Hannah sighed and blew a few straggling black hairs out of her face. Hitching her purse a little higher on her shoulder, she trudged down the sidewalk toward the imposing building with a sign reading "Grenville Psychiatric Hospital" over the door.
I knew I was going to end up in the loony bin one day, she thought wryly to herself. I just never thought it'd happen before I turned twenty-five!
If it had been her choice, she wouldn't have been going here anyway. But she needed money, and flipping burgers wasn't cutting it. Life could be expensive for a grad student, as she had discovered. Her feet were beginning to hurt from walking all over town. Grenville wasn't that big a community, but when you had no money for gas and had to walk everywhere you went, it seemed a lot larger.
I still can't believe I'm doing this, she remonstrated with herself as she paused at the bottom of the concrete front steps and stared up at the big glass doors beneath the sign. Think of the money, the voice in her head reminded her, and she climbed the steps.
The money. That was why she was here. She had to remember about the money. After all, it was a pretty big amount. When it had caught her eye in the paper, she had done a double-take.
Wanted: the ad had read, fluent speaker of Tolkein's Sindarin as translator. Part-time and on-call. Please contact Dr. Ron Keller, Grenville Psychiatric Hospital, 555-8407. And then that magic number: a high salary.
Of course she had called. How often does fate dump that kind of an opportunity in your lap? She had a couple of twinges of misgiving as the phone rang: this sounded like some sort of a prank. But the man who answered was very business-like and set her mind immediately at rest.
"You see, Miss D'Angelo," Ron Keller had said, "we are required to provide information in every language that our clients speak. We recently acquired a new patient who does not appear to understand English and speaks only his own language, which none of us were able to place. Finally, one of our employees recognized it as Tolkein's Elvish—Sindarin, to be exact. So we have been forced to search for someone who can act as a translator for this patient. Were you interested in the position?"
When Hannah said Yes, she was, Dr. Keller had sounded jubilant. Not surprisingly, he said it had been difficult to find someone who spoke fluent Sindarin. He invited her to come for an interview, which she had done. She had been required to attend a few training sessions before she could work with the hospital's "clients", but the job had been hers for the asking. The job—and the great salary that went with it. Scarcity had worked in Hannah's favor and made her a hot commodity as an employee.
Now the idea of the money was all that was keeping her feet moving as she pushed open the glass doors and walked into the hospital. She didn't want to be here—the "clients" kind of frightened her sometimes. And she most certainly didn't want to be dredging up all her old knowledge of Elvish and Tolkein's works. She thought she had put that stuff behind her long ago. Nonetheless, the cash was calling, and she was heeding the call.
Hannah made her way down the corridors to Ron Keller's office, walking quickly by the patients she passed without meeting their eyes. The place looked to Hannah much like any normal hospital, except that the patients were even scarier than the ones she had met in the E.R. at ten o'clock at night. They made her exceedingly nervous. She felt a little guilty about this—after all, she knew it wasn't their fault they were sick—but that didn't stop her feeling wary of them and a little freaked out.
She felt safer once she had reached the sanctity of Dr. Keller's office. He greeted her cheerfully. "Well, I suppose you'd like to meet your client," he said, beckoning her to accompany him. They made their way down the halls toward the patients' quarters, Dr. Keller talking casually the entire time—pointing out different rooms and kindly greeting the patients.
"Mark?" he called, and a young man came over. He was wearing scrubs, which designated him as an employee rather than a patient. Of medium height and build, he had light brown hair and warm hazel eyes behind a pair of wire-rim glasses. "Miss D'Angelo, this is Mark Gideon, part of our ward staff. Mark, this is our new Elvish translator, Hannah D'Angelo."
They shook hands, Hannah tucking her short black hair behind one ear nervously with the other hand. "Miss D'Angelo," Mark said, smiling warmly.
"Pleased to meet you. You can call me Hannah," she replied.
"Mark is the one who first identified the language as Sindarin," Dr. Keller continued. "He's interning here, finishing his degree."
"Oh, are you at Grenville?" Hannah asked, scanning her mind to see if she recognized him from any of her classes.
"No; Mountaintop," he answered, identifying a college in the next town over. "I'm studying psychiatry."
"Dr. Keller?" someone called from nearby.
"Oh, would you excuse me?" Dr. Keller said, and hurried away.
"This way," Mark Gideon said, gesturing down the hall. "So are you at Grenville?" he asked as they made their way through the ward.
"What are you majoring in?"
"Philosophy," Hannah answered.
