Keeper of Realities – Part 6
Whatever happened to Middle Earth?
Recap: The Fellowship was just spotted by . . . Harry, Ron, and Hermione?
Frodo cried out as the ground in front of him shifted. Tall, old trees that had been growing for many decades melted away into an expanse of spring grass. The darkness that had so long shadowed him faded from existence as a bright sun shone over head. He blinked rapidly, attempting to clear his mind. Slowly, the hobbit raised his head to look about him. An enormous castle loomed ahead, proud and strong.
Without thinking, Frodo groped for the chain hanging around his neck. Yes, it was still there, as was the Ring. But It felt so much lighter now. As if the power that had been growing with It had been taken very far away.
Frodo blinked, moving for the first time. Shock did not envelop him as one might have imagined, for the transformation between locations had been slow. But now he stepped back quickly, shaking himself. “Ow! Mr. Frodo,” came a high voice behind him. “That was my foot!”
“Sorry Sam,” Frodo said, turning to him. “So you’re here too.” He looked about, spotting the rest of the Fellowship several feet away. “As are the others, that’s good at least. Maybe Aragorn will know what’s happening.”
“What do you mean, Mr Frodo?” Sam asked, bewildered. His master was standing in an odd sort of light, as if the sun shone full upon him, though it was sinking below the horizon. “We haven’t gone anywhere!”
“What?” Frodo spun around; there was the castle, plain as day. But now instead of the area being empty and barren save for the crisp grass, people – human children – were streaming from the castle. “But what about all of that!” he cried, pointing. Sam shook his head in confusion.
“Mr. Frodo,” he said. “All I see is the tree, are you all right?” Sam laid one caring hand on Frodo’s shoulder and – gasped. “What’s that?! Where are we, Mr. Frodo? Who are they?”
He pointed across the field to three very strange looking human children –
The Fellowship looked up and the three people walking towards them. Frodo blinked in confusion. What?? In fact, probably everyone, including the readers blinked in confusion. That was odd. First the “Crikey,” then back again, now –
– “Crikey, Harry, what’s that?” Ron said, pointing. Harry squinted. Perhaps his eyes were deceiving him: near Hagrid’s cottage stood nine very odd looking people. Harry had the strangest feeling that he had seen them before.
“Use your eyes,” Hermione said, matter-of-factly. “They’re people. Not human by the look of them. But nothing else I can think of.”
“Wait,” Harry added, squinting. “I recognize one of them – is that Laurie?”
“It is!” Ron exclaimed. “I had thought she wasn’t coming back to Hogwarts!”
“At least Laurie’s alive,” Harry added grimly. “I wonder why she’s come back now.”
“By the look of it,” said Hermione. “Whoever she’s brought with her.”
“I wonder who they are.” Ron muttered.
“Well,” Hermione said. “Let’s go ask. They are, after all, on Hogwarts grounds. In any case, I’m curious. I mean, I’ve always known Laurie had some strange friends, but not like these. They look rather confused, don’t you think?”
“I suppose so,” Harry said. “But the Quiddich match is going to start in only half-an-hour. I should be getting ready.” Harry stood still; he did not look about to move. It just didn’t seem right, leaving when something like this was happening. The three of them each knew that in just a second, they would approach these strange people. A strange idea came to Harry just then. “What if,” he said. “What if they are the team we are supposed to play.”
“What do you mean?” Ron asked.
“Don’t you think it’s a little odd that the other Quiddich team hasn’t shown up yet, and then suddenly, here are nine people, one of which can’t possibly be from there?” Harry asked, “What if they are the team from the other school. Laurie could have gone on Dumbledore’s request to get them!”
“That,” said Hermione. “Is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.” While speaking, the three wizards approached the Company.
“Hello there,” Harry said to the nine. They were all disturbingly hard to see in grey cloaks. “Are you the Quidditch team from New Zealand?”
“What?” Aragorn asked in surprise. “Speak in the Common Tongue, even I cannot understand you.” The wizards exchanged looks.
