Disclaimer: I own nothing pertaining to The Lord of the Rings. All the Elves, Men, Hobbits and Dwarves belong to Tolkien. All the dogs and most of the horses belong to me. All mistakes are my own.
Second Disclaimer: I had just posted this story when I found another very similar. It was called 'Dog Days'. I changed the name of my dog to 'Ginger' instead of the original 'Sandy' so that there wouldn't be any mistakes. Apart from that, the plots take different directions, so it should be all right.
Author's Note (February 3rd, 2007): At this point, I've edited Chapters 1-7. My main intent was to correct the grammar and flow of the story, not its admittedly weird plotlines and plot devices. If I have the time I'll try to edit the last three chapters.
I hope you enjoy!
Ginger walked down the sidewalk, trying to decide whether it was more mortifying to wear a bright pink collar that scratched her throat, or to have a human who talked loudly and incessently about a man called "Leggy-Pooh".
For a German shepherd of high lineage, a pink collar and a demented human were similarly mortifying. Ginger's lineage was high indeed: her mother had worked alongside human police officers, and her father had spent his life selflessly assisting the blind. If they had seen their lovely little daughter walking down the road with such an idiot in tow, they would have promptly disowned her, and with good reason.
Ginger had a high code of honor. She could not let her human come to harm, nor could she shirk her duty, nor could she act as embarrassed as she felt.
Any other dog would have been cringing, tail between their legs, but not Ginger. Her fine plumed tail waved cheerfully in the breeze, her pink tongue protruded daintily from her mouth, and her dark eyes were bright with her love of life. It was a wonderful morning and she could almost forget the simpering girl that tagged behind her.
Ginger's human, Mary-Lou, wanted to 'get thin', and therein lay the problem. Her daily walks with Ginger were supposed to achieve this goal, but instead they involved going past the houses of every boy Mary-Lou knew. The girl would mince along, fluttering her eyelashes at all and sundry, frequently tripping over her high heels.
Perhaps Mary-Lou was pretty. A lot of boys seemed to think so. She had long blonde hair and green eyes (contacts), a beautiful singing voice (nobody was certain of this trait; they all escaped when she announced she was going to perform) and a tall and shapely form.
At least, Mary-Lou had been shapely until she discovered and devoured many bags of a tasty snack food. This had been the end of her shapeliness, so now daily walks were in order.
"Nice dog you got there," some boy said casually. Ginger pricked up her ears.
"Thanks," Mary-Lou said. She looked as though she would rather have compliments showered on her than on her pet.
"So, would you like to go out to that party with me?" He was still casual, his hands thrust deep into his pockets.
"Oh, Ken, I thought you'd never ask!" Mary-Lou said, almost squealing in delight.
"What strange names humans have," Ginger thought. "Give me a fellow called Rover anytime."
Ken trudged off, Ginger watching him with narrowed eyes. She wondered about Mary-Lou's taste in young men at times. Take 'Leggy-Pooh' for example. His parents had obviously been crazy to give him such a name. Ginger had seen pictures of him too, dressed in green, always looking clean and perfect.
The man that Ginger liked was rarely seen in Mary-Lou's house. His name, according to her owner, was 'just Strider'.
That was a good name... Not quite Rover, of course.
He looked like the sort of person who would throw sticks for a dog. He looked as though he would not care if he got dirty. He looked brave and handsome, for a human. At times, Ginger wished she could meet him.
Mary-Lou suddenly ceased to prattle, and started to stare at an open manhole with an expression of delight plastered on her pretty face. "Look, Ginger!" she cried. "A portal to Middle-Earth!"
"It looks like an open manhole to me," Ginger thought.
Unfortunately for the dog, Mary-Lou's list of accomplishments did not include telepathy. She tottered towards the hole.
"It's suicide!" Ginger thought, leaping to the only logical conclusion. She knew her training. She couldn't let her crazy human kill herself like this. It would bring great dishonor upon her and all her kind.
The brave hound jumped between Mary-Lou and the manhole, teeth bared. "Don't do it!" she thought.
"Stupid dog," Mary-Lou said. "Get out of my way! I'm going to see Leggy-Pooh!"
Ginger growled. "I'll bite you, you silly girl," she thought.
Mary-Lou burst into tears. "I have to get to Middle-Earth. This is my only chance," she said, unwilling to risk a bite, yet willing to fling herself into a manhole if she could. "Let me go, Ginger. Get out of the way."
Ginger growled in reply.
Mary-Lou kept on making little feints towards the hole. Suddenly she rushed her dog.
"I have to see Leggy-Pooh!" she yelled. "I have to marry him!"
Startled, Ginger took a step back, lost her precarious footing, and tumbled into the manhole with a yelp of surprise.
Ginger was not a cat, but she knew how to land on her feet. The dog twisted in mid-air, plunging through the darkness. She seemed to be falling farther than she thought reasonable. Could a manhole really be this deep?
"Not that I would know," Ginger thought. "I've never fallen down one before."
Then she landed, not on hard cement, as she had expected, but instead on a soft patch of grass. Momentarily winded, the dog struggled for breath, whimpering.
As soon as she could breathe again, Ginger tried to stand, only to fall down once more. Her paw hurt. She began to lick it gently as she lay curled on the moss. As she did so, she realized she was no longer wearing a collar. That much was good. Very good.
After some time had passed, she heard the sound of footsteps, and later, the sound of people speaking. Dogs are naturally endowed with the ability to understand at least the essence of a tongue. She knew what the speakers meant, if not what they were actually saying.
