Hah! I finished! Woot! Now all I have is one other WiP still up, and way too many lurking in my hard drive. But this one is done!
Any, uh, last words from my readers would be so very much appreciated... I do take anonymous reviews! Do be aware that I started this story when I was much younger, so the writing may contrast a bit between the original and this very last chapter. So yes, please, I would love reviews. Any thoughts, all thoughts, are appreciated. Thank you to all who have read, and to those that have, and will, review.
"I think he's waking up!"
"Yea, Legolas is too."
"Aragorn, are you awake?"
Aragorn blinked twice before responding. "Yes, I am awake. Are we still-"
"Yes, we're still in the tower of the pink castle, though you missed most of the action," Mandy cut in.
"We were not lacking in this 'action', as you call it," Legolas replied dryly as he picked himself off the floor. He quickly noticed that Mandy was the only one standing; the others were all on top of Lena, keeping her down on the ground. Aragorn also noticed her, and the both of them stared at the woman evenly; she was unable to hold their gaze for long.
"When we left, the orcs were gone and we were unharmed; have you then stopped these strange happenings?" Legolas asked, directing his attention back to Mandy.
"Yes," she said. "Everything is basically back to normal, and when I get you back home, the story will be as it should be."
"Good," Aragorn said, glancing once more at Lena with an unreadable expression. "Do you know her motivations behind this?" he asked Mandy quietly.
"Oh, trust me, you really don't want to know," the woman replied, rolling her eyes. "Let's just say she's been in la-la land for too long."
Aragorn raised an eyebrow at the comment and glanced at Legolas, who simply shrugged and smiled.
"Hey, guys," Abs shouted from the floor. "Think we can get a move-on? This is rather uncomfortable."
"First we need to decide what we are going to do with my deranged coworker," Mandy said, raising an eyebrow at Lena, who was content to be silent at the moment.
"Why do you not put her in prison, at least for a while? She is dangerous," Aragorn suggested.
"I don't exactly have that type of power, Your Highness," Mandy said with a sardonic grin. "Besides, you can't exactly make a case for her, considering this whole place is some virtual reality that does not exist to most people. I'm not sure if killing off you two would work, either, though we may be able to get her on copyright infringement and hacking... besides," she added thoughtfully, "she is not dangerous, just a sad, strange little woman who got bored with happy endings and has way too much time on her hands." She glanced at Lena with a frown. "I remembered you used to like happy endings, Lena. You shouldn't have strayed from that path."
Lena looked like she was about to add in a word of rebuttal, but stopped when Aragorn and Legolas looked coolly upon her. She instead tried to push the girls off of her, but was once again unsuccessful.
"Here," Legolas said, "let Aragorn and I handle her. You children have done enough." The girls gladly got off of the floor, and before Lena could do anything, the two men had a firm grip on either arm. They pulled her off of the ground with little effort.
Mandy paced around the room a couple of times, a frown on her features, before speaking again. "Ok, I know what I'll do. It won't be much, but it will be enough so that she won't mess around in the LOTR fandom ever again. Let's get out of here." She went back to the Main Controls of the alternate reality, and beckoned the rest of the group over. "I'll type in the coordinates that will back to our own computer on Earth, and then take care of things from there. You have a good hold on Lena?" The two nodded, and she turned back to the computer and typed in a string of code. "Alright, hold on. We'll start fading in a moment."
Soon enough, the group did, and within minutes they were back on Earth, conscious and well. Mandy was already pulling out a cell phone and dialing a number on it.
"Hello... it's Mandy. Yes, I am sorry about the time, I know it's early and a Saturday... yes, I am calling about something important... yes. Mmhmm... wait, don't hang up! It's about fan fiction! ... yes, I fixed it. Yes. And I found the one who caused all the trouble... yes. Yes, it's someone you know, someone who works here, actually... yes. No, I'm not, I need you to come down here... yes ma'am, I have a couple files to give, and you should see her for yourself... alright. Yes, she and I will be here, don't you worry about it... Alright, I'll see you then. Ok, bye." She hung up, rolling her eyes. "Heads aren't too happy with you, Lena," she said to the other woman. "They don't like it when people mess with their reading addiction, as admirable as the attempt was."
