Disclaimer: All wonderful characters as they can be recognized from J.R.R. Tolkien's original work, The Lord of the Rings, do indeed belong to him, his associates, and etc. Any other deviations, extraneous wildlife, and other monster sightings are the product of my sadistic mind, or have been granted permission for use by my sadistic mind, so we're all just one big, demented ball of cheese string, aren't we?

Trapped As A Mary Sue II

Chapter Six

Predictably, Gimli took a swing at the raccoon first. His axe nearly grazed the tip of Saura'onna's left ear as she dodged nimbly to one side.

"Wait, Gimli!" Legolas exclaimed, the wild look in his eyes pronounced to the point of terror. Katie had seen that same look before-Aragorn had used it when he was clearly resisting the author's grasp on his character. It was almost like watching the first moments of a seizure, right before the eyes rolled back into the head.

The Dwarf didn't listen; he let out a bellow and charged after the raccoon, who by this time had ducked behind the elf and was doing her best to conceal herself beneath the hem of his cloak.

"Gimli, stop!" Katie managed to cry before the author could attempt to muzzle her. Only then did Gimli pause, his axe still raised. Quickly judging the author's timing (she was going into a lengthy inner dialogue Aragorn was having about finding his lady-love), Katie issued a brief order: "I need to listen to the author; don't you kill that raccoon until I find out what she's done to it, and to Legolas." While she had this brief respite from the author's control, she intended to make the most of it.

It was only the concern for his friend that kept Gimli from continuing his mad pursuit of the ring-tailed creature, and the leather on his axe handle squeaked as the dwarf shifted his grip ever so slightly. Saura'onna cowered out of sight, but for her tail which shivered where it showed under Legolas's cloak.

Sensing that she had (for the moment, at least) won a temporary cease-fire, Katie held up one finger and shut her eyes to listen. Before she could fully tune in, however, Aragorn spoke.

"Legolas," he said with some difficulty, "Didn't you tell me that you had lost the love of your life once?"

{What, you mean as opposed to it happening repeatedly?} Katie's voice was kind enough to pipe up in a snide tone.

{Shush,} Katie replied quickly. {This could be important.}

"Yes," Legolas replied, his normally smooth voice sounding severely strained. "I have not spoken her name in a thousand years." There was a dramatic pause.

"Oh, please don't break your streak now..." Katie muttered, her eyes fixed on what little bit of the raccoon she could see.

"Viresse," Legolas nearly whispered, and Katie thought she saw the track of a tear on the elf's face. "She was of Lothlorien, before darkness fell upon the world."

{The author does know that technically the entire world isn't dark, just certain select portions, right?} Katie asked her voice.

{Eh, what's a generalization or three among out-of-character friends?} her voice answered rhetorically.

All attention, however, was drawn back to Saura'onna, who was apparently 'reacting wildly with great leaps and skips in front of Legolas, as if trying to get his attention'. (To put it in the author's words.)

Actually, the mentioned leaps and skips ended up looking more like half-hearted hops, as the joint configuration of a raccoon's rear legs didn't allow for much vertical airborne height.

"Okay," Katie blurted while the impromptu animal display was going on, "you would at least think that she could do something more original than the whole 'princess and the frog' motif!" At Gimli's look of incomprehension, she explained, "There's a common legend where a princess comes across a talking frog, kisses it, and he turns into a prince."

It was difficult to tell, but Katie thought she saw Gimli's beard curl in disgust at the very notion of Legolas having to do anything with the raccoon except put an arrow through it. Then the dwarf muttered something.

"Come again?" Katie asked, without turning her head. Aragorn still had her in a crushing hold, and she was trying to hold very still so that the vague pain from her wounded scalp didn't decide to blossom into something excruciating.

"I said, 'what does your inner she-devil say about this'?" Gimli repeated in the growling tone of voice that said he had better not need to ask it one more time.

"Hold on, and I'll repeat it word for-" Katie's intentions of relating the exact, over-dramatized proceedings were suddenly forgotten when two horses sprang into existence.

{Literally,} her voice noted. {And they say dwarves spring out of the ground. I'd love to see a dwarf do that.}

{Apparently it's time to get this show back on the road to Fangorn,} Katie said. Then she paused, a horrible thought occurring to her. She made very sure that she was speaking only to her inner voice, and not aloud. {Or is she not going to go find Gandalf?}

{She hasn't said,} her voice replied pensively. {I guess you'll find out.}

Aragorn released his death-grip around Meriweather's waist, and Katie slowly climbed to her feet, determined to put as much space between her and the Dunedain as possible. For once, the author didn't seem to object as Aragorn caught the bridles of both horses (who could have been identical twins for all the author's imagination) and continued his conversation with Legolas about the disappeared Lothlorien elf princess named Viresse.

