A/N: Chapter revised March 2, 2016
A word of warning: I always write M, and with that rating there comes certain expectations that most readers should be familiar with. (Violence, mature themes, etc.) Suffice to say, things will be dark. This is the only time that I'll mention it.
Disclaimer: This fanwork is intended for personal, non-commercial use only. All creative works off which this fanwork is based are the property of their respective authors. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter I: Tommy
"Ready to jump?"
When the dust had settled and the screaming had stopped, Lucy thought maybe, probably – most definitely, if she were a rational human being – that she should have said no. That maybe, had she been thinking clearly about the time that came after, she would have known this entire excursion was an absolutely awful idea. Her judgment was impaired, she knew. It had always been impaired, and by now it was a long, deep-seated problem that her parents despaired over.
Maybe, she decided with the gravity of an obituary announcement, she should have aimed for something tangible.
Lucy hadn't thought anything would happen, really. Nothing but their brains painting the pavement and their limbs bending like rubber. The disassociation was addictive in an odd, off-putting sort of way. Often, her grasp on reality and unreality was tenuous at best, the two intermingling together so thoroughly that she suffered from frequent migraines. During times like these, where her subconscious and the real world bled together, Lucy's mind would detach. It brought out a sort of fearlessness, the kind of fearlessness that came from chemical signals getting mixed up in the brain. But they were here now, the two of them, in a place that shouldn't have existed.
Already, Lucy regretted it.
They had landed somewhere deep in the mountains, her and Tommy; huge slate gray peaks turning gold in the sunlight that rose up into the cloud cover so high even eagles couldn't soar above them. Emerging onto a cliff top would have been ideal, but they'd been extremely unlucky, expelled out of nothingness into a pocket of air over twenty feet above a jagged, pernicious slope. It had taken less than a second for the two of them to start falling. Lucy's leg had broken in three different places, and one of her lower right ribs had fractured. Tommy had fallen head first, her skull splitting open like a rotten cantaloupe left out in the sun. Her blood had splattered against the stone steppes like so much red paint, brains on the pavement, and Lucy had screamed. She had screamed until her throat was raw and there was foam at her mouth.
Still, there was nobody that heard her.
In the time before, there had been no magical portal through which to fall into. No period of blackness before the two of them had woken up in a field of fragrant flowers beneath a cornucopia of stars. There had been no elves and no hobbits, no kindly gray wizards greeting quirky young time travelers who became the talk of the town.
There had just been this:
Two girls standing on the edge of a seven-story building, their matching black patent shoes poking out over the edge of the rooftop as they'd looked down at the street below them. Tommy's hand had been firm in hers, small and short and slightly clammy. Her fingernails were painted the prettiest shade of buttercup yellow. Lucy had always adored the color.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" she'd asked. Even though they'd been friends forever, the ground beneath them had been looming ominously. Lucy wasn't great with physics, but she'd been fairly certain that if they wanted to die, they would need a taller building.
Tommy had nodded, her pale cheeks flushed as her short brown hair spiraled around her face. Beneath them a police car barreled past, sirens blaring.
"Yeah." Tommy had said. "Yeah, I'm sure it will work. We'll make it."
Lucy hadn't thought it would work – you couldn't fall into a place that didn't exist, after all – but Tommy had insisted that jumping was the only way they would find it. Lucy had played along, as she'd been there for different reasons. Obsessive reasons, born out of a need for control and desire to be first and foremost in Tommy's head-space.
She and her best friend were alike in many ways. They wore matching gray sweaters and matching black shoes and went to the same nondescript school in the east end of the city. The only true difference between them was that Lucy felt too little, while Tommy felt too much. Dollface, the boys crooned whenever Lucy walked by. The Whore and the Hag, the girls at their school called them. Lucy ignored it, because she was an awful sort of person in an odd sort of way, and rarely did she feel anything beyond annoyance. But Tommy – dear, sweet Tommy – had never forgotten which side of the dichotomy she fell on.
"I want to be beautiful," the shorter girl had said one night through her tears, as they huddled beside the stairs to the subway. Her gray sweater had been stained with splatters of ink, a gift from their classmates. "I want to be someone."
"You're someone to me." Lucy had argued. She loved Tommy more than anyone, but it wasn't enough for the other girl.
