Sometimes, when a very large number of people all want the same thing, (i.e. to go from Earth to Middle Earth) there is a portal opened between the two worlds, and some may pass. Whenever that happens, it is the duty of Qualara (Laurie) to take care of the illegal portal. But this time, something was different. You see, Laurie, too, had once been a Tolkien fan, Before, that is. So when the portal was open, she did not want to just shut it down.
Laurie felt it her duty to go in herself, and see the effect others coming over to Middle Earth would have on that world, and, more importantly, the quest. The Unstable was particually persistant, this time, and it would be difficult to stop. In any case, at first glance, Magic, Time, and Space did not seem to be reacting too badly.
Frodo walked along slowly, fingering the Ring in his pocket. Though it had only become his a few days ago, he could not bear to be without it. The hobbit’s thought’s rested on his cousin (first and second cousin, once removed on each side) and he spoke aloud to himself: “Oh Bilbo, I wish I could have come with you. Some day, I will follow, and see the mountains. But I guess now is not my time.”
Frodo stopped, listening. He might have imagined it, but there seemed to be someone watching him. For a moment, he even fancied seeing a pair of large, emerald green eyes. Too big for a hobbit’s, but barely further from the ground than his own.
“Hello?” Frodod called out, “Merry, Pippin? This isn’t one of your pranks, is it?”
“No, Mr Baggins.” Frodo spun around at the sound of a soft voice. It was Sweet and melodious, reverberating around him hauntingly.
Before him stood a figure, perhaps that of a young ‘woman’, though it was difficult to tell. Though the light of day still shown clearly through the wood, she seemed to fade inot the background. Her face was shrouded in the shadows of the trees.
“Who are you? Begging your paren, I mean no offence. But though I have seen many pass this way, they are seldom alone. Are you an elf?”
“Do you not know elves? I have seldom met one of my height.”
“Sorry. I know it sounds rather queer, but I cannot seem to see you clearly. Yet you know my name!”
“Few see me at all. We have met once before.”
“How could I not recall that! For even now, every word you speak seems to stay, echoing in my mind.”
“Do you remember, not so long ago, after yours and Mr Bilbo Baggins’s birthday, the young hobbit lass you did not quite recognize, met by chance on the road?”
“That was you?! But then you know of the–“
“Yes. But it is better not to speak of such things here.”
“But why are you disguised, and why–” Frodo stopped, confused. It didn’t seem right to be asking her all the questions. He just knew, somehow, by looking at her that she would not answer them. “I am sorry. But may I at least know your name? For you seem to know me quite well.”
“You may call me . . . Laura. I am no enemy of yours. In fact, I know Gandalf, to an extent.”
“No one knows him more than that, for he is close.”
“Yes. In any case, I assisted him several years back. I come today as a friend.” Laurie stepped out of the shadows, and for the first time, Frodo saw her clearly. “The time has not yet come for danger, but when it will, you may call on me for assistance.”
“I dare say the only thing I need help with right now is the S.-B.s! Lobelia keeps coming around!” Frodo laughed. But no visible trace of emotion passed Laurie’s face. He paused, looking at her for the first time.
She was taller than him, maybe four feet tall. But more than height, Laurie seemed to radiate a strange power about her. She’s definitely the kind of person you don’t want to deal with. Almost like Gandalf in that way, he thought.
Laurie was beautiful. With long, tied back, deep red hair, and a light (though not deathly) complextion. She was slender, almost willowy. But if so, the willow was like that of a leopard: liquid power and grace. She moved silently, cautiously on her lightly-clad feet. Her hands had long, strong fingers that were quick and precise.
But the thing that drew Frodo more than anything else was her eyes. They were great and large, more so than normal, and of an emerald green colour. (Frodo did not know it then, but they changed colour with her emotions. In fact, the only part of her face that showed she had feelings at all. When Frodo laughed, for example, she had a spark of royal purple in her eyes.)
Laurie’s eyes, when he looked closely, seemed to swallow him in their great depths. But he could not read her save to know that he could not.
Suddenly, Frodo realized that he had been staring. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.”
“It is all right. I am used to it by now.”
“I am not the first?”
“Indeed no. I have come almost a curse to myself by appearence. Memorable, if you will.”
“Beauty, a curse!”
“When one does not want to be noticed, yes. But I was made that way . . . never mind. You mentioned the Sackville-Bagginses are bothering you?”
“Yes.” Frodo shook himself, forcing his eyes into a more normal look. “Is there anything you can do?”
“Well, yes, I believe so. If you will allow me to stay by your door, the next time they come, I will discourage them from returning too soon.”
“That is never,” Frodo replied, “but do not hurt them!”
“Indeed! I never would. I am a creature of empathy, and will hurt only those who are my enemies: those who relish pain and suffering.” Laurie stepped to his side slightly, motioning with her hand. “Gentlehobbits first.”
Drawing his eyes away once more, Frodo turned to lead her to Bag End.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” Frodo asked Laurie, juggling a hot pot between two oven mits.
“Yes, thank you,” she replied. Normally, the Qua (Laurie, that is) would have been more cautious about the affermation, but she knew of the hobbit, if nothing else, and felt a strange trust in him.
Funny, she thought, how a perfect memory and a love for the books can give you trust in someone you have never met (without a greater disguise) before. But she said nothing of her thought.
“Here,” Frodo handed Laurie a steaming cup of sweeting-smelling tea. “Have a seat.” He motioned to one of the chair around the kitchen table. Laurie lowered herself with silent grace into one of them, sitting across from Frodo.
“Have you heard any news of Gandalf? I don’t mean to pry, but he did take off very suddenly.” Frodo asked, anxiously.
“Little more than you. He has ridden past Bree by now, but is not quite to Rivendell. Gandalf will return, he is in no imminent danger.”
“Did he send you then, or are you here by chance.”
“I do not know if Gandalf has knowledge of my presence, and I will stay only a short time. I am a traveller and a healer, and in the Shire, have little work.”
“A healer and traveller did you say? You are right then. But at least you know much. What is happening in the outside world.”
“At present? Not much different than it has. Though wait, Mr Baggins, and you may find things can change very quickly in Middle Earth.” The sound of knocking interrupted her. “Ah, here is Lobelia now. Excuse me, please.”
Laurie walked to the circular door, out of view of Frodo. But he heard the exchange.
“Hello, Mrs Sackville-Baggins. How are you this fine day?”
“I have come to see Frodo. Where is he? He can’t hide any longer. Frodo?!”
“I am sorry, but Mr Baggins is indisposed right now.” Laurie smiled ever so slightly, making Lobelia nervous. “And unfortunatly, as his healer, I have given him orders to see no one.”
“Oh!” Lobelia stepped outside as the door closed. She stared at the door for some time, as if it were an enemy. That lady– she made Lobelia nervous somehow. And her face! It was as if she wasn’t quite . . . hobbit! Well, it would be better to just leave Frodo alone for a while. Maybe he would see her when the healer was gone.
“That worked well,” Frodo commented as Laurie came back. “But I don’t know how. Most of the time nothing will stop her. Amazing.”
“Thank you. Just remind her of me, and it may work again.” Laurie took a long, studying look at his face until Frodo blushed. She memorized his face her memory (she never forgot what was necessary to remember,) then contented herself with listening to the goings-on of the Shire.