"The Halflings are becoming tired," came a voice, deep and rough in a kindly manly way.
"We cannot halt. They are not far behind." The second voice was soft but forceful. The way the speaker said 'they' made a shiver run down Ginger's spine to the very tip of her tail.
After a few moments of silence the first voice spoke again. "There's something in the bushes."
"I do not think it means us harm, Dúnadan," the second voice said. "It is only some small animal."
Small? That was insulting. Ginger drew herself up as best she could. She would show the second voice she wasn't small!
Filled with indignation, Ginger limped bravely out towards the speakers.
There were more than two people walking that road, though only two had been speaking. Ginger saw a white horse with a child on his back, and three people following. ("They're small," thought Ginger.) A tired brown pony ended the procession.
Ginger glanced, and then stared, at the man walking beside the white horse. "It's Strider!" she thought in delight, her heart leaping. "...Though the second voice called him 'Dúnadan'..."
She turned her attention to the owner of the second voice, a fair being beside Strider. The way he walked was distinctly feline; his bright eyes and aloof air reminded Ginger of her nemesis, a cat named Whiskers.
Ginger's fur began to stand on end. She had never liked cats very much.
"What a beautiful hound," Dúnadan said.
The second voice glanced at Ginger. "A tame one, I see."
"I think she's hurt," Dúnadan said.
"We cannot linger," the cat person said. "We must move on." He shifted his weight lightly, shooting a look at the three small people that followed him. Ginger watched him. This person knew they were in danger, and, for some grudging reason, she believed him.
"You've been driving the Halflings for almost two days," Ginger's new hero said.
"Dúnadan, you must listen to me." The second voice was strained. After glancing anxiously this way and that, he dropped down beside the dog, running a cursory eye along her. "Her paw has been injured. It's nothing serious," he said.
"Not serious?" Ginger thought, baring her teeth at the graceful being.
"If you wish to take this dog to Imladris with you, she will have to be able to walk," he said. He picked up her paw and rubbed it briskly with his other hand.
The pain receded instantly. Ginger stared at him in shock. What had he done? She tested the injured paw warily, and discovered that she was quite all right, which was a pleasant surprise.
His good deed accomplished, the second voice stood again and stroked the white horse's nose.
"Come on, hobbits," Strider said. "We're almost there."
Ginger had never heard of hobbits, but they sounded strange. She bounded along at Strider's feet, pouncing playfully at the second voice's feet now and then.
"What a strange procession we are," the horse thought.
Ginger pricked back her ears. "Who is the cat person?"
"Glorfindel? He is an Elf. Does he make you think of a cat?" The very slightest hint of a laugh trickled through the horse's thoughts. "I am called Asfaloth. Who are you?"
"Ginger," the dog replied. "Who's the pony?"
"Bill." This time the laugh was a more definite thing. The white horse tossed his head. "He's a good pony. A faithful creature."
After they had walked for a few more minutes, Asfaloth stiffened. Beside him, Ginger felt a sudden tension in the air, coupled with the feeling that something very bad was about to happen.
Glorfindel halted, a look of alarm flitting across his face. Before Ginger was quite sure she had seen aright, the Elf cried, "Fly! The enemy is here!"
Asfaloth had leapt into a gallop before he was done speaking. The hobbits were terrified, but they ran down the sloping path faster than Ginger would have guessed.
Then she felt IT -- a dark shadow on her mind, pressing inward until her mind bent beneath ITS power. IT was terror and dread and loathing, and the most primitive instinct in her told her run with the others or bolt back into the bushes. She became aware of a strangled whimper issuing from her throat. Her tail tucked behind her legs. She cringed as no dog of her line had ever cringed before.
Then They came, riding on black steeds, as dark as Their blackest thoughts. Asfaloth halted, and Their horses halted as well.
Ginger watched, transfixed with horror.
Glorfindel and Strider ran behind the hobbits as a rearguard, Glorfindel commanding his horse to go on. Ginger realized that Asfaloth had not frozen in fear, but his rider appeared to be considering something.
Glorfindel cried out one last time, his command undeniable. "Ride hard, Asfaloth!"
Asfaloth ran again.
The hobbits cowered back against the trees as They went bursting through, chasing the brave white horse that carried what they desired. Ginger felt bold enough to offer Them one angry yip.
"Fire," Glorfindel said, gasping for breath. "They fear it."
"What about Frodo?" Strider asked. The two ran down the path quickly, the hobbits, pony, and dog sprinting behind them.
"Lord Elrond will flood the river," Glorfindel said. "We must have fire."
Strider pulled out flint and steel and knocked the two things together, holding a rotten tree limb between his knees. Glorfindel yanked the tools out of his hands.
"No time to lose," the Elf said. He struck the flint against the steel, setting the tree limb alight and touching his own torch to it. "Come on. If Asfaloth cannot save the Halfling, nothing will."
Glorfindel took a deep breath and drew his sword. Strider did the same. Then the two warriors, and Ginger, who dashed along behind, hurried down the slope.
They were standing by the river, Their horses rearing in panic as water rushed around them. Ginger was glad to see that They feared something. Already one horse was rolling over and over in the water, its rider screaming in a horrible voice. The black cloak emptied as the water dragged it down and the screeching stopped.
The Elf had begun to glow. He whirled into the midst of the nine riders, his bright torch seeming to fill them with terror again. Strider fought alongside the Elf, and They feared him as well.
Ginger looked for Asfaloth and saw him standing like a white statue on the far shore. Even as she watched, the thin bundle on his back slipped off and fell into the water below.
To Be Continued...