Thomas awoke with a start, laughing inwardly at the vivid dream he had had. He suddenly heard strange voices and realized that it hadn’t been a dream after all. With a deep sigh he opened his eyes, blinking as the sun’s rays shone brightly into them. Deciding that he needed to sit up he used his good arm to slowly push himself up, being careful not to bump his injured arm or to make any sudden moves that would make his head spin. Once he was comfortable, he looked around and saw that the people he had met earlier had stopped their conversation and were looking at him, except for the hobbits who were asleep. He smiled shyly at them and looked out at the woods and around the camp, noticing the pony for the first time, before settling his gaze back on the men.
“How do you fare?”
“Sore. My headache is better... and I’m... s-sort of h-hungry.”
The men chuckled as Thomas stuttered through the end of his sentence. He looked down, embarrassed and said quietly, “Well, it’s been a long time since I ate anything… I think.”
Gimli got up and got some bread and dried meat and handed it to Thomas along with the waterskin. “Just how old are you, lad?”
“Thank you. I’m seventeen… I’m sorry, what was your name again?”
“Gimli son of Gloin, at your service.”
“Aye, I’m a dwarf.”
Thomas just closed his eyes, nodded his head and started eating his bread. It was dry, but he was very hungry so he ate it while drinking lots of water. The others all noticed his reaction to Gimli being a dwarf, but made no comment. Aragorn and Gandalf decided that it was time to start finding the answers to all of their questions. It would be much easier with the hobbits asleep as there would be fewer interruptions.
“I have some questions I would like to ask you and I want you to answer them truthfully.” Gandalf’s voice was stern as was the look in his eyes and the expression on his face.
“Of course, sir!” Thomas’s voice shook a little and his eyes opened wide as he looked at Gandalf and then around at the others before settling back on Gandalf. Aragorn, Boromir, and Gimli said nothing and just watched Thomas with expressionless faces, faces that just made him even more nervous.
“Where do you live?”
“A small town called Lakeside, right near St. Paul, Minnesota, sir.”
“Where?” Gandalf asked again, his voice registering his confusion. He exchanged a puzzled look with the men and dwarf who also had confused looks on their faces as they gazed at Thomas.
“Lakeside...St. Paul, Minnesota,” Thomas repeated it slowly as if that would help them understand. “You know, in the United States of America.” He could tell that none of them had heard of either the city or the state or even the United States. He knew from their earlier conversation that something strange had happened to him, but how could they not have heard of the United States? It was the biggest country in the world.
“I have never heard of such a place!” exclaimed Boromir. “Is it a city?”
“Well, Lakeside is a small town and St. Paul is a city, Minnesota is a state, and the United States is my country,” Thomas explained, feeling more and more uneasy with their response. “Surely you know where the United States is even in this part of the world.”
Gandalf glanced at the others and shook his head slightly. “Well, we will come back to that question a little later. Do you know this girl?”
“I don’t know her...at least I don’t think so...” his voice trailed off. He began to struggle to his feet, but started to fall when his head starting spinning. Aragorn was quickly at his side and carefully helped him up and over to the girl so he could get a closer look at her. He stared down at her for a minute and then looked at Gandalf, “She does look sort of familiar, maybe I saw her on the bus...”
Thomas sat back down with Aragorn’s help, but he appeared to be deep in thought. Finally he blinked and looked up at Gandalf, “How did I get from the bus to the middle of the woods? We were on a busy highway...it was dark...it was snowing...there was a loud screeching noise...” again his voice trailed off.
Aragorn opened his mouth to ask Thomas what a bus was when there was movement and a low moan from the girl. Aragorn was quickly at her side watching her and making sure she did not make any sudden movements that could cause further injury. She continued to moan softly and then slowly her brown eyes started opening, blinking in the glare of the late-morning sun. She was startled by the sight of a long-haired man leaning over her and she let out a small gasp and pulled back away from him in fright.
“My lady, you are safe here. I will not harm you,” Aragorn soothed quietly.
“Who are you? Where am I?” her voice quavered as she tried to see what was around her.
“My name is Aragorn son of Arathorn, my lady.”
“Aragorn? That’s a strange name.” She blushed as she realized how rude she had been. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that out loud...” she blushed again as Aragorn chuckled and was joined by some of the other men she could see sitting around her.
“There is nothing to forgive, my lady.” He smiled down at her, “What is your name?”
“Now that is a strange name,” commented one of the men.
Rebecca turned her head carefully and frowned at the man.
“Boromir...” Aragorn cautioned.
“Forgive me, Lady Rebecca, I was jesting.” Boromir bowed his head slightly in apology.
Aragorn turned back to Rebecca and placed his hand lightly on her forehead, but it was cool to his touch. “There is still no sign of fever. You do have a broken wrist and many cuts and bruises and if you are like Thomas, I believe you must be very sore.”
