AUTHOR'S NOTE

This story makes an assumption that there is in fact a near-complete Sindarin language documented by Tolkien, and that it is possible to learn it to the extent that you could actually speak a usable, if pidgin, Sindarin to a native speaker.

This story is also presented in full version (that is, NC-17) on its very own website along with pictures, maps and more. Please visit the web address listed in my profile.

01
PROLOGUE

Once upon a time, but more recently than you might think, there was a woman who wanted to leave. Like many people, she felt that burning need to make a change and to be free of something, though she knew not what. She wanted something interesting to happen to her, just for once. Her name was Flynn, and this is how she did it. She escaped the life she knew and found more than just a change of scene in a world created by the world's foremost fantasy writer. There would be trials more difficult and joy much deeper than she had ever known, but as she would discover, you cannot escape yourself – even for a little while.

Flynn wasn't in any kind of trouble; that wasn't it. Nor was it that life and outside pressures had become particularly unbearable in her world, which was admittedly very small. It was, in fact, the lack of these problems – the lack of excitement, the days rolling over, one after another, without anything altogether interesting happening – that made her itch and shudder to escape the life she lived. Flynn's life was like clockwork; she went to work, she kept to herself, she rarely met new people. She idled away at a less-than-fulfilling job because she had few other prospects.

But all this was before Tolkien, when everything changed.

Flynn read books, and lots of them. She worked a brainless position in a second-hand bookstore in a decrepit suburb between the eastern hills and the glittering river of Brisbane city. Having dropped out of school at sixteen and dashed her chances of being accepted into her (admittedly over-ambitious) dream job – medicine – she was at a loss. So lamenting her misspent youth and ill fate, she read anything she could get her hands on that dealt with medicine, nursing, psychology, pharmacy, and alternative therapies: in short, anything remotely associated with health care. And when she had exhausted her employer's supplies on that subject, still infinitely bored with her job, she found fantasy. She fell headlong into the unbelievably detailed, miraculously crafted world created by J.R.R Tolkien.

Despite Tolkien's world being rife with civil unrest, war, and tensions between races, Flynn found herself wishing that she could be a part of it. What a dream it was, to go to Middle-earth, the world of The Lord of the Rings , The Hobbit , and The Silmarillion . It was a place where she could face a new beginning and live a life more simple and free of the pressures she faced as she counted off years in the 21st century with no more prospects than when she had left home as a scrawny and scowling teen. If only it were real, she thought, and she could become a part of it, then there she would find happiness. There, she would make friends who had no connection to the misdemeanours and ill choices of her past.

So Flynn became, unintentionally, a bona fide fanatic. Helped along in her fandom by the boundless possibilities of the internet, Flynn learned everything she could possibly wish to know about Tolkien's writings on Middle-earth, and more besides. She attempted to learn Elvish, she met similarly obsessed folk on message boards and chat rooms, and eventually was directed to the less well-known cliques and websites. Flynn found fandom deeper and more devoted than she could ever have imagined. And she found something altogether intriguing.

There were those, it seemed, who believed that Middle-earth was truly a place, and it existed, or it had existed, and it was not too long since lost. Some said that Tolkien's writings were, in fact, a history of our very own earth. Naturally Flynn was intrigued, and longing plagued her mind; if only there were some way to reach into the past, she could go there. She could be further away from here than she had ever been. Untouchable, she could start anew. She could invent a past, one that didn't include the emotionally absent mother, whose grey eyes had not flinched the day Flynn announced at sixteen that she was leaving home. Flynn could meet people who would accept her. She could meet the immortal elves, the loyal hobbits, the brave dwarves and the honourable men of Tolkien's writing – if only there were a way.

Flynn had begun, unwittingly, to truly believe in fantasy.

The casual satellites on the edge of her life whom she sometimes called 'friends' were left behind, regarding her with disdain and she spent late nights poring over books: magick, witchcraft, shamanism. She tracked down the oldest of tomes and venturing into the strangest of places to locate ancient occult works that might show her the secret of time travel (or was it realm-travel?) or anything that might help. She was desperate. More than anything, Flynn wanted to go to Middle-earth: more than she had wanted to meet New Kids on the Block when she was eleven; more than she had wanted siblings to play with when she sat at home on rainy Sundays; more than she had wished she had pretty, straight hair when everyone else did at fifteen; more, even, than she had wanted a warm and vaguely human mother like all the other kids.

Flynn picked over every Tolkien work she owned (an impressive collection thanks to a little light-fingered lifting when the boss was not around – which was often), looking for clues to the real location of this fantasy world. Then one day, whilst hunched over her rickety desk in her shambling apartment, when she had thought, for the hundredth time, that it was hopeless, and she should give up and set her feet firmly back on the ground, she had noticed something. Fluttering to the floor from the back pages of an edition of The Lord of The Rings , which looked older than the story itself and which she couldn't remember buying, was a browned and delicate piece of paper.