"I'm going to change it all," she'd said through her teeth, her jaw clenched. "I'm going to save them."
Lucy hadn't been so sure, but she went along with it and played her part dutifully. But these mountains so tall that even eagles couldn't soar above them: this was Tommy's world. Her desires and dreams, manifested into reality. It had nothing to do with Lucy, and she hated it.
On the rooftop, the wind had been cool against their bare legs, their calves prickling with goose bumps beneath the hems of their pleated skirts. Across Tommy's shoulder, the girl had donned her worn-out tweed bag that she'd stubbornly clung to since middle school. Inside the bag were her precious books. "My keys to the kingdom," Lucy's best friend had jokingly said, only Tommy had sort of believed it.
"I'll need them." Tommy had told her, right before they jumped. "For when we get to the other side. I need something to remember all their names and all the places. They have lots of names, you know. Long names. You should remember them too."
"I love you." Lucy had said. It was the truth. Tommy had squeezed her hand, her buttercup yellow nails scraping along Lucy's plain ones. The wind had been cold. Lucy loved Tommy, but Tommy loved another. The one that lived in her books.
"See you on the other side." Tommy had whispered. Then, they had jumped.
It was important, Tommy had said, that they arrived in the Third Age.
The First Age was too dangerous, the second too muddled, and by the time the fourth rolled around they would be too late to stop anything, much less make any significant difference. Lucy hadn't paid attention to her at the time, because it had been Tommy's mad dream of becoming a prophet. Lucy hadn't thought anything would come of it but blood splattering the pavement and two closed-case coffins: an end to the endless malaise that constantly seemed to plague her.
Tommy had believed it would work with a passion that was terrifying, dragging out maps and going over all her dog-eared books with a fine-toothed comb until the paperbacks were falling apart and fraying around the edges. The Third Age, Tommy had said with a feverish sort of excitement, was the best place for them, and definitely the safest. There were humans there. Lots of humans and lots of information, so she would be able to accurately predict what was happening. Going back too far would change too many things. Who knew how many deaths it would result in.
Lots of deaths, Lucy had hoped, because she'd been a destructive sort of creature back then, but she hadn't said so aloud.
"The best time for us to land is a week before Gandalf arrives, when he visits Bilbo." Tommy had mused, biting her bottom lip in consternation. "The first time, I mean, when Thorin's party comes to the Shire. I wish we could go later, but by that time it's too late to stop it. Too many people die."
Tommy always wanted to be the hero. She wanted to be there, to do something. Lucy had fueled her delusions with the all the delicacy of a sociopath on a bender. Only once did she try to stop it.
"You're perfect the way you are," she'd said one night as they'd packed up their books. "You don't need to be anyone's hero but mine."
It hadn't been enough for Tommy. It never was. Only Tommy was dead now – dead in a fall that was supposed to kill them both, dead like dirt – with her brains splattered across the stone slope and her bones built like rubber. Lucy resented her for it. She didn't mean to, of course, but she still did. It wasn't so much that she minded the silence; abandonment was simply something she didn't dealt well with.
Lucy was trapped on a sleet gray mountain, now, with her leg broken in three different places. Her only companions were Tommy's corpse and Tommy's books. In her mind, there was a mantra; the whispered words how dare she leave me repeating over and over again. The anger that flooded her limbs was hot and instant.
I shouldn't have jumped, Lucy thought, but it was too late for that.
It was a sunny day in Middle-earth, but farther up the cliffs the peaks were covered in snow. The air was crisp and chilly without a tree line to protect her, and between the mountain passes the wind whistled as if it had a voice of it's own. If she looked farther down, Lucy could see a vibrant green valley at the base of the mountains, still dotted here and there with clumps of white. The mountains themselves were in a circle, and inside that circle the alpine field stretched outwards in a sea of grass. A ravine cut along the side of the meadow, heading southwest, and in the center of it there was yet another sheer gray rock face, upon which a white city sat.
Abruptly, Lucy started coughing.
The atmosphere was too fresh and thick, and in her lungs there was a burning sensation, like she was breathing in miasma and couldn't breathe it out. Lucy gasped, struggling to keep up with the influx of oxygen rich air, but it was too much, too soon. She didn't know where she was, but she couldn't move far with her broken leg, and in that moment she felt like she was choking. I'm alone, I'm alone. How dare you die on me, the mantra continued.
