One month passed following the destruction of the Ring.
The Pevensies spent their time with their friends, helping to clean up after the war. They aided in clearing the streets of Minas Tirith of rubble, tracking down parties of Orcs that had fled in the wake of Mordor's destruction, and in general aided in whatever way that they could. Most importantly, though, they spent some much needed time relaxing with their friends.
But one day, the four decided to go for a ride on their own to Northern Ithilien.
"Perhaps I should accompany you," Faramir said uneasily.
"It's just a ride along the edge of the woods!" Lucy chirped. "We won't go in. Besides, we'll be on horses. If any Orcs show up, we'll be able to run if we have to." But she knew that there would be no running, because her brothers and sister would be armed to the teeth and ready to fight.
"All the same-"
"Don't you have a date with Éowyn?"
Faramir went bright red. "Well, I'd hardly call it- I mean- We aren't-"
Lucy just grinned. "Mm-hmm."
"All the same, you should have someone go with you."
"My brothers have swords, and my sister has a bow and arrow. I have this." She unsheathed her dagger with a smile. "We'll hardly be defenseless, Faramir. I think we'll be just fine."
Ithilien was far more beautiful when not involved in a life-or-death quest. Or with a psychotic, wobbling creature like Gollum for a guide. And on horseback, Lucy was able to quickly bring her siblings to a place that had clung to her memory with surprising tenacity.
Everything was brighter since Mordor's demise, but this particular area near the edge of the mountain was still pretty dismal in comparison to much of anything else. "Where are we going, Lu?" Susan called as her sister raced ahead. The chocolate mare she was riding had taken to her quickly, and seemed to be eager for a run.
"We're almost there!"
"She asked where, not how long!" Edmund called.
"Not far, then!"
The area was covered sparsely in trees, but they grew denser as the children went on. "Didn't Faramir have reservations about us going into the forest?" Peter asked, not so much because he was concerned for Orcs, but rather he didn't want Faramir (or anyone else) upset with them when they got back.
"We're not going that far in! Besides, it's the only thing really worth seeing for a few miles here!" And when the trees began to look familiar and get closer together, Lucy knew that they'd found the place. It was surprising how the foliage stood out so vividly in her memory, how she knew it so well after seeing so much of it.
Would she be re-living the events of this quest in her dreams, as she'd re-lived her memories of home on the journey? Lucy didn't think that she would mind that, so long as pesky and troublesome memories of Gollum and Shelob stayed buried at the back of her mind where they belonged. Her memories of most anything else would be quite welcome to revisit her.
Lucy signaled for the horse to stop, with a bit more caution than her now very horse-savvy siblings. The mare was fully-grown, and Lucy had to move slowly while dismounting lest she fall. Once she'd hopped off, her siblings just now coming to a stop nearby, she turned to them.
"This way! It's right back here!" Peter exchanged a look with both Susan and Edmund and shrugged.
They followed Lucy back into the trees, which seemed to be slowly clawing its way back to life. The bark looked healthier, and on the trees and scraggly bushes it seemed that maybe, just maybe, the very beginnings of new buds were starting to show. The three oldest Pevensies were not as sensitive to the change as the youngest, who knew the area all too well now.
"Here! Right here!" Lucy had led them to what, at first glance, appeared to be a large and curiously misshapen rock. But upon closer inspection, they saw that it was, in fact, the disembodied head of a statue not unlike the ones that they had seen on the river after leaving Lothloríen all those months ago.
The grass and flower stems sprouted from the statue's head like hair, and beautiful white flowers twitched slightly in the breeze. By sheer luck, Lucy had brought them to this spot at about the same time of day that she'd seen it the first time, and while the sun coming through the trees was lovely, it didn't look quite as magical as it had that first time. But close.
"That's the king with his crown," Lucy pointed to it, and Susan stepped forward to brush her fingers against the delicate little flowers. "We found him when we were heading to Mordor, and they were the only real flowers anywhere around and the light hit them just, just…" She trailed off.
Peter cocked his head. "What is it, Lucy?"
Lucy raised a finger, motioning for silence and for them to listen.
"Hm?" Edmund's eyes narrowed, and he looked around.
Susan glanced around. "Do you hear that?"
It was a deep, echoing sound, like footsteps on a hard, wooden floor.
They all fell silent.
Lucy turned and ran for a tight cluster of nearby trees, delighted when she heard the thumps get louder. "It's coming from in here!" She called. Her siblings were momentarily caught off guard, but then ran after her. She didn't need to be disappearing on them again.
"Lu, Lucy- Oh, not again-"
Peter followed right after Lucy, followed by Edmund and then Susan. The trees started to press very tightly around them, and the children started to feel very claustrophobic as they inched along in a single-file line. However, they eventually caught up to one another, and soon enough, they were squabbling about the space.
"You're on my foot!"
A branch smacked into Peter's face, and he waved his hands at it to push it away. His fingers brushed against something smooth and soft to the touch. "Wha-pfft- These- These aren't trees!"
Susan hesitated, squinting at what her brother had ran into. The shape, the texture, the material; she spoke before she even processed what the words really meant.
An explosion of light.
The warmth of a closed-off room in summer.
A wooden floor.
The Pevensies fell out of the old apple-wood wardrobe much in the same way they had fallen out into the Shire that first time so many months ago. First Peter, then Lucy, then Edmund, then Susan.
For the first moment, they thought they'd actually stumbled into a house. It wouldn't be the strangest thing hidden in a grove of trees that they'd found thus far.
In the second moment, they began to recognize the room, the floor, the door across the way and the window to their right.