Flynn unfolded it, noting the strange quality of the paper, soft as if made from ancient vellum. On it was written a short poem in flourishing calligraphy, the once-black ink now a faded greenish grey. The writing was Elvish. With no idea who had put it there, nor why, she touched it and felt her fingers tingle as if the poem were alive at the warmth of her skin. The strangest feeling overcame her, as if being compelled to the poem, and Flynn found herself wanting inexplicably to say it aloud. So she read the first line, slowly, rolling the words over, thinking about their translation as she went. "Annon o Arda, edro hi ammen . Gate of Arda... open now for me?" she murmured.

So slowly that she was only aware of it when the scratched wooden tabletop seemed to warp before her very eyes, Flynn became light-headed, the room spinning. Her head dropped down towards the piece of vellum in her hand and she wanted desperately to read the poem in full, but her head was heavy like falling into long-awaited slumber. Her eyes drooped, her neck relaxed, and her head lolled like a child succumbing to sleep. Intense warmth enveloped her, drawing her in... Then her head snapped up. The sudden loud hiss of air brakes and engine rumble of a bus on the street outside snatched her back into the present. Her heart thumped madly. What had just happened? She looked at the poem. The text was darker now, the ink a shimmering black as if freshly written, its glistening sheen seeming to challenge her to deny what she had felt.

Flynn knew then with certainty that it was enchanted – but to what end? She dared whisper the words again. This time, as soon as her lips had closed on the last syllable, there was a rushing in her ears; the heavy dozing sensation returned, and she could not help but close her eyes, feeling she would fall headlong into the poem like a soft quilt, her body weightless. There were noises, noises not from within the room or from outside – whispers, sweeping around her like wind-rustled leaves in a language she couldn't quite interpret but which sounded stirringly familiar. Somehow she knew that they pressed her to continue; she had to read the next lines.

Daring to open her eyes, she saw the poem swimming in her vision, the lines standing out like gnarled black trees on a white desert landscape, willing to be seen, to be read. She began the next line: "Fennas o ardhon… " and the voices grew louder in her ears, no longer whispers, but deep murmurs, multi-layered like she were privy to many conversations between many people.

"Lasto beth lammen," she breathed, beginning to understand that the more she read, the closer she brought herself to wherever the voices were coming from. At the last word, the voices suddenly dropped to a barely discernible whisper, the rushing in her ears quietening, and she understood. 'Listen to the word of my tongue,' she had incanted in Elvish. And now, whatever or whoever this poem led to was listening. She opened her mouth to speak the next line.

Then Flynn was startled again, and she snapped to attention, blinking. The voices were gone, and she was back at her desk against the kitchen wall. She glanced around for the source of the disturbance and heard the click and hum of the old refrigerator in the corner as it whirred into action. She cursed it softly, but did not dwell long. An idea was forming. This poem, or whatever it was, was a portal of some kind – it had to be. It was written in Elvish, and Flynn was certain the voices she heard had been speaking Elvish. Her heart caught in her throat as she considered the unbelievable possibility that this could be the very thing that she had been searching for all this time. She folded the poem as it had been, and slipped it back into the book. She steeled her resolve: she would ready herself, she would say goodbye to her life, and then, when she was prepared, she would leave. Forever.

- - - - -

Over the next year, Flynn researched subjects she thought she would need to know if she were to enter Middle-earth. Survival skills and self-defence seemed the most important. For six months, she camped once weekly – first with a tent and then without – in the expanse of forest on the outer-city forest on Mount Coot-tha. She practised using a rambling stick and a hunting knife as weapons. She learned haltingly to catch and kill her own food, though the idea at first sickened her. But when she tracked down one fat possum in the midst of stealing from her cooler bag of fruit, and it looked up at her with adorable orange eyes, she read it as a challenge: will you eat, or will you let your food be eaten? She snapped its neck and stumbled away into the undergrowth to vomit. She cried later as it roasted over the fire, but it was easier to hunt after that.

Flynn practised going days without showering to see how long she could stand it, and she whittled her diet down to simple sustenance for days at a time while she embarked on increasingly longer hikes through the forest. She wanted her body to adjust to the possibility that she might have to live very rough for a while, for she did not know where this strange poem – or portal, or whatever it was – might take her. She read back through her entire library of Tolkien works, trying to memorise everything that might be relevant, from geographical features to family trees, which she might be able to use to construct an identity for herself.

Most importantly, Flynn endeavoured to properly learn to speak Elvish. She read everything there was to know on the subject, and she infiltrated the societies she found online who had done the same; like-minded groups of people who had taught themselves Sindarin Elvish, and who could teach her, too. She knew that if Middle-earth existed, this was the only language she had any hope of conversing in, for Tolkien had not written a complete Westron, the common language of all races. It was a language lost to time. Flynn practised Sindarin day and night and she tested her skills online with those who seemed to know it as fluently as one could, and eventually, to her delight, she was as versed in the language as anyone could be. Finally, she enlarged and photocopied maps and she put together a collection of useful information, for she felt ready. She felt ready to leave. Flynn hoped against hope that the poem was everything it seemed, and that all her efforts had not been in vain. It was time.