"Oh, shut up, you bi-" Lena began.
"Silence," Aragorn said firmly, cutting her off. He was still rather offended by the whole affair and did not want to listen to her.
"Eh, I've been called worse," Mandy smirked. "C'mon, you two are going to help me bring her up onto the lobby floor and watch her until the Heads arrived."
Within the half hour both of the Heads were at the building, in a small office room that held them, Mandy, and Lena. Aragorn and Legolas had immediately left through a second door to go back down to the basement after the Heads had arrived, though Lena desperately tried to explain that they were downstairs. Neither woman was impressed.
"Right," said the woman that Mandy thought of as 'Head One'. "Just like you were going home all those times and writing, eh? I haven't seen any writing from you; you were just going into that other reality and using that computer to mess with our fan fiction! How could you do such a thing?"
"You abused our trust," said the other woman, or 'Head Two'. "Here we gave you plenty of time off to do writing, and you instead went about blocking the writings of others. This is a free country, you know, and that clearly goes against the whole free speech... thing."
"Yea," Head One said with a nod as Mandy thought about banging her head against a wall. "Against the First Amendment. Against the freaking Constitution and what this country was founded on!"
"You're fired," Head Two ended with a frown. "And no recommendations, either."
"Don't you try going to other companies that have access to alternate realities, either," Head One put in. "We'll be sure to warn them all about you. You are no good."
"But Aragorn and Legolas-"
"Give us your keys now!" Head One said. "Stop babbling such nonsense, and once you've done that, get out of here! I never want to see you again."
Lena stopped, and after glaring at the three other women in the room, slammed her set of keys on the table and stormed out of the room. They watched as she went through the front door and out of their lives forever.
"Thanks for all your hard work, Mandy," Head Two said with a smile.
"Yes, definitely. Big bonus for this month," Head One nodded.
"Thank you," Mandy said. "I do hope you follow up on alerting all other companies that do have Controls such as ours; if they are not, she may do what she did again, and I may not be able to track her down the next time."
"Of course we will," said Head Two. "We'll do it today, emails and phone calls and all. She can't have that type of power again... it was a terrible time without fan fiction, I'll tell you."
"I'm sure," Mandy said, trying to appear as sympathetic as possible. "Here is the folder with all the information on the abandoned universe she was using."
Head One took it and glanced through its files. "Harry Potter, eh? Figures."
"We'll send it to the Higher Ups, who will destroy the universe," Head Two said with a smile. "We'll also send them information on Lena, and they should get out the information to contacts outside of our own listings."
"Excellent," Mandy said. "If you'll excuse me, I have a few things that I need to take care of downstairs to wrap this whole thing up."
"Of course, Mandy, do whatever you need," Head One nodded. "We'll be in our offices if you need us."
"You are too kind," Mandy said with a sweet smile. She bid them good bye and shut the door behind her. Once she was facing the other way she rolled her eyes. 'I have more brains than both of them combined.'
"Thanks for waiting," she said to the group that was still in the small room that held the Main Controls and the computer.
"Oh, no problem," Summer said with a grin. "We were showing Aragorn and Legolas some of their merchandise on the internet on this huge computer."
"That 'bobble head doll' was... interesting," was the only thing Aragorn could say. Legolas looked a little lost for words.
"Well, that's enough now," Mandy said, smirking. "C'mon girls, outside. Say your goodbyes and then wait for me; it's too crowded in here for me to get them home safely. I don't want to transport any of you by accident."
"Oh, but I want to go to Middle-earth!" Becky said with a gleam in her eye. "It would be so much fun!"