{It looks like the more active characters she has to think about, you know, really think about, the less attention she has for you,} her voice pointed out. {In Rivendell, all she did was copy the movie scene, and even then, she didn't have the inner monologues and everything she's trying to do now.}

{Well, that's good,} Katie thought back, cautiously probing the place where Legolas had cleaned the blood off of her scalp. It appeared that, for the most part, the bleeding had stopped. {Aragorn's gonna have a fit six ways from Sunday when he sees this.}

{Not like the fit Legolas is going to have when he gets into the real Middle Earth and there's some random Tolkien purist hiding under his cloak,} her voice shot back.

Katie rolled her eyes as Meriweather listened to the prince of Mirkwood relate a somewhat-stilted (mostly in part due to how hard the real Legolas was fighting to be heard) yet nevertheless heart-wrenching account of how the ever-fair elven maiden, once betrothed to him had been on her way to Mirkwood many years ago-

{So now 'a thousand years' has simply become 'many',} Katie grumbled to herself.

"-and the entire party had been attacked by wargs or something and eaten." Legolas' conclusion of the story was abrupt.

Katie blinked, and immediately laughed aloud. Aragorn and Legolas didn't notice, but Gimli directed a stern, disapproving look at her. She hastened to explain. "Here's another instance of where the author didn't take time to think things through. There is no logicalreason for there to be wargs between Lothlorien and what would have then been Greenwood the Great. Not a thousand years ago, at least!"

Gimli thought about that, then nodded grudgingly. "Aye. More lies and falsehoods spun by the she-devil."

Katie nodded, watching as Saura'onna/presumably Viresse scampered up Legolas's outstretched arm to sit upon his shoulder. The raccoon had ceased her shivering and was now fully engrossed in perching as prettily as possible, given her precarious position.

{Try saying that five times fast,} her voice put in unnecessarily.

Katie could have sworn she heard Gimli's teeth grind together at the outrageousness of the ridiculous picture his companions now made. Then, he appeared to brighten slightly.

"Lass," he said in a thoughtful tone of voice, turning to Katie.

"Yes?" Katie replied cautiously.

"Have you ever heard the dwarf story of Smaug, the dragon of the Lonely Mountain?" The look of fiendish delight on Gimli's face was truly alarming.

"It's been...awhile," Katie allowed, keeping a wary eye on Legolas and Saura'onna. "Your father was among those that journeyed in search of his treasure."

"Aye," Gimli said. "He was a massive, red beast, wreathed in flame-"

The sudden image of a red balrog with an inexplicable pink bow on its head popped into Katie's brain and she winced and had to resist the urge to shake her head in order to banish it. "Gimli," she interrupted, touching her head wound gingerly, "why are you telling me this with that wicked smile on your face?"

"Ah. Because I want you to think of that magnificent, horrible creature when you see the she-devil." And with that, Gimli came around with the flat of his axe.

Katie yelped and tried to dodge; the blade struck her in the arm thanks to her height, but her left foot got tangled in Boromir's cloak and she fell to her hands and knees. The movement made her lightheaded, and her vision swam for a moment too long. When it cleared, she saw Gimli come around again (how had she not noticed that he'd been holding his axe at the ready the whole time?), knew she couldn't avoid it...

{Red balrog dragons ahoy!} her voice exclaimed with entirely too much glee. {Pink bows and ruby slippers optional.}

"I have told you thirteen times already, I don't want to go into it!" Katie said sharply to Aragorn, making an attempt to bat his hands away from her head. Her movements were somewhat encumbered, however, by the brunette who had quite firmly wrapped Katie in a bear hug and refused to let her best friend go.

"And Gimli!" The dwarf looked over from where he was holding Legolas' bow and quiver while the elf removed his cloak and attempted to shake Meriweather's author off of his person. "I'm very, very angry with you!"

"What happened?" Aragorn asked patiently for the fourteenth time in Katie's estimation.

"What happened? What happened? Your dwarf friend over there attacked me with his axe!" Katie finally exploded. "And ouch! Watch where you poke me in that scalp wound!" She swayed for a moment, and it was only the girl holding her in a bear hug that kept her standing. "I'm...gonna sit down now," Katie said as distinctly as possible. "April, let me go for just a second."