Still coughing, Lucy began dragging herself down the slope towards her best friend. It wasn't that far, only ten feet or so, but it felt like a mile, as the stones beneath her hands were sharp and brittle as glass. Each time she grasped one, the rocks cut into her palms, leaving them cross-hatched like ham. Lucy didn't talk, because she wasn't one for words, but she did start to cry. They were the fat, silent tears of her childhood; the ones she'd been prone to before the malaise came. At one point, Lucy tried to walk, but it wasn't possible with the breaks in her leg, so she simply pulled her mangled limb behind her. Move, she told herself, move faster, but her urgency wasn't driven by a sense of fear, so much as it was propelled by a self-righteous anger.
How dare Tommy die on her. How dare she. It wasn't fair. This had been Tommy's idea, not hers, and Lucy didn't want to be there.
Around her the wind whistled, snow drifting off the mountain peaks to disappear on the crystalline air. Whenever she took in a shuddering breath, the pain was so blinding she saw stars. Lucy had a horrible feeling there was something poking through the skin beneath her shirt – most likely a rib – but was too focused on reaching her best friend to check it. Above her, the eagles circled inwards. The giant birds appeared no bigger than sparrows they were so high up, but if Lucy squinted she could make out the gleam of brownish-hued feathers. As she stared, one of the eagles screeched and another veered off, diving in the direction of the city that sat in the center of the valley. The metropolis was layered like a wedding cake, with each level of the structure appearing smaller than the last. If she'd been feeling less detached and swamped with despair, Lucy might have found the sight of it breathtaking. As it stood, she was too upset to recognize the city, and too distraught over Tommy to care.
Tommy had said there would be a white city in this world. The white capital of Gondor, with its white tree and its white guards and its seven white rings rising upwards. More than once, she'd told Lucy about the kingdom of men with its ill-fated king; about a sword shattered by a demigod named Sauron, and how Isildur's corpse had been left to rot on the banks of the river Anduin.
"That's where we need to go." Tommy had said. "To Gondor, in the south. It's the heart of everything. The elves won't take us seriously, but humans will. We're their kind."
"So we go there, and we'll have access to everything. Think about it. We can change the world."
But Tommy couldn't change anything now, for good or for bad. Tommy was dead on a mountain slope, with her brains splattered everywhere like an overripe melon. As Lucy reached her, she collapsed in an exhausted heap, her face wet with tears and darkened with smudges of dirt. Beside her, Tommy was still. Her best friend's hair had been a nondescript brown, her features forgettable, but she'd also been kind. It was not hard to be kinder than Lucy, but Tommy – dear, sweet, broken-limbed Tommy – had been especially nice, and Lucy had adored her because of it.
"Tommy." Lucy said, her voice coming out as a croak. Another gust of wind whistled its way down the rock face to tangle itself in her hair. Beside her, Tommy's gaze was endless, her gray sweater lightly splattered with red. "Tommy." she said again, her hands curling into the loose stones beneath her. "Tommy, get up. We made it. You have to save the world."
Tommy didn't answer.
Around them there was nothing but the eerie cadence of the winter wind, mingling with the sharp, echoing screech of a bird. Lucy swallowed hard. The taste of failure coating her tongue was a combination of grit and dirt and saliva. She'd never thought they would make it – it was the only reason she'd jumped, oddly enough – but even in the deepest, darkest corners of her mind, she'd still harbored fantasies. In Middle-earth, there would've been no one who knew Tommy like she did, and Lucy would have become special to the other girl. Needed. They could have kept their secrets safe between them.
Those secrets were scattered now, free and open for the taking. The pages fluttered in the icy wind, a haphazard scrabble of Tommy's books mingled with her handwritten notes. The silence of the mountain was deafening, and Lucy's fingers and bare legs slowly going numb from the chill.
Trying to ignore the burning sensation in her chest, she grabbed the nearest book with shaking fingers and began methodically shredding it. Lucy grit her teeth, crumpling up the remains and tossing them down the rocky slope to be lost between the crags. In front of her the white city shimmered like a slab of marble, its spires encrusted with beams of light. It wasn't Tommy's white city, however, and because Lucy had never thought to pay attention to her best friend, she didn't know the name of it.
