The Sun had not come out at all for the past week, and it was beginning to show. The land had begun to settle down for the winter, and most of the animals (and a few people) had shut the doors to their homes and had not come out again. The air had been sharp for about a month now, which was not odd for November, but it was much colder than it had been in almost one hundred years. Those who knew of such winters were prepared, and those few who knew of the signs that came with the season this year were much more prepared, and waiting. They waited on the borders of a land that had long since felt the presence of living beings, and they kept watch fervently for the coming of their charge.
In another part of the world; in fact, an entirely different one, the sun was also hiding. This place felt the effects of it in a much different way; most did not even notice. There was one who did, though, and at the moment she was taking advantage of not only her scarf and hat, but her boyfriend’s arm that was tightly wrapped around her. Ellery Grey Finch snuggled in her boyfriend’s embrace as they walked down the sidewalk toward the cemetery. In her gloved hands she held a bunch of red roses already tinged with the white frost that formed as Ellery breathed upon them.
The couple turned left just inside the tall iron gates of the town cemetery and walked slowly for three rows. At the third row, Ellery and her boyfriend stopped, and she went alone to a small grave two rows up. She bent down and laid the roses at the foot of the grave. She slowly ran her fingers over the names “James Michael Finch” and “Madelyne Rose Finch”, etched simply into the grey stone. Ellery knelt there for a few minutes, remembering the day six months ago when she received the news that her parents and only family had died mysteriously in a tragic accident. It had been a boating accident, but no one had been able to determine the cause, for James had been an excellent captain, and had sailed for many years. All that had been determined was that Ellery’s parents had gone out for their Sunday sail, and a freak storm had arisen just off the coast and caught them apparently by surprise. Their boat had capsized and their bodies had washed ashore a few hours later. The only thing Ellery really remembered of that day was that she had been out shopping with one of her friends for wedding dresses, for her boyfriend, Adrien, had proposed to her just two months before. She had come home to find the police and Coast Guard standing at her door. The rest of the day, and most of that month, was a blur, with snatches of Adrien being there and cooking her dinner when she just couldn’t get through the day.
Now it was six months later. The wedding had been postponed indefinitely, and the Coast Guard still could find no logical reason for the storm that caused the Finches deaths, as the storm was nowhere to be found on any meteorologists’ forecasting charts, and there had been no forecast for stormy weather anywhere on the Northern coast of California. The storm had apparently appeared out of nowhere in an isolated area and endured for only three hours. Meteorologists had been startled by its sudden appearance on their satellites, and as startled at its abrupt end. Ellery had been very frustrated for the first two months or so; calling the local Coast Guard outpost, as well as the coroner’s office and the local weather station. Her friends had started to worry about her erratic and obsessive behaviour, but after a while she seemed to have the situation resolved within herself, and things returned to normal, though there was always a hint of sadness about her.
The only thing that brought any happiness to her was Adrien, and even as she stood over her parents’ grave she felt that her life was getting better; her parents were in a better place, and she was with the man she loved. She felt her engagement ring through her gloves, and thought about her decision to postpone the wedding. She had not really considered setting a date yet, for she had been grieving for her parents, but since spending Thanksgiving for the first time without them, she had actually not felt sad. At first she was frustrated with herself, but she knew that there was nothing wrong with her resolve. There was finally closure, and this was a good thing. She needed to move on with her life, and she wanted to begin with Adrien as a bigger part of it.
Ellery was now smiling as she returned to her boyfriend, and he took her hand and squeezed it as they turned to head out of the cemetery.
“You okay?” Adrien asked, smiling warmly. His emerald-green eyes flashed in a way that always made Ellery go weak at the knees, and she blushed a little as she nodded. She took his arm and snuggled close to him.
“You sure?” he replied, smiling mischievously. “I think that going for coffee is in order here; maybe even lunch at….” He trailed off as the earth beneath their feet rumbled, and a tremor stopped the couple in their tracks about twenty feet from the cemetery gates. This was not new to them, having lived in San Francisco all of their lives, and earthquakes were something of a norm. This tremor came as a bit of a surprise, though, and Adrien quickly looked for safe cover. After a few seconds and no more tremors, he decided that he and Ellery maybe could make it to the gates and head to the cemetery’s main building for shelter in case of a bigger quake. “C’mon,” he said to Ellery as he reassuringly squeezed her hand, and they started off toward the gates at a rather quick pace.