"April?" Legolas repeated. He cast a sidelong glance at their newest companion. The young lady in question didn't respond.

Katie occupied herself with finding a spot to sit that didn't involve dried Uruk blood or body parts, and then allowed Aragorn to have at her without further sarcasm. She had to wait several moments for the spots around her vision to clear, and when she felt coherent enough to take stock of the situation in its entirety, it was to see Legolas holding the top of Gimli's axe as the Dwarf hefted it over his head.

"What the-Gimli! Put that down!" Katie exclaimed as the Dwarf tried to wrestle his weapon free from Legolas' grip. The Elf, for his part, had a very put-upon look on his face, as if trying to decide whether he should be exasperated or amused at Gimli's 'solution' to the Viresse problem.

"If I dispatch this new usurper, she will threaten Legolas no more!" the Dwarf rumbled, jerking once more on the handle of his axe, with the same result as before; he advanced no further.

April/Viresse was standing stock-still between the angered Dwarf and Katie, as if still recovering from the sudden change in world-shifting. Katie wasn't even sure her friend had any cogent idea of what was actually happening, and then a horrific thought occurred to her: how long had the real April been trapped inside Saura'onna's body?

{All the nasty things you said to her,} the voice chimed in. {I have your ticket for that guilt trip, party of one.}

{I don't have time for a guilt trip,} Katie tried to snap, but she did indeed feel guilty. {I left that raccoon sitting on the edge of a river. And I didn't even look back.}

{You're a terrible person.}

{Oh, shut up!} Katie said, with a mental swat at the voice. "April. April!" She couldn't move; Aragorn was doing something that apparently involved herbs that smelled like a form of mint-whatever it was, it tingled.

"April, I'm going to destroy your VHS collection of Gundam Wing if you don't answer me!" Katie threatened.

At that, the other girl appeared to shake herself. "Kates? Where did you come from?"

Katie looked up from her seated position and gestured around at the other three menfolk. "Really? Gimli's trying to kill you right now and you want to know where I've been?"

"G-Gimli?" April's brown eyes went wide and she turned to see the Dwarf still ineffectually struggling with Legolas. She looked back at Katie. "No." Then she looked back at Legolas. "No!"

"Yes." Katie had to restrain an urge to jump up and shake her friend. "If you're worried about this being a dream, I can tell you with absolute truth that Gimli is more than willing to hit you to prove his point!" She shot a sharp glare at the Dwarf.

Apparently ignorant of the danger she was in, April closed the distance between herself and Gimli, almost as if gazing at some kind of display in a museum. She circled Legolas and Gimli, staring very hard at them as if searching for proof that they might vanish at any moment.

Legolas put up with the scrutiny silently, but the humor had left his face. Quite possibly he was recalling what the other Legolas' thoughts had been about Viresse. Gimli was still wrestling with his axe, but apparently was putting less vigor into each attempt. As his effort decreased, however, the volume of his displeased muttering beneath his breath grew, until it was an outburst.

"And how much more of these strange visitors will we have to endure?" he demanded, beard bristling. "If this new usurper-"

"It's April," April corrected him, eyebrows drawing together. "If you're gonna insult me to my face, you'd better use my name," she said firmly. She paused, and Gimli's mouth worked for a moment, perhaps stunned for a moment at April's audacity to interrupt his rant. "Go ahead, you were saying?" April prompted, crossing her arms and waiting for the Dwarf to continue.

"Bah!" Gimli said at length, yanking his axe at last from Legolas and sliding it back into the loop on his belt.

Aragorn, for his part, handed Katie a length of fabric, which she tied carefully into what she was sure was the most unattractive headband ever, over the compress of herbs he had put on her scalp wound. "I would hear April's story from the beginning," he said. "But first we will burn these foul creatures, that they may be a warning to any others that come this way."

While Legolas and Gimli set about this task with their leader, Katie took a good, long look at April. Dressed in average street clothes, her friend stuck out like a sore thumb among the companions. Her brown hair was disheveled, and April on the whole seemed to be operating in a slightly dazed state of mind.

Katie stood and went to her friend. "Still think it's a dream?"

April sucked in a breath and then made a noise that was half a laugh, half a sigh. "Psh, yeah. Except for Gimli wanting to kill me. That's a new twist."

"What, do your dreams usually include me being treated for injuries by Aragorn while Legolas and Gimli look on?" Katie demanded, half-serious.