“I am sore,” she admitted, “my head and wrist are both throbbing. Who is Thomas?”
Aragorn twisted and pointed to a young man of about her own age sitting nearby. He had many bandages wrapped around him, much as she did. She suddenly noticed that while he was wearing normal clothes, everyone else wore some kind of strange, ‘Robin Hood’ type clothing, complete with swords. There was even a man in grey robes with a long pointy hat. Thomas also had normal short brown hair, while all of the other men had long hair and beards and mustaches, too. Where am I, she wondered. No men I know have long hair or beards; it was all so very strange.
“Hi, Rebecca, nice to meet you.”
“Where are we?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been totally confused since I woke up this morning.”
Aragorn helped Rebecca sit up and then handed her a cup of warm liquid and told her to drink it for the pain. “What, no aspirin?” She looked over at Thomas, already feeling like he was someone she could trust since he seemed to be in the same shape she was in.
He shrugged and then winced at the pain it caused his shoulder. “I asked, but they don’t have it here. Drink that fast, it tastes terrible.” Aragorn gave him a stern look. “But it works really well,” he hastened to add. Rebecca swallowed it quickly and made a face before handing the cup back to Aragorn who walked away to speak with Gandalf.
“Thank you.” She then looked around nervously with a slight grimace wondering how to solve her most pressing need. I wonder how I go to the bathroom out here. There is nothing but trees, no buildings of any kind. I know people DO go in the woods but where? She shuddered slightly at the thought.
“My lady, what is the matter? May I help you?”
Rebecca jumped, startled at the soft voice since she had not heard anyone approaching. She looked up into the bluest eyes she had ever seen. A man with long blonde hair was crouching in front of her and she wondered where he had come from as he hadn’t even been there a second ago. “Ah... well, who are you?”
“Legolas son of Thranduil, my lady. Please tell me what you need and I will help you.”
“It’s sort of embarrassing...but...umm...I need to go to the bathroom and I don’t know where to go out here.” She stammered as her face turned red and she looked down at her lap.
“Ah, I see,” Legolas looked at her questioningly for a moment before understanding dawned in his eyes. “Well, my lady, I can help you with that, I shall take you to a safe place away from the camp and…” Rebecca looked up, shocked.
“Yes, it is not safe for you to be alone in the woods.”
“But you can’t be there...” she ducked her head and her voice was on the edge of panic as she realized once again that she was alone and surrounded by strangers.
“Lady Rebecca, please look at me.” Legolas said gently.
Rebecca started to shake her head no, but the gentleness in the voice caused her to look up. The kindness she saw in his blue eyes was like nothing she had ever seen before.
“I would never hurt you in any way. I know that you do not know me and have no reason to trust me, but I promise that you will be safe with me. You are safe with everyone here.” He gestured to the others who had been listening. “You can trust us, Lady Rebecca.”
Rebecca looked at him searchingly and saw no deceit in his eyes, only kindness and a wisdom and maturity that surprised her for someone so young. She nodded her head slowly, “I...believe I can trust you, Legolas.”
Legolas gave her a breathtaking smile and held out his hand. “Then come, let us go find a safe place.” Rebecca sighed and took his hand knowing that she really had no other choice and though she did trust Legolas it was still embarrassing. He carefully helped her to her feet and made sure that she had her balance and could walk without help before leading her into the woods.
Rebecca stared straight-ahead not daring to look at the men around the fire. It was bad enough them knowing what she was doing, let alone having to look at them, all she could think about was that this day could not possibly get any worse. However, she did have to admit that Legolas was the perfect gentleman. He led her to a sheltered spot and left her while he walked away and turned his back so that she did have some privacy. When she was finished, he led her back to camp and helped her sit down against a rock so that she could lean back.
Thomas moved over to join her as she looked curiously at the two men whose names she did not know. As if he sensed her staring at him the short man looked up.
“We have not been properly introduced, Lady Rebecca. Gimli son of Gloin at your service,” he said with a small bow.
“I am Gandalf, are you hungry? I believe it is time for lunch.”
Rebecca nodded up at the tall man standing over her, “Actually, I’m more thirsty than hungry, but I could eat a little something.”
As soon as the word lunch was mentioned, the four hobbits began to stir. They were quickly up and rummaging through the packs looking for food.
Rebecca stared at them in disbelief and turned to Thomas. “What are they?”
“They are called Hobbits.” He said with a shrug, “Gimli is a dwarf.”
Rebecca turned and looked Gimli over from head to toe, shaking her head in surprise. “I thought he was just a short man,” she whispered.
“Nope, he told me he was a dwarf. Legolas is an elf.”