Mark smiled. "What are you going to do with a degree in that?"
"I have no idea," Hannah admitted.
Mark stopped before one of the doors and knocked on it gently. A voice emanated from within, heavily accented. "Yes?"
"He's trying to learn English," Mark explained quietly as he opened the door.
The patient's room reminded Hannah of the nursing home her grandmother lived in—small and scantily furnished, very impersonal. The patient was seated on the bed, but he rose courteously as they entered. His hair was shoulder-length and dark, and he was exceedingly tall. He had a dark beard, and looked to be in his late thirties or early forties. He was dressed in street clothes, like the other patients. But for his long hair, he would've looked perfectly normal.
"Good morning, Amondaur" Mark addressed him.
"Good morning, Mark," the man replied in his halting, accented English. He smiled warmly at the staff member, then looked quizzically at Hannah.
She took a deep breath and willed herself to be calm and professional. Stepping forward and extending her hand, she said, "Govaded vaer le, Amondaur. Eneth nîn Hannah. Im sí le anno dulu."
The man took a deep breath and stared at her in wonderment. His eyes misted over, and Hannah was afraid for a moment that he was going to cry. He smiled widely and caught her hand up in both of his. To her great surprise, instead of shaking it, he kissed her knuckles.
"Pedil i lam edhellen? Le hannon," he answered in a heart-breakingly sincere voice. "Le hannon o guren!"
Hannah glanced back at Mark. He looked impressed, and gestured for her to continue.
"Please! Take a chair!" Amondaur continued, gesturing to a couple of chairs by the bed. He waited until Hannah and Mark were seated before taking a seat himself on the edge of his bed.
"How is it you speak Elvish?" he asked Hannah.
"I studied it. But it has been several years since I spoke it, so please forgive me if I am slow!" Hannah answered. Indeed, she had been forced to go out and find a good scholarly Sindarin dictionary and bone up between classes for a few days. This useful tome was even now sitting in the bottom of her purse, just in case she got in out of her depth.
"No, no, I am only too pleased!" Amondaur protested joyfully.
"Ask him who he is and where he's from," Mark prompted her. Hannah repeated the question to Amondaur.
"My name is Amondaur, Aradun's son. I am a Dúnedain, a Ranger of the North," Amondaur declared calmly, bowing. "I come from Eriador."
Trying to hide her annoyance, Hannah repeated this answer to Mark.
"Well, that's not very helpful, is it?" Mark commented disappointedly.
"Did you really expect him to admit he was Phil Jones from Hoboken?" Hannah asked sarcastically.
Mark grinned. "No, I suppose not. But hope springs eternal, you know."
Hannah bit back a caustic reply and turned back to Amondaur. "How did you come to be here?" she asked him.
Dr. Keller had told her that Amondaur had been spotted on the road not far from a state park, dressed like a Ranger of the North and carrying medieval weapons—a bow, a hunting knife, and an impressively long broadsword. Someone had called the cops, who drove up to speak to this curious character. He seemed very wary of their car, and went for his weapons when they approached. He didn't speak English, but seemed to understand that the police meant him no harm. In the end, they tazed him when he wouldn't give up his weapons, disarmed him, and took him to the mental hospital. Upon regaining consciousness, he had seemed distressed and angry at the absence of his personal effects, and amazed by anything resembling modern technology. When he realized that his "captors" meant him no harm he had calmed down. But the lack of means of communication with him had proved difficult. Eventually, Mark had recognized a few words the patient spoke as Elvish, and the rest was history.
Amondaur sighed sorrowfully and rubbed his forehead. "I was out hunting a few weeks ago, in the forest. One moment everything was fine, and the next—the forest changed." He paused, trying to describe it. "The trees were different, and…" he shrugged, overwhelmed by the memory. "It was simple different. In an eye's blink!
"I began walking again, and eventually left the forest and reached some kind of road. There were strange engines being driven up and down it. One engine stopped very near me, and two men got out of it—they were in some kind of uniform. They approached me; I was wary of them. They did not seem to understand the Common Tongue—no one here does. They seemed to mean me no harm, but they were unhappy that I carried weapons, and apparently wanted to disarm me. Of course, this I could in no way allow. Then something—" He stopped, obviously unable to describe the experience of being tazed. Shaking his head, he continued. "There was a jolt of pain, and I blacked out. When I came to, I was here in this building."
Hannah's Elvish was rusty, and Amondaur was using vocabulary she had never heard before, so she had to ask him to repeat a few things and she took a few notes before she was able to understand all that he said. She translated it for Mark, who took notes to put into Amondaur's record.