“I thought they spoke English in New Zealand,” Ron whispered.
“They do,” Laurie said in English. “But then again, this isn’t New Zealand.”
“What are you saying?” Frodo asked her. “What language is that? I do not recognize it. Don’t they speak Westron?”
“Do you speak English?” Laurie returned. Frodo shook his head in confusion. “No, I did not think so. It seems we have been transferred. Do not be worried, I doubt much time will pass back in Middle Earth. This will all be cleared up soon.” She turned back to the wizards.
“What language was that?” Hermione asked with interest. “No, wait, I know!” she turned to Ron and Hermione. “Do you remember Professor Flitwich talking about that translating charm? I did some extra research -“
“- And found it. Let me think. Oh, yes. Laurie, do you know it?” She asked, turning to the Qua.
“Okay,” Hermione said raising her wand. “You get those four, I’ll do the others.”
Laurie nodded silently, and turned to the hobbits. “I’m going to make you able to speak their language. Open your mouths,” they did, though with several confused shrugs first. “Loquere linguam Anglicam.”
“What did you do?” Pippin asked – in English – feeling his throat.
“Hey, I can understand you!” Ron exclaimed. “Laurie, you didn’t even use your wand! I mean, even Hermione has to use hers! How did you do that?”
“Wands,” Laurie said, “are not the best invention. With a staff, for example, if the spell doesn’t work, you can always hit your opponent over the head. I have found only to often that wands are little more than a superfluous piece of wood – if one doesn’t already have the power, they do little good.”
“But you have the soul wand!” Harry exclaimed. “I though that was different!”
“It is, but you still cannot hit someone over the head with it.” Laurie answered, “Where is Dumbledore?”
“Sorry,” Merry said; “but what are you talking about? Soul wand? Dumbledore? Where are we, Laurie?”
“Yes, Lady Laurina,” Aragorn said. “I believe you owe us an explanation. Where are we? You seem to have been here before. Did you transport us to this strange place?”
“It is only strange to those who do not live here,” Laurie replied. “I must speak with Dumbledore.”
“Yes, Lady,” Boromir said. “But that was not his question: where are we?” his hand strayed automatically to the sword by his side. Hermione noticed and pursed her lips but didn’t say anything.
“Scotland,” Laurie replied, “but I doubt that name means anything to you, nor will. Here we are and will stay if I am continuously answering pointless questions. The question is not where, it is how. I did not do it this time. It is possible though unlikely I was called. Where is Dumbledore?”
“I don’t know,” Harry said. “I haven’t seen him. He’s supposed to be at the match, but the New Zealand team hasn’t arrived. We thought you might be they.” He took a good look at the Qua. “Did you suddenly age? I thought you were still in your teens!”
“Odd how assumptions can cloud the mind,” Laurie said blandly. “Harry, Ron, Hermione – will you three stay with the Fellowship? I will be back soon.”
Hermione nodded in confusion with the other two, but her mind was working: the Fellowship. No wizards, but four hobbits, two men, an elf and a dwarf. Harry and Ron wouldn’t recognize them, and indeed Hermione’s suspicions were only slight. But the names! Hermione thought back hard, but she could not quite remember where she had read about the Fellowship.
Boromir ran after Laurie after a look from Aragorn. “What are you doing?” he asked, grabbing her arm to stop her. Laurie effortlessly loosened herself. “You won’t answer my question and now you leave us with those strange children.”
Laurie looked at him cooly. “The others trust me,” she said. “What am I doing? I am getting us back to Middle Earth, and if you don’t want that go ahead and try to stop me. The Ringbearer and others are just as safe with those children as they would be with you.” Her eyes darkened to a dangerous black. “Call Frodo, and he will come with us.”
Under Laurie’s piercing gaze, Boromir muttered something inaudible and called to Frodo. The hobbit looked up, and loped after them, closely followed by Sam. Aragorn sent Laurie a questioning look, and Laurie returned it with her clear, plain glance that let no emotion past. After a moment, Aragorn turned away. He knew her intentions and that they were trustworthy, though neither he, nor any of the other company could tell how.