Now Rebecca was really confused. “An elf? Are you sure? He sure looks and acts like a man.”
Neither of them noticed Legolas wince at that comment.
“Look at his ears, Rebecca.”
“His ears are pointed! How could I not have noticed that before? Thomas, where are we? This can’t be real. There are no elves or hobbits anywhere on earth.” Her voice has steadily risen above its low whisper and everyone heard the last few comments.
Thomas just shrugged his shoulders and looked away with a frown.
Legolas walked over and handed Rebecca some bread and a waterskin. “Sam is going to cook lunch, but this will give you something to hold you for a little while, Lady Rebecca.”
Rebecca smiled gratefully as she took the food all the while looking at him carefully. She took note of his ears, braided hair and his perfect facial features.
Gandalf and Aragorn walked over and sat down near Rebecca and Thomas. Their serious expressions made Rebecca nervous and she started twisting a strand of her medium length blonde hair.
“Now, Lady Rebecca, I have asked Thomas these questions, but I need to ask you some as well.”
She nodded, noticing the camp had gone quiet and everyone was looking at her curiously. She took a deep breath and focused her eyes on her broken wrist, wondering, not for the first time, how that had happened.
“...old are you?”
Jerked out of her thoughts she realized Gandalf had just asked her a question, and she realized she needed to focus. “I’m sixteen.”
“And where do you live?”
“St. Paul, Minnesota.”
“Me, too!” Thomas interrupted the questioning. “Well, it’s actually Lakeside, but I always say St. Paul. Do you know where Lakeside is?”
“Oh, sure, I’ve been there a couple of times with my family...” she paused as the hobbits began talking loudly. The other Fellowship members, who had heard this before, just looked at each other.
“I’ve never heard of such a place.”
“Me either, Pip. What about you, Frodo?”
“No, can’t say as I have,” he said slowly. “But you looked at all the maps at Rivendell, Merry, and if you didn’t see it I don’t reckon it’s in Middle-earth! Do you know where it is Aragorn? Gandalf? You’re both being awfully quiet about this.”
Thomas and Rebecca were startled when they heard the hobbit say Middle-earth. They looked at each other and Thomas whispered, “Middle-earth?” She shrugged and shook her head before looking back at the others.
“Umm, excuse me, Gandalf,” Thomas interrupted the conversation. “Did...I think it was Frodo, say something about...Middle-earth?”
“Yes, yes, he did.” Gandalf stared at him intently with his eyebrows raised in question.
“Well, what’s Middle-earth? We’ve never heard of it...we live on Earth...just plain Earth.” He stopped speaking as he noticed the stares of all the Fellowship getting a little darker and even more confused, if that were possible, than before.
Rebecca stirred restlessly beside Thomas and continued playing with her hair. Thomas reached over and grabbed her uninjured hand and gave it a gentle squeeze and a small smile. She smiled faintly back, sat up carefully and stared right back at them.
“Earth?” asked Pippin, his shrill voice breaking the sudden silence that had fallen.
“Yes,” answered Rebecca and Thomas at the same time.
The hobbits broke into a frenzy of questions, all talking at once and it was impossible to understand anything they were saying.
“Peace!” thundered Gandalf, “Or we will be here all night listening to your foolishness.”
Rebecca and Thomas both jumped at the sound of Gandalf’s voice and again held hands, gaining some comfort from that simple touch.
“Now, I have never heard of Earth either.”
“It’s not like this place,” Rebecca said quietly. “There are no elves or hobbits there.”
“And people don’t walk around with swords and bows. Or dress like you do,” Thomas added.
Aragorn, Boromir and Legolas glanced at each other trying to imagine a world where no one needed to carry weapons. It was difficult to believe.
“Thomas, you said earlier something about a bus...I know not what that is because we do not have those in Middle-earth. You also said something about snow and a noise. Will you explain?”
“You were on a bus? I was on a bus going to Portland,” Rebecca said thoughtfully. I wonder if this is all a dream. But it is way too real to be a dream; I’m in too much pain for that. It seems more like one of those science fiction books I’ve read. Where people go through some kind of a time warp or something, Rebecca thought as her mind raced, trying to figure this out.
“I was going to get off in Spokane. I thought maybe I had seen you on the bus. I was sitting in the middle of the bus on the right side. Where were you sitting?”
“Oh, towards the front on the left side next to the window, I was sitting with my mom...” Rebecca’s voice trailed off as she thought about her mother and she turned away from everyone and looked off into the distance.
While Aragorn did not know what a ‘bus’ was he did realize that their injuries matched up with what they were saying. Thomas had been sitting on the right side and all of his injuries were on the right side of his body. Rebecca had sat on the left and all of her injuries were there. Something had happened on or to this bus to cause these injuries. It had also somehow caused them to come here. He glanced at Gandalf who gave him a nod and knowing look and realized he had come to the same conclusion.