I'm going to die, she thought, and instantly she hated the notion. Lucy didn't care about dying, except that she didn't want to do it alone. Hands shaking with rage and slow building hysteria, she shred the first book, and then another, her breaths turning ragged as she tried to hold back the hurt that was building inside. The pages fluttered away from her, snapping off at sharp angles on errant gusts of the wind. When she got to the third book, Lucy stopped, choking on a sob. She couldn't destroy it. It was Tommy's favourite: a single volume with a dragon guarding a mound of gold etched upon the cover. It was the first book of the series that Tommy had read, and the one that had begun her obsession.
"I want to go there." Tommy had told her one lazy summer afternoon, before people had started calling her ugly and putting pins on her chair. Her best friend had pointed to a page in the book, the words appearing like partially smudged squiggles beneath her blunted finger. It was a passage concerning an elf-king that lived in a forest. He was talking to a dwarf lord about a city inside a mountain, and the dragon called Smaug who lived there.
"See this? This is Thranduil, and he's a Sinda. Oropher was his father."
Lucy had frowned at the page where Tommy's short finger was pointed, thoroughly uninterested in the subject.
"I don't see anything about an Oropher, whatever that is."
"That's because he's in another book. The Silmarillion." Tommy had said, matter-of-factly. "Honestly, I wish Thranduil wasn't in this book either. He's not how the elves should be."
"What do you mean?"
Tommy wrinkled her nose, folding the cover of the book back over itself so it fit snugly between her hands. Then she'd shrugged. "Wiser, I guess. Less angry. They're supposed to be everything humans aren't. That's what makes them so great."
"They are. That's why it's a tragedy that so many of them died, why they had to leave Middle-earth. It isn't fair. You'll see what I mean when I show you the other books."
The books were ragged now, the words fading from some of the pages, but there were doodles in the margins. Little sketches and scribbles, complete with Tommy's handwritten notes as she'd prepared for their trip to another world. On the first page written in crisp blue-black ink were four short words in her best friend's messy scrawl, placed next to a heart.
Tommy and Lucy forever.
Immediately, Lucy broke down and began bawling.
She cried for herself first, because she was sixteen and only human. Lucy cried because she was lost, because she didn't recognize the towering gray mountains or the sparkling white city far in the distance. She cried over Tommy, too, and quite a bit. Tommy, who was six months younger and three inches shorter. Tommy, who loved buttercup yellow and banana chocolate chip muffins and liked the smell of the air right after a thunderstorm. Lucy cried and she cried, and when the snot and tears coating her face combined into a singular mess, she dropped the novel and curled in on herself next to her friend. Her chest hurt and her lungs were burning, and inside her head the mantra went from how dare you die on me to don't leave me, don't leave me. I'm scared.
Eventually the sobbing stopped, and when it did Lucy just laid there, her head pooled on Tommy's chest as her tears froze to her cheeks. It wouldn't take long, she consoled herself. Maybe longer than Tommy, but she was bleeding too, albeit sluggishly, and it was cold. If she didn't bleed to death, she would freeze first. Hypothermia was an exacting mistress, and it was coming down the mountain slope to claim her. Tommy's hair felt wonderful against her cheek, soft and smelling like bathwater.
"I have to be clean." Tommy had said as she'd scrubbed her hair dry with a towel, only hours before they'd jumped. "We should both be clean before the jump. It might be awhile before we're able to take a bath."
Slowly as her limbs grew numb, Lucy's mind detached from her body. For that she was overwhelmingly grateful. It was a comfortable feeling, a familiar not-feeling devoid of emotion, and one that she coveted.
When they finally arrived, Lucy was barely able to register their footsteps.
The footsteps sounded like nothing at first, because they were nothing: merely the mournful howl of the wind whistling between the peaks of the encircling mountains. Closer still, there was the occasional trill of a bird, and above her the eagles circled, spiraling inwards like vultures.