Ellery was having a rather difficult time keeping up with her boyfriend, as he was six feet and two inches tall and she was only five feet and seven inches tall. She started to protest his speed, but as she opened her mouth the ground violently shook again and she was thrown backwards to the ground.
“ADRIEN!!!!!” she screamed as her hand was torn from his. A large crack suddenly opened up in the ground just in front of her, and she gazed in horror as Adrien was tossed from the earth into the ever-widening hole. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, and Ellery felt herself falling and slipping into blackness at the same time. She noted with her last bit of consciousness that she was in a cemetery, and if she was going to die there would be no need for a funeral as she had already been buried.
The sky was a deep blue and pinpricked with the brightest stars ever seen. The atmosphere clearly had never felt the oppression of pollution of any kind, and the stars showed this cleanness in the most beautiful way. They were so bright that the trees cast faint shadows on the ground, and one did not really need any sort of lamp to light one’s way. If one looked up between the trees, they would not have noticed any moon, but these stars made up for the seeming absence of the night’s Light.
It was under these trees that two dark shapes suddenly appeared, sprawled out on the ground and about ten feet from each other. There was no indication that these shapes were alive, until one began to stir after about ten minutes. The shape quickly took the form of a person, and it sat up and immediately put its hand to its head.
“Ooooooohhhhh….” Ellery groaned, for she was indeed the form that had awakened underneath the bright stars and tall trees. She sat where she was for a moment, slightly disoriented. She looked around, and when she saw Adrien’s prone body to her right, the recent events rushed back to her and she sprang up and over to him in alarm.
“Adrien!” she cried as she kneeled next to him. His eyes were closed and his breathing was shallow. Ellery put her ear next to his chest to hear his heart, and as she laid her hand on his chest to steady herself, he came to and started with a gasp. This caused great relief in Ellery, who immediately wrapped her arms around her boyfriend.
“Oh, Adrien,” she said tearfully. “I thought you were…oh; never mind that, you’re alright. When the earthquake came and I lost hold of you I thought for sure that we were going to die–” and at this she burst fully into tears.
Adrien gathered her into his arms and tried to comfort her. “It’s okay, my love; everything is going to be alright. We’re not dead, and we’re together. That’s all that matters. Now, now….sweetie, we need to find out where we are, because this is definitely not the cemetery….” He finished this sentence with a sweeping glance at their surroundings. Ellery wiped her face with her hands and took a deep breath. The couple stood to their feet and took a look around. Ellery was still holding onto Adrien’s arms, but as she looked up and around her she distractedly loosened her hold on her boyfriend and then took a step away from him in obvious wonder of their surroundings.
“Oh my, Adrien,” she gasped. “This place is beautiful. I have never seen trees such as these; we definitely do not have these anywhere in California.”
Adrien nodded in agreement as he too turned round and round in wonder. “What is this place?” he asked no one in particular. “This place does not even feel the same as San Francisco. There’s a…something…about the air that feels, I don’t know….” And he trailed off in marvel of the environment.
“It feels old,” Ellery whispered. “I don’t know why, but it does. And majestic, somehow. This is definitely not Califor–OHHHHH!” she stopped with her mouth in a perfect “O” shape, and her eyes were wide with recognition and excitement. She rushed over to Adrien and gripped his arms.
“This is Lothlórien!” she said breathlessly. She released her startled fiancé and began to walk from tree to tree, feeling the bark and then stopping to peer between the trees further into the forest. She turned to him again. “I do know this place, somehow. Well, I know from the descriptions well enough, but there is something else, too.”
“Wait,” Adrien began skeptically. “This is some place from your books? That “Lord of the Rings” trilogy that you love so much? I used to tease you about that all the time when we were growing up. What do you mean that we are in Loth-whatever-it’s-name is?”
“It’s Lothlórien, and you still tease me about my “great interest” in Middle-earth and Tolkien’s books. You were teasing me about it last week, in fact,” Ellery finished with a sly smile. “And,” she began again, “When I said that we were in Lothlórien, I meant that we are in Lothlórien. I really do not know how, but we have somehow made our way into Middle-earth and under the very trees of Lothlórien. And that means that Middle-earth is real, and Tolkien was recording history! Oh my god, this is truly amazing!” She grabbed Adrien’s hand and pulled him deeper into the forest.