“Anyway, Gandalf, a bus is a vehicle that is used to transport people from town to town. It has a big engine and it’s cheaper than driving a car and...” Thomas slowly stopped as he could tell that none of them understood what he was saying. “What am I thinking. You don’t have cars or engines here, I bet.” It was gradually sinking in that he really was in a totally different world. “Probably just use horses and wagons, huh?”
Aragorn answered Thomas’s question. “We do use horses and wagons. I do not know what a car or bus is, nor do any here.” He glanced around at the others who nodded in agreement.
“Well, we were on the bus and there was a bad snowstorm. I think the driver was planning on stopping at the next town because he could hardly see.”
He glanced at Rebecca as he spoke to see if she would confirm what he was saying, but she wasn’t paying attention, just looking into the woods and playing with her hair again.
“The last thing I remember before waking up this morning was a horrible loud noise, almost like an explosion or something and then everything went dark.”
“An explosion?” Gandalf questioned.
“Well, I don’t know how else to explain it, sir.”
Rebecca had had enough. She was very scared and all alone with ten strange ‘men’ in the middle of who knows where. Her body hurt and ached in every place imaginable. She also now knew for sure that she wasn’t at home or even on her own planet or maybe in a different time or something. Tears started streaming down her face as she quietly started to cry. No one noticed because of the ongoing discussion between Thomas and the Fellowship. It didn’t matter what or how it had happened. The fact was it had. Now what would she do? How would she get home? She used her uninjured right hand to wipe away the tears, but they just kept falling faster and faster. Suddenly everyone heard a sob and looked over, now noticing Rebecca’s red eyes and tear-stained face. Thomas tried to take her hand again, but she pulled it away from him, “Leave me alone,” she hissed angrily.
He blinked at her in surprise wondering what he had done to make her so angry.
Aragorn walked over and crouched down next to her and was quickly followed by Legolas who stood silently nearby.
“Why are you crying, Lady Rebecca?” he asked softly.
Rebecca looked up and furiously tried to blink away her tears. It took a few minutes and a couple of deep breaths before she could speak. This man was so different from the men she knew. He was strong and rugged, yet he also seemed kind and gentle. She had never known anyone quite like that before. She glanced behind him to Legolas and remembered how he had asked her to trust him and that she was safe with all of them. “I’m just so scared...I...I don’t know any of you...” her voice dropped off to a whisper, “or where I am...and I hurt...” she stopped to wipe away a few more tears.
Aragorn laid his hand gently on her shoulder. “I’m sure that this is a very frightening experience for you, Lady Rebecca, and I wish I could help you with that, but I cannot. As Legolas told you earlier, we will not hurt you. You can trust us and we will protect you while you are here.”
“I can, however, do something about the pain you are in, for both you and Thomas.” He glanced over at Thomas, who was looking at him with surprise. “I can see the pain in your eyes. I am a very experienced healer, Thomas.” He glanced up at Legolas, “Do you not agree mellon nín?”
“Yes, Aragorn, you have had lots of practice as a healer.” Legolas let out a small sigh and looked off into the woods.
“Ah, Legolas, but are you not at least a tiny bit thankful for my talent?” Aragorn teased as he worked on making willow bark tea for Rebecca and Thomas.
“I believe it is your various ‘talents’ in the first place that gets us into trouble so that you have to use your healing skills on me,” Legolas growled in annoyance.
“Mellon nín, I remember that it was you that one time who suggested that we take that trail. It was not my fault that there was orcs hiding in ambush...” Aragorn continued to talk to and jest with Legolas, hoping to take Rebecca and Thomas’s minds off their situation, even for a little while.
“My fault? How could that be my fault? I have used that trail for centuries and there have never been orcs there. I take you with me once and orcs show up. I think taking you with me was the problem, mellon.” Legolas’s lips started to curve up in a slow smile.
Aragorn laughed as he handed a cup to both Thomas and Rebecca who had been watching and listening to the conversation with puzzled faces trying to understand the strange words.
“Drink this and then I want both of you to rest. We have a long way to travel tomorrow.”
“Where are you taking us?” Rebecca asked, fear evident in her voice, though her tears had now stopped.
“You are going to have to travel with us; we cannot linger here any longer. There are no villages around here for hundreds of miles and it would not be safe to leave you here.”
Thomas finally asked the question that had been running through his mind, “How do we get home?”
“I know not and I do not think Gandalf does either. For now you will come with us until we can find a safe place for you to stay.”
Thomas and Rebecca both nodded, knowing they had no other options. They couldn’t stay here and at least they would be safe with this group.
“Now, I want you both to lie down and rest.”