"No," the woman replied, rolling her eyes. "No, it wouldn't. C'mon, say goodbye, and then get out of here. Wait for me outside."
One by one the girls said their farewells. There was much hugging and pouting, but at Mandy's insistence the goodbyes were short and soon enough, all of the young girls were out of the room.
"Well, this is it," Mandy said with a small smile. "I won't lie to you two, but I'll miss you. If there were men like you two here on Earth, I may be married. But... yea. We lack in the whole noble, dashing, amazing males category here."
"Such pessimism from one so young," Aragorn said with a frown. "Will you be alright, Mandy? You were not well when we were unexpectedly taken back to Middle-earth, and I worry that this dread still lingers."
"Oh, the dementers," Mandy started, surprising the two of them by laughing. "Brittany knocked some sense into me about those irrational fears. Don't be afraid of things that aren't real, right? As for my so-called pessimism, well, don't worry. I'm a cynic. It works well enough. In the end, all I need is some more coffee to help lift my spirits." She grinned.
Legolas smiled at the expression. "I will believe you, for you seem to me a strong woman- though I am not sure if Aragorn should be the one to speak about youth," he added with a laugh.
Aragorn frowned. "I am in my prime for one of my kind, and if I were as other mortal men I would be near death. I do know a thing or two about youth. Besides, you are young for an elf."
"But have seen many more seasons than you," Legolas said, still laughing lightly.
"Alright, alright, enough you two. I have to get you home." She turned and typed in a long string of code into the Main Controls. "Pulling you out of canon into this world was definitely not intended by Lena, but I am pretty sure I can get you back in... after all, I have done it before, though that time you were merely dreaming. I have no idea what this will end up like, though it should not hurt. I do apologize if you are an hour or two behind or ahead of where you left off, but that's, unfortunately, unavoidable. Just do what you would do in any normal situation if it ends up like that."
She ended the last bit of code, but paused on the 'Enter' key. "I will miss you two, really," Mandy said quietly. "I like life going its normal course, but these days were... unforgettable. And I doubt I'll ever see you two again."
"Perhaps fate will not be unkind," the elf said, embracing the young woman. "Fare well, Mandy."
Aragorn took her gently by the shoulders and kissed her on the brow. "Fare well. Do not lose hope in life."
"I should be telling that to you," the woman replied, startled by the gesture. "Such courtliness. I'll miss that," she said with a grin. "Now, before I go and change my mind, I'm sending you two home." With that, she pressed the 'Enter' key and took a few steps back.
"We will never forget you, or the children," Legolas said.
"I doubt you could; I'm sure they all left quite an impression," Mandy smiled. "Good luck on your Quest, and don't forget your words, Aragorn, about hope and all. Remember your namesake!"
"Aye, Estel, remember that," Legolas said with a smile at Aragorn's expression.
Aragorn merely shook his head, and noticed that he was fading. "We certainly shall not forget any of you, nor will I forget your words! Thank you for your aid, Mandy."
"Don't even mention it." With one last wave, the two were gone.
Mandy sighed, shut off the Controls and computer, and turned the lights off before exiting the room. There the girls waited, looking rather impatient.
"Took you long enough," Brittany said.
"There were some things that needed to be said," Mandy explained vaguely.
"So they are really gone?" Alex asked, sniffling. Mari looked like she was about to explode with a cascade of tears.
"Yes," Mandy said, "and for the better. They have their own world to save, and to build, and we have our own lives to get back to."
"But school is so boring," Summer frowned. "I'd rather go saving those two any day than be in school."
"I'm sure you would," Mandy said, rolling her eyes. "C'mon girls, I'm not sure how you got here, but call whatever ride that took you here to help me cart you girls back to my apartment; I can't fit you all in my car."
"There we can finish watching the EE's!" Brittany said with a grin. All the girls immediately perked up at the thought, and as Summer whipped out her cell phone to call her older sister for a ride, the rest of the group headed to the elevator and out of the building to go back to the real world and their normal lives.