Aragorn watched as the four figures – three of them dwarfed even further by the height of Boromir – headed towards what looked to him like an old, run-down castle. It had a sign on it, proclaiming the danger. Aragorn shook his head in confusion. He guessed – with the assistance of some information Laurie had conveyed to him – that only he, Boromir and Gimli could not see it for its true self. The others gazed admiringly at it.
“Well,” said Ron. “If they’re just going to walk away, we might as well give you a tour.”
“Could we start at the kitchens?” Pippin asked in excited bluntness. “I mean, they must be enormous with a castle this large . . .”
“Excellent!” Ron said. “That sounds perfect. What do you say?”
“Harry really should get ready for the match,” Hermione said. “But I suppose as no one else is . . .”
“Blimey Hermione, who cares.” Ron said, “Let’s go.”
Legolas swept the area with his keen elven eyes and listened. “Very many people live here,” he said. “Almost all human, by the sound of it. Tell me, what is the purpose of this castle? For my people do not use them, and your mortal buildings are strange to us.”
“It’s a school,” said Hermione. “Hogwarts, school of witchcraft and wizardry. It was built over a thousand years ago . . . Did you say mortals?
“Is there something wrong with that?”
“Hey, Merry!” said Pippin, nudging his older cousin. “Do you think Gandalf went here?”
“Don’t be silly, Gandalf didn’t go to a school.” Merry snorted. “I do wonder how old Gandalf is, though. Very old, I guess. Probably more than a thousand years!”
“Indeed,” said Legolas. “I first met him almost three thousand years ago when I was very young. He looked much as he does now.”
Hermione, who had been listening to all this with growing astonishment and disconcertion, could not stay silent at this. “Excuse me,” she said. “I don’t mean to be rude, but what exactly are you? I mean, not even Nicholas Flammel lived one thousand years. You talk about the time as if it were nothing!”
“To the Elves it is nothing,” Gimli said gruffly. “The years fly by when you don’t have to worry about dying all the time. Don’t you know about the immortal folk? This is a strange place, stranger still than the way we came!”
“You are an Elf??” asked Hermione. “I’ve never heard of any elf like you. You don’t look anything like the house elves.”
“Lady, I do not know what you are speaking of,” said Legolas, looking at her.
“You will soon enough,” she answered, her face tightening. “They keep house elves in the kitchen. They are like slaves!! And no one will listen either! They say that `oh, the elves like it’ and all sorts of ridiculous things like that!”
“Then, Lady, if these elves are anything like my own people, they are being done a grave injustice,” said Legolas. “For my folk value nothing above the freedom of the water and air and the woods. That is why so many of our songs are based on the beauty of them. The woods are our essence! I could never leave them for long.”
“My people prefer the caves and mines,” said Gimli. “But Lothlórien under the fair hand of Lady Galadriel was difficult for me, too, to leave.”
“Where is Lothlórien?” Harry asked in interest. Just then, however, they came to the doors of Hogwarts. Ron reached for the handle, but was knocked back as two identical twins with red hair rushed out.
“Sorry about that Ron!” shouted one.
“Who’re your friends?” asked the other.
“No time now, got to go!” said the first, and they were off again, running towards the woods.
Legolas looked behind him, and spotted the forest as well. “If we have time after the hobbits are finished in the kitchens – if ever they tire of eating, that is – “
“- I would like to go in those woods. Strange they seem, but not unfriendly.” Legolas looked a little sadly at them and sang softly to himself: “The woods will be seen as dark when in truth they hold the only light around.“
“They’re forbidden,” said Harry absentmindedly. Seven of the Fellowship of the Ring entered Hogwarts, school of witchcraft and wizardly. The others were already there.