And in the third moment, they looked down and- to their utter shock- found themselves wearing the same clothing that they had been wearing the day they'd entered the wardrobe and entered the Shire: Not so much as a hole in any of them.
None of the siblings spoke, though they all exchanged astonished, bewildered expressions, and tried to summon the right words, tried to organize their thoughts so that they could ask the ultimate question:
What just happened here?
But just then, the thumping noise that they'd almost completely forgotten about stopped. The door to the spare room swung open, and who was standing there but Professor Kirke, hands folded behind his back.
They were back.
They were really back.
"Oh!" He exclaimed. "There you all are!" He held his hands behind his back as he approached them, a tiny, knowing smile on his face. "Now, what were you doing in that wardrobe…?"
He had to know.
Nonetheless, the children felt the need to explain. But how, exactly, were they supposed to explain this? All four of them stared at the professor, then at each other, and then back to him again.
"You… Wouldn't believe us if we told you, sir." Peter murmured, the corners of his lips turning up slightly as he did.
The old man removed one hand from behind his back, revealing a cricket ball. Not just any cricket ball, actually: It was the same one that Edmund had knocked through the window and into the suit of armor. It was the same device that had led to their journey into the wardrobe and Middle Earth an eternity ago.
He tossed it to them, and Peter caught it in one hand. They all stared at it dumbly for a moment, and then looked back up at the adult.
Professor Kirke smiled.
As you can imagine, when the horses succeeded and the Pevensies failed to return by nightfall, the Fellowship and other friends were slightly worried.
"Maybe they got eaten by Orcs!"
"Maybe they ran into that giant spider Sam mentioned!"
"Merry and Pippin, you are not helping."
"We need to set out and look for them right now."
"I'll get torches."
"Should we all go?"
"Some of us should stay here and see if they come back."
"With every moment we delay it get's darker. Come along now, lads!"
"Quiet." Gandalf's voice cut through all others, and everyone came to a complete halt.
Boromir had been a moment away from removing torches from the wall of that very room. Aragorn had his hand on the handle of the door opposite of the one Gandalf was standing in, on the other side of the room. The other hand was on his sword. Frodo was glaring at Merry and Pippin. Sam looked intensely worried. Gimli had an axe raised, and Legolas had been fingering his bow.
The wizard gave them all a small, sad smile.
"You needn't look for them. They are gone."
"Gone?" Sam cried. Gandalf waved a hand.
"Not dead, Samwise Gamgee- Gone. Back to their own world." After a moment of stillness whilst they processed this, everyone's bodies went slack with relief. This, presumably, meant that the Pevensies were safe. If they weren't, Gandalf would not look so calm.
"Hey!" Pippin's eyes narrowed. "They went home without so much as a 'by-your-leave'? Some friends!"
"Hush now!" Sam snapped. "They are our friends. I'm sure it just- Just- took them by surprise. Right Gandalf?" The blonde hobbit looked pleadingly at Gandalf to back up his guesswork. To his relief, Gandalf nodded.
"I daresay they didn't quite plan on coming here in the first place: I don't imagine they were expecting to be pulled back home either."
"But I thought the… Wardrobe that brought them here," Boromir blinked at the strange notion, "Was in the Shire. How were they to get back from here?"
"Magic." Gandalf said simply.
Now that the panic and the disbelief died down, everyone was sadly quiet.
"So… They're not coming back?" Merry inquired softly. The concept seemed quite tragic to him. Gandalf's sighed.
"I do not know. It is possible, I suppose. They may yet find a way back. But for now… Now they are gone."
That night, the door to the spare room opened.
And Lucy had to know.
Their friends would worry, after all, if they weren't already.
Lucy didn't have a candle this time, the darkness of the old manor being nothing in comparison to some of what she'd seen over the past few months in Middle Earth. Certainly nothing in comparison to the spider's lair.
However unafraid of the dark she was, Mrs. Macready was another matter entirely, and so Lucy tread as quietly as she could, even once she'd gotten into the spare room and shut the door behind her. She crept towards the wardrobe, eyes fastened firmly on the door. When she reached it, she grabbed the handle and twisted it, silently pulling the door open. She poked her head inside.
"I don't think you'll get back in that way."
Lucy jumped, pulled her head back into the room and whipped around.
Professor Kirke was seated on the thin windowsill of the window to the right of the tiny staircase that led from the doorway up into the room. Lucy had been so focused on the wardrobe that she hadn't even noticed him. He had a pipe, and was chewing on the end of it. Lucy was reminded painfully of Gandalf.
Professor Kirke rose from the sill and approached her with a sigh. "You see, I've already tried." He stood beside her at the wardrobe's entrance and peered inside, as though faintly hoping that he might see the light of the moon or a few fireflies glowing in the night at the other side.
Lucy looked up at him sadly. "Will we ever get back?" She whispered, not wanting to even consider the possibility that they would never see their friends again. But the Professor nodded slowly.
"Oh, I expect so." He shut the door with a creak. "But it'll probably happen when you're not looking for it." He smiled, as did Lucy. Yes, that did seem to be the way that this kind of magic worked.
Professor Kirke held out his hand, and Lucy took it. They started to leave, but then the professor stopped and looked down at her for a moment. "All the same… Best to keep your eyes open." Lucy grinned and nodded enthusiastically.
Together, they left the spare room and the wardrobe behind, uncovered. They shut the door behind them, and the room was left in silence once more.
But then, ever so slightly, the door to the wardrobe creaked open again, as though blown by a gentle wind.