Maybe they are vultures, Lucy thought blandly, come to pick over my corpse. It was a fitting end to her very short life. Then she clued into the loud crunch of booted feet over loose stone, and would have ignored it if the shadow had not fallen upon her. Lucy didn't know what to make of it. A shadow was a shadow, only this one had mass and seemed to be speaking. When it poked her with something hard, she flinched and came back to herself. She could feel the pebbles digging into her back, the way the wind pressed her grey sweater against the curves of her upper body. When Lucy blinked and focused, she realized she was looking at a man's face looming over her. Only there was something terribly wrong with his features.
The stranger had two eyes, two arms and two legs, but his skin was so pale that it bordered on luminescent. Even lying down, Lucy could tell that he was staggeringly tall. As the stranger drew his bow back, part of his hood fell aside, the motion revealing black hair and an ear that was sharply pointed along the cartilage. Lucy's eyes widened in surprise, her mouth opening into an O before closing again. It was one of Tommy's elves; the Perfect Ones she'd wanted to save, only he didn't quite fit the mental image that her friend had created.
Look Tommy, Lucy wanted to say. Look. We've found them.
Three other elves were standing behind the first, their arrows notched and pointed. Each of them was dressed in dark blue and purple, with silver chainmail overlaid atop that. Their bows were as tall as they were, the wood of them a blinding white. Green, Lucy thought. They're supposed to be wearing green. That's what Tommy had said.
"Esta ar thel." the first elf commanded, near-spitting the words. His hold on his bow tightened, his fingers flexing against the wood as he pointed the arrow towards her temple. Slowly Lucy rolled to the side, coughing loudly as she forced herself into a semi-seated position. The dark-haired elf let her, but when she reached for one of the books, he spat out a hissing word and darted forward; kicking it aside and pointing the arrow directly at her cheek, the metal hovering an inch from her eye.
"Esta ar thel!" he repeated.
Lucy couldn't help but think that if she'd planned for the after – beyond the closed-case coffins and blood on the pavement and sirens wailing – that she would have known what the elf was saying. Tommy would have known. Tommy always knew.
"I have to learn Sindarin," she'd told Lucy one night, feverishly flipping through her notes from the printed pages of an online dictionary. Lucy had munched her way through a handful of crackers, fulfilling a salt craving for no reason other than that she was bored.
"You never know when you might need it." Tommy had said. "The Common Tongue might not be English."
Lucy looked at the elf, blinking once, before clenching her fingers and relaxing them again. She'd made it. She'd arrived in Tommy's dream world, only she didn't want to be there. She never had.
"Esta ar thel!" the elf yelled. Lucy didn't have an answer. She had questions, though. Questions about a white city that wasn't the one she wanted. Slowly, through the haze of pain and mental detachment, Tommy's plan – their plan – was coming back to her in bits and pieces. It was crucial, Tommy had said, that they arrived in the Third Age. The Third Age was the best age: the place where they could do the most good without destroying the future. Lucy wasn't one for planning, but she'd thought she'd make a go of it, just in case.
She said the first thing that came to mind. The only thing she could remember, really. The thing that Tommy had wanted to stop.
"Where's Sauron?" she asked.
The elf turned white as a sheet, his expression morphing in fury. Then he moved faster than Lucy could track, the end of his bow cracking loudly across her temple.
The world started spinning. Someone was yelling. The blow was brutal, sending Lucy sprawling across the stone. Tommy's blood was on her hands, the mountain slope cool against her cheek, but all she could think about was the tightness: the sensation of ripping in the space around her.
Lucy, someone whispered, but her senses were fading as everything began to blur. There was another wet crack, then a sudden, blinding lance of pain as someone kicked her hard in the chest. Everything abruptly dialed out, the ringing in her ears and the whispered caress of her name fading to silence.
In the void of unconsciousness, there was nothing. Not even thoughts of Tommy.
I've agonized over where to put this story: whether I should place it in The Hobbit category, The Lord of The Rings, or The Silmarillion, as it contains elements of all three and doesn't fit neatly into a single crossover. Eventually I decided on posting it here. For now it best fits the tropes I'm trying to tackle, but if the story starts veering off I'll move it to the appropriate section. Studying Sindarin has never been my strong point, so while I'll try my best there will be mistakes. Anyone who sees any errors – or any mistakes in general – please don't hesitate to inform me. I'm a stickler for grammar.
A big thanks to msg839 and EpitomyofShyness for beta'ing!