forgot how much homework I have!”
I bid the hobbits farewell and promised to return. Then I made my way back down the corridor until I found the steps. I headed towards the bright rectangle of light at the top that led back to the real world. Silhouetted in the glow was the short chubby form of Mentha Mungo. She stood with her hands on her hips looking very annoyed with herself.
“Mentha!” I exclaimed breathlessly when I reached her. “Why didn’t you TELL me there were hobbits in the basement?”
Authors note- So, there’s part one. Is this story worth continuing? Or do you find it totally pathetic? Let me know! Thanks! ~Melilot~