"No, apparently they include me being a furry," April said dryly, and Katie snorted. "I swear, this is the worst summer ever. I end the school year with you disappearing, then your boyfriend goes off his rocker and starts calling everybody he knows and spouting off some crap about how 'Katie's going to be okay, she just needs to work some stuff out' and won't be any more specific than that…"

"And now you're stuck in Middle Earth with me," Katie filled in. "Sorry about your life sucking."

"Sucking? Who said anything about sucking?" April asked with a sudden grin. "I'm in Middle-freaking-Earth! This is so much better than working at Wal-Mart all summer."

Katie stood away from her friend. "Oh, no. You can't go full fangirl on me. No, no, no!" She was momentarily taken aback.

"What? Why not? I mean, look! Legolas is even hotter in person!" April said, not bothering to keep her voice down. Katie felt her ears turning pink, and was sure her face was even worse off. Legolas merely looked over at them, one eyebrow raised.

"April, this is not a game! Or a dream!" Katie tried to communicate the depths of her displeasure by whispering loudly enough to get her point across, and hoping that Legolas' Elf radar wouldn't hear her. "This has been my life for however long I've been missing!"

She didn't know what would happen if April ended up going full fangirl-at least Brian had listened to her account and for the most part, followed her instructions. Sure, he'd dropped more hints than he should have, maybe ad-libbed a few lines to Èomer, but that was forgivable.

April sobered slightly, but not much. "Yeah, well best life ever!"

Katie pinched the bridge of her nose. "No, I promise you it's not like that. Maybe if we were hanging out in the Shire, but we're not! We're busy getting shot at, stabbed…" She pointed to her head. "This is not a scratch!"

"I guess," April said, her expression darkening significantly. "That is, if you're really you."

"Of course I'm really me," Katie hissed. "Would I have threatened your Gundam Wing videos otherwise?" She paused. "I'm sure Gimli would gladly try to prove to you that you're not imagining this."

"Pft. I'd like to see him try," April said, shooting the Dwarf a sideways look.

"Ugh, I forget who I'm talking to. You once put roller skates on a sawhorse and rode it down a hilly street full of traffic." Katie shook her head.

"There weren't that many cars," April said defensively. "Besides, they swerved." She appeared to watch in idle fascination as Aragorn kindled the fallen enemy bodies into a smoky, fitful bonfire. "So...where are we?"

"Rohan," Katie answered. She glanced around at the trees. "Looks like the edge of Fangorn Forest, but I'm not entirely sure. Meriweather's horrible plot brought us here, so she could get some cheap Aragorn-cuddles in."

"'Aragorn-cuddles'?" April repeated. "I thought you liked Legolas-" She squawked in protest as Katie tried to clamp a hand over her mouth.

"Would you shut up?" Katie looked around for the Elf, but he was busy erecting some kind of ghastly display involving a polearm and an Uruk's severed head. "He doesn't know that-none of them do!" She tried viciously to stamp on her own fangirl feelings, and only partially succeeded. "Besides...I've met Glorfindel and learned that my fangirl heart belongs to an elf lord."

At that, April began to laugh. "You couldn't just go for a twin; you went right for the other Balrog-slayer? Nice!"

"Hey, those twins tried to murder me in Rivendell!" Katie recalled, still a trifle put out. "They're not all that charming, and they're pretty scary when they've got arrows leveled at your face!"

"They did apologize," Aragorn pointed out, coming back to them. Katie made what she hoped was a discreet silencing gesture to April.

"Do you know our whereabouts?" Katie asked, hoping to divert the subject from what could possibly turn into a discussion with April about Aragron's adopted family (at the Ranger's expense).

"It is clear we are still in Fangorn, but other than that, I am not sure." Aragorn cast his eyes about the darkened eaves of the forest, as if by mere observation the trees might reveal their secrets. "I do not know where Meriweather has brought us, but we do have the two horses." Katie thought she detected a grudging hint of thankfulness in his tone.

"Clearly she did not expect there to be five of us," Katie pointed out. "Viresse is still a raccoon, at the moment."

"Yeah, and only by 'trial of true love can the enchantment be broken'," April filled in, using air quotes. "At least, that's the drivel I was hearing about it."

"What kind of trial might that be?" Gimli asked, almost as if he didn't want to know.

April shrugged. "Dunno. Let's hope it doesn't involve tentacles." She waited for a beat. "Seriously? No anime fans? Tough crowd."