Aragorn woke to the sun shining in his eyes. He heard quiet chatter to his right, and opening his eyes, he found that Merry, Sam, and Pippin were quietly talking to one another. He sat up, and after a quick glance at his surroundings, saw that he was at Parth Galen.
"Strider! Good to see you up once more," Pippin said with a smile.
"Though you really didn't sleep long, sir," Sam said. "Begging your pardon, but I thought that you looked rather exhausted and would take a longer doze."
"How long was I asleep?" Aragorn asked, amazed that he was back on the western shore of the river.
"Well, you fell asleep right after Frodo left, so not longer than forty minutes," Merry put in. "And Legolas, you're awake too."
Aragorn glanced to his left, and saw that Legolas was straightening himself. Gimli was a bit further, sharpening his axe and keeping an eye out on the eastern shore.
"We thought you were just resting at first," Pippin began, "but I asked you something, and when you didn't respond, we knew you were asleep, even though your eyes were open. Then Gimli said something about elves sleeping with their eyes open- I never knew that! You were always asleep after me and up before me, so I never saw that."
"Pippin, you're rambling," Merry said, rolling his eyes. "Legolas probably doesn't want to hear your rambles."
"On the contrary, my friends," Legolas said with a smile, "such ramblings are music to my ears."
Pippin grinned at Merry, and then turned back to Legolas. "Do all elves sleep with their eyes open? How do you do it? Does it hurt your eyes at all?"
As Legolas laughed and began to answer Pippin's many questions, Aragorn turned to Sam. "Merry said that Frodo has been gone for forty minutes; has it truly been that long?"
"Aye, sir," Sam nodded. "He left, and then you fell asleep without a word. Mr. Legolas, too. We didn't mind; you have been looking like you need it, begging your pardon."
"I am not at all offended, Sam," Aragorn said with a smile, but his mind was running furiously. Originally the orcs had attacked the camp a mere five minutes after Frodo had left; Aragorn remembered that he had sent the rest of the hobbits off before the brunt of the attack had come. And now they were not there at all; had they been delayed, or were they not meant to come? Mandy did say that history had been altered, but by how much? He was not sure.
Once Legolas was done answering Pippin's questions, Aragorn called him aside. Once they were away from the main group, he lowered his voice so none other than the elf would hear. "Do you remember your dreams, Legolas?"
Legolas nodded, eyeing Aragorn uncertainly. "I do, and they were both delightful and horrific."
"I dreamed the same," the other confirmed. "Laughter with children, and terrible orcs, and... different worlds."
"Then my dream of Mandy was yours, as well?" Legolas asked. Aragorn nodded, and the elf looked a little relieved. "I was worried for a moment that my dreams were more vivid than ever before; I would be concerned if I could not separate reality from visions anymore."
"I understand," the man smiled. "But it seems that we are experiencing what Mandy said was supposed to happen with our tale. No orcs have attacked our camp, and I do not think they do. I cannot be sure of anything else, for I fear that there is something lurking on the western shore."
"As do I," the elf replied. "We do not know the future, and that is how it should be. We must trust our instincts and follow them. We must keep our hope."
"With your hope, I hope," Aragorn smiled. "But I still do not know if I shall follow Boromir to Gondor, or Frodo to Mordor. Mandy was careful to not reveal anything."
"You will choose the right path," Legolas said with so much confidence that Aragorn turned to him, startled. "I am sure that you will. After all, the world that we were originally in ended with our deaths, and Mandy was insistent on that being wrong. Could it be, then, that our story- this story- ends well?"
"One would hope," Aragorn said. "But I doubt that the road will be easy."
"The road to peace never is."
"Wise words, Master Elf." Aragorn sighed. "Well, we cannot think anymore on this. The future will play as it will play out. Let us join the others; perhaps with them we will be able to make the right choice."
The man and elf joined the rest of the Company, and the rest of the story continued to play its course as it was meant to be.