"He speaks Elvish quite fluently," Hannah added, "and is using vocabulary that was unrecorded in any of Tolkein's writings. It's logical for the rules of the language, however." She paused, with an idea. "What year is it?" she asked Amondaur.
Looking bemused, he answered, "3015 of the Third Age."
"He says the year is TA 3015—that's two years before the War of the Ring."
"Hannah?" Amondaur said, drawing her attention back to him. "Can you tell me where I am?" His eyes pleaded with her. "What country is this? And what is this place I have been brought to? It seems some sort of charity house, and many of the people here appear to be… unwell," he said tactfully.
Hannah debated for a moment how to answer him. Finally she turned back to Mark and related Amondaur's question. "What should I tell him?" she asked.
"The truth," Mark answered immediately. "He is in the US, in a state institution. Assure him that he is quite safe here."
Hannah thought hard how to translate this. "This country is called America," she finally told Amondaur. "This building is part of a program run by the government. You are quite safe here." Mark hadn't said to tell the man that he was in a psychiatric hospital, so Hannah didn't make that clear. She wasn't sure how Amondaur would react to it. He was playing the part of a Ranger to the hilt (Hannah ignored the pun), and she felt a Ranger would probably be upset at being institutionalized. So she hedged around the issue. Her logical side told her it was a bad idea, but her compassionate side disagreed.
Amondaur nodded, sad but unsurprised. "It seems to be well-run," he offered after a minute, as if trying to change the subject to take his mind off of his homesickness and bewilderment. "And Mark—he is a good man. He has been a great comfort to me in his kindness."
Hannah reported these words tonelessly to Mark, who looked deeply gratified. "Le hannon," he said sincerely to Amondaur, who smiled back.
A few more questions and explanations passed as Mark took notes. Finally, Hannah glanced at her watch. "My time is up; I have a class to get to," she said, and stood. Mark and Amondaur followed suit.
"I must go, Amondaur," she told him. He looked devastated. "I will be back tomorrow," she assured him quickly. He looked mollified by this. She offered him her hand, and he took it in both of his again.
"Thank you very much for coming," he said earnestly. "It is a great relief to be able to speak with someone!"
Hannah felt a stab of pity for him. Deluded he might be, but it was a very lonely delusion.
"You were amazing," Mark told her as he escorted her down the halls to the front door. Hannah didn't know what to answer.
"So you're the one who realized he was speaking Sindarin?" Hannah asked after a moment, searching around for a topic of conversation to end the awkward silence.
"Yeah. I only know a few words, though, so I wasn't much use as an interpreter," Mark admitted regretfully.
Hannah almost smiled. He's probably picked up those words by reading fanfiction, she thought a little scornfully. But he apparently knows that the Common Tongue wasn't English, which bodes well; it means he read the books and the appendices, at least. Not an expert, but I could've had a bit of respect for him, I suppose.
But this remembrance of her past interest in the subject wiped the smile from her face, and Mark's next words didn't help in the least.
"I take it you're a fan as well!" he said, stating the obvious. "What did you think of the movies?"
"I haven't seen them," Hannah answered, trying to keep the annoyance out of her voice.
"You haven't?" Mark sounded very surprised.
"No," she said shortly.
"Ah. Are you a purist? Afraid they won't do the books justice?"
"No," Hannah answered in irritation, "I just don't really like fantasy anymore." When he looked about to ask more, she continued, "I was obsessed with Tolkein once, but it's been several years since I gave it up."
"Oh," he said a little uncomfortably, and surrendered to Hannah's sullen silence.
This continued until they reached the front doors.
"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow," he said, would-be cheerfully.
"Have a good day!"
"You too." She made her way down the steps as quickly as she could, and paced off in the direction of Grenville College.
Quotations in italics should be understood to have been spoken in Elvish.
Govaded vaer le: Pleasure meeting you.
Eneth nîn: My name is…
Im sí le anno dulu: I'm here to help you
Pedil i lam edhellen: You understand Elvish?
Le hannon: Thank you
Le hannon o guren: Thank you from my heart
Amondaur means "high hill". Aradun means the same.
The idea for this came from an article I read about how a mental hospital in Oregon needs somebody who speaks Klingon to translate for some of their patients. Big thanks to the Sindarin Phrasebook for the Elvish, and to the Council of Elrond for the names! Links to these and the Klingon article can be found on my bio page.