"Forgive her; eventually she will stop assuming that this is all a dream," Katie said in the calmest voice she could manage. Then she had a sudden, even more alarming thought. "April...have you heard from Sam at all?"

Her friend thought about it. "Sure, we message once a week or so. Why?"

Katie started to tick things off on her fingers. "One: you are a close friend. Meriweather's author likes to use people close to her. Two: you like Legolas. She probably has a friend that likes him, also. Three: You are now here. What would happen if she had a friend who liked...say, Frodo?"

April pressed both hands to her face for a moment, processing the information. Then her hands balled into fists. "Uh oh."

Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli looked between the two girls. "What does this mean?" Aragorn asked.

"It means that the world's biggest arachnophobe is in a huge amount of trouble," Katie said, color draining from her face.


"You didn't kill her, did you?" Frodo whispered to Sam, who raised the frying pan as if to study his handiwork.

"I don't think so, Mr. Frodo," the stout hobbit replied. He poked the woman's shoulder with the edge of the pan. She was a human woman, and they had come upon her quite by accident.

She had been wandering the caves, calling out and taking no care to be quiet. The hobbits and Gollum had hidden at first, until Sam remembered what Katie's appearance had been on the peak of Caradhras.

"I think she's lost, Mr. Frodo," he'd said. "From the other world-you know."

"Other world?" Gollum had aspirated his disbelief. "This is the world, yesss."

"Quiet, you," Sam said. "This is an even stranger magic; you couldn't understand."

Frodo let the remark pass, and kept watching the woman. She twined a strand of her dark, curly hair around one finger as she walked, inspecting each cave opening and crag in the rocky terrain as she came to it. "No supplies, no weapons...what do you think, Sam?"

"We have to do something; can't just leave her here," Sam said reluctantly. Frodo knew he was worried about the amount of provisions they had; this human woman was an additional mouth he hadn't planned on feeding.

At the time, Frodo had been satisfied with Sam's answer. Rising from their hiding place, he stepped out into the open. "Excuse me," he began, and the woman turned around.

That had been the last moment of peace and quiet the two of them had had until Sam had utilized his frying pan.

"Hi! Oh, I'm so glad I'm not alone out here-wait, are you kidding me? What are you? No, wait, this must be something from the costume department, right? You're going to a convention. It's got to be Frodo; I really like your wig! And did you make the costume yourself? I'm studying clothing design in college and-"

At that point, Sam had followed Frodo, with Gollum tagging along behind. The woman's eyes traveled to the new arrivals and her smile widened. "A group costume! Sweet! I totally wish whatever had brought me here had allowed me a camera!"

The hobbits exchanged glances; didn't she ever stop for breath?

"I'm Sam, by the way-Samantha, I mean. So, do you know where we are, because as fun as it's been, I do have work tomorrow."

At the first opportunity, Samwise spoke up. "We're not entirely sure where we are, either, miss. Somewhere between Lothlorien and Mordor."

Upon hearing those words, the woman burst into laughter. "Your acting is awesome! I wish I could play a character so believably. And the line is great, but seriously, I need to get home sometime today."

"Talks too much," Gollum grumbled. "Master wants me to make her quiet?"

"No," Frodo said hastily. "No, Sméagol. She's just lost."

"Only orcses in this land," Gollum pointed out. "Orcses and dead things."

Samwise tried explaining again. "Um, you see, we're not wearing costumes. We're on a very secret quest, and we just wanted to see if you needed help."

This time, the woman seemed less sure of herself. "You don't sound like you're joking. You really do think you're your way to Mordor."

Frodo and Samwise had nodded. The woman-Samantha-took a good look around. "You haven't been to...Cirith Ungol yet?"

"No," Samwise said with a slow shake of his head. The merry look on Samantha's face had vanished completely.

"You sure? Haven't seen any...crawling things?" Now the color had vanished from her face, too.

Frodo traded a puzzled look with Sam. "No."

Then the full fury of hysteria broke loose. The words just began tumbling from Samantha's mouth, too fast and at too much of an increasingly high volume to be understood. Gollum winced and put his hands over his ears. "The orcses! They will hear!"

Frodo could only pick out words like 'never' and 'scared'. "Be quiet!" he tried to tell her, to no avail.

It was Samwise who had had the presence of mind to pull his frying pan from his pack and strike the woman enough of a blow to knock her out, all the time apologizing as he did so. The three of them listened for any signs that they had been spotted or overheard.

"Well, what do we do, Mr. Frodo?" Sam now asked rather plaintively.

Frodo sighed. "What we have to."