Boromir felt that his head would spin off from looking around so much. Everything was so strange to him – and yet so alike. He didn’t get his first real shock until seeing his first ghost. Yet Boromir managed to get past even that without more that half-drawing his sword. In any case, he was impressed on how well the “witch” led him. In Lórien all his doubts about Laurie had been eliminated, but now they rose again: this was a school for witches and wizards – and they recognized Laurie, however benevolent the children seemed.
That was another thing Boromir felt strange: children. Seemingly human children studying to be wizards of all things. As was usual when the man encountered strange things, Boromir decided to ignore the oddities until they caused him trouble.
“Cherry Gumdrop,” Laurie said, awaking Boromir from his speculation. His eyes widened as the door in front of the swung open. Laurie didn’t seem to notice. “Keep up Samwise,” she said instead without looking behind her. “You can stare at the portraits all you like later. We have arrived.” Sam blushed slightly in embarrassment, and closely followed Frodo up the stair.
They entered the strangest room Frodo had ever seen: there was an old hat, crimson bird (which Sam might have recognized from a fire-side rhyme) books of every kind. But the thing that Frodo’s attention was immediately drawn to a desk near one wall. In it sat an old man who – while he bore little resemblance to Gandalf – Frodo knew must be the Dumbledore Laurie had spoken of. He radiated power differently than the other; but Frodo could feel it. The hobbit glanced at Sam, but the latter felt nothing, and was more concerned about his master than anything else at the moment anyway. Dumbledore had been scribbling furiously on a piece of parchment, but looked up when the four entered.
“Miss Twain!” said the wizard, “this is unexpected. Do you have news of the New Zealand team? They are hours late! The students will be going crazy. They have not responded to the owls I’ve sent. I can’t See them.” He seemed to notice the others for the first time. “I say, who are you?”
“Friends of mine,” Laurie said. Then she added at the hopeful look of Dumbledore’s, “They have never heard of Quidditch. If you still wish the game . . .”
“Where are you from?” Dumbledore asked over Laurie’s shoulder. She tensed, but said nothing.
“The Shire,” answered Sam. “What’s it to you?” He gave Dumbledore such a stubbornly protective look that the wizard had to smile.
“Nosiness. I have never heard of the Shire, so don’t worry about that.” Dumbledore turned to Laurie. “I didn’t think you could bring anyone Across.”
“I can. But I did not do this. Someone it seems, tore a whole in space-time. Either that, or I was called. Yet that seems unlikely as to the location we ended up.” Laurie looked gravely at Dumbledore. “We need absolute safety. I have left the others – there are nine of us altogether – with Mr.’s Potter and Weasley as well as Granger. They will be fine for now.”
“An odd choice, as Mr. Potter and his friends have a knack for trouble.”
“And another for staying alive.” Laurie looked straight into his eyes – or as straight as possible as one can do to another who is two feet taller than you. – and Dumbledore sighed.
“They can stay, for now,” he said. “Do you know what happened to the New Zealand team?”
“That is a yes,” Frodo said, coming closer to Laurie. “And by her reaction they are not coming; she doesn’t want to end up doing something.”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows at both the hobbit and Qua. “At least someone,” he said, amusement in his voice, “can read her. What do you say?”
“What are you talking about?” Boromir demanded. “Aragorn is in charge, not a lady!”
Laurie ignored him. “They will need practice.”
“How about an evening game.” Dumbledore said smiling now. “I suspect you just happen to have enough broomsticks?”
“I’ll see you in a few hours then.” Dumbledore backed up. Frodo gazed intently at him. The wizard was worried, gravely so. He imagined the headmaster was just covering it all up for the teachers and students by . . . by whatever they had to do.
“He has a very odd sense of humour,” Sam said when they had exited.
“Yes,” said Laurie. “Do you like heights?”
“No! I am not a bird!”
“Then this should prove very interesting,” Laurie said as answer. “With luck, you have an odd sense of humour also.”
The Elite looked on in amusement.
Please, please please comment.
And special thanks to Lalaith. and Lily.