They wandered in silence for a few minutes, taking in the majesty of the trees and the night air that filled them with quiet wonder. Ellery was looking around as if she had lost something, and every so often Adrien would hear her whisper to herself as she remembered something from her books that she recognized here. Pretty soon they were deep in the forest of Lothlórien, and suddenly Ellery stopped under a very large and tall tree. She pointed up.
“Look, Adrien, this is where we can spend the rest of the night.” She let go of his hand and moved directly underneath the great tree, still looking up.
Adrien followed suit, but could not ascertain exactly what she was looking at. He moved closer to the tree to get a closer look. “What are you looking at, sweetie?” he asked.
Ellery put her slender hand to his face and brought it next to hers. “Up there, the platform; that’s where the Elves lived. Do you see it now?” she pointed up again with her other hand.
Adrien could now see a medium-sized platform that was built into the tree and was supported by its massive branches that apparently grew perpendicular to the tree trunk. The platform went completely around the tree, and there was a small hole in it off to their left. Adrien could not guess how they would reach the platform, as it was at least twelve feet above them, and the branches themselves began to grow about eight feet above the ground. He turned to Ellery. “Well, I see it, but I don’t know how we’re going to reach it. I can’t jump high enough to reach even the lowest branches.”
Ellery kept looking at the platform intently. “There should be a rope ladder that comes down from the flet (that’s the Elvish word for the platform), but I can’t see it. And I don’t see how someone would have reached the ground without leaving the ladder hanging down.” She began walking around the tree, and came to a stop underneath the hole in the platform.
Adrien looked at her quizzically, and then looked around into the forest. “Are there any people left–wait, Elves? Oh my, Ellery, that is just too much.” He crossed his arms across his chest in disbelief and slight concern for his girlfriend. “Did you hit your head on the way down here?”
Ellery shot him a withering look. “Please, Adrien, I am not crazy and I did not hit my head. I told you that we are in Middle-earth, and that means Elves are real. Lothlórien was one of the Elvish realms in Middle-earth; perhaps the greatest. I don’t think anyone is left here, though, for we would have been found out much sooner than imagined. The Lórien Home Guard was one of the finest in all of Middle-earth. They would have discovered us not five minutes after we arrived here, I think. Besides, the atmosphere is too still for there to be any living thing here. We’re the only ones,” she ended in a half whisper.
As she finished talking she turned to the tree and looked up again, only to bump right into a thin, woven ladder that was hanging a couple feet off the ground. The rope was silvery-grey, and had completely blended in with the tree. She smiled and took hold of the rope. “I knew it was around here somewhere. C’mon!” and with that she began to climb.
Adrien rolled his eyes and smiled as he followed after Ellery. The platform slowly came into view, and now Adrien could see that it was not just a platform, but a house of some sort, with moveable partitions that served as walls. He climbed up into the house and saw that Ellery was already exploring the small house. He stood up and looked around. There was a window that looked out into the forest, and there was a small table with a silver basin on it underneath the window. There was a low bed against the wall to Adrien’s right, and there were still some blankets and a couple of pillows lying neatly against the ornately designed headboard. There was a small stool sitting between the table and the bed, but there was nothing else in the room, for the house was just one room. Further exploration of the house led Ellery and Adrien to find that there were other small platforms built above the one they were on, and they assumed that these platforms belonged to the one they were on.
After taking this all in, Adrien noticed that Ellery had sat down upon the bed and was looking out the window. She gestured for him to sit next to her, but he instead walked over to the window and leaned out, for there was no covering on it.
“So,” Adrien said quietly, “You say that this is Middle-earth, and we are in a land where Elves used to live? And this is an Elfish house or something?”
“El-vish, and yes, we are in Middle-earth.” Ellery sighed and hugged a soft pillow. “I honestly do not know how or why we are here, but I can feel it to the very depths of my being that this is real. I think that we will be able to better figure out what to do next in the morning, so we should really get some sleep, I think. Adrien? Adrien, did you hear what I said?”
Actually, Adrien heard most of what Ellery said, but he was suddenly distracted by something on the forest floor. He stepped back from the window slowly, but his gaze did not leave it. He turned his head ever so slightly toward Ellery.
“Didn’t you say that no one lived here in Lothlórien any more?” he asked in a low voice.
Ellery stood up. “Yes. Why do you ask?”
“Then who is that?” Adrien asked, pointing out the window.
As quickly and quietly as she could, Ellery moved to the window. Adrien stepped back and sat on the bed to let Ellery have more room. She peered out into the dark forest, and suddenly espied a tall, dark figure walking slowly in their direction. She squinted to make out the figure, and barely held back a gasp as she caught sight of a pale, dark-haired woman. The woman was wearing a dark, hooded cloak, and she seemed to be barefoot. She also seemed unaware of her surroundings, until suddenly she looked up. Instant eye-contact was made between Ellery and the woman, who held Ellery’s gaze until she passed by and went on slowly into the night. Ellery stood at the window for another long moment, and then turned to Adrien.
“`I gave Hope….I have kept no hope for myself….’ I know exactly where we are in time now,” she said quietly. “I–I think…no, I know I just saw the Lady Arwen Undómiel pass by. She…she looked at me, Adrien. She saw me, and it felt as if she knew me and…it seemed that she told me to keep hope. There was no hope in her eyes, yet she told me that hope is still here and we need to fulfill that hope. What hope? Why have we come here? Were we called?” Ellery ended in a faint whisper as if she was talking to herself. She sat down next to Adrien, who was looking perplexed and distressed at his girlfriend’s manner. He took her hands in his own and peered into her eyes. They were misty with tears, and she was clearly in another place in her thoughts.
“Ellery,” he began, and she looked at him now. He started again. “Who is Arwen, and how did she speak to you? I heard nothing at all; you were just standing at the window, and you didn’t say anything yourself.”
“It was more like a feeling, actually. The Lady looked at me and I just…felt…that there was something we are supposed to do here. Please don’t ask me what that is, for I have no idea. But this feeling will not leave me….” She paused and wrapped her arms around Adrien’s arm and laid her head on his shoulder. After a moment’s silence, she spoke again. “Let’s just go to sleep. I really feel we’ll be able to find something out tomorrow.”
With that, Adrien drew a blanket over Ellery, and took the other blanket and a pillow and lay down on the floor of the flet. He could not sleep, however, for too many things were suddenly running through his head. He had not been too much of a Lord of the Rings “freak,” as he so lovingly called Ellery, but he had read the books and seen the movies. The fact that they seemed to fall into them was almost too much for him. He had always known where he was and where he was going in life, and the spontaneity and unknown was bothering him. He wanted to be the strong and stable one in the situation, but Ellery seemed to be handling everything much better than he was. He rolled over and looked at Ellery. She had her back to him, but he could tell that she was not asleep. He stared at her slender form for a few minutes, and then spoke.
“Ellery,” he whispered.
“What was the Lady Arwen doing here? It’s been a while since I read the books….”
“She has come here to spend the last of her days.” Ellery did not move from her position.
“Then Aragorn has died, hasn’t he?”
At that realization, Adrien felt a palpable grief in his heart. This was the same feeling that came when Ellery’s parents died, when his foster parents told him that they could no longer care for him, and he was to move to a group home. He could not claim to have known the King of Gondor personally at all, but he suddenly felt that he had lost someone very close to him. He looked out the window at the bright stars. “What does this mean for Middle-earth, Ellery?” he asked quietly.
“The Elves are no more here in Middle-earth. The last of the Fellowship, Legolas and Gimli, will be building a ship to sail down the Anduin River to the Great Sea, and will pass over to the Undying Lands, and The Dominion of Man will fully take effect with Eldarion as king.”
Adrien vaguely understood this summary, but he was suddenly too tired to ask any more questions. He murmured “Good Night,” to Ellery, and closed his eyes to drift into sleep.
A bright light brought Adrien slowly out of sleep, but he lay where he was with his eyes closed. He could hear the rhythmic and steady breathing of Ellery which meant that she was still asleep, so he felt no need to hurry to start the day in a strange country.
Suddenly a shadow crossed Adrien, startling him. He opened his eyes and immediately sat up. Two tall figures were standing in front of him, backlit by the sun streaming in through the window and the trees. He could not see their faces, but he did see the silhouette of the longbow in the hands of both figures.
“Man nar ellë?” the man spoke sharply, gesturing to Adrien and the still sleeping form of Ellery. He repeated his question and took a step forward.
Adrien slowly raised his hand to shield his face from the sun, all the while trying to figure out what to do. I have no idea what this guy is saying!! he thought. The man who spoke suddenly grabbed Adrien’s arm and wrenched him to his feet.
“Manen nai tulyë sinómë?” the man asked something else as Adrien realized with growing horror that there was nothing he could do; he was helpless.
*”Man nar ellë?”~ “Who are you?”
*”Manen nai tulyë sinómë?”~ “How be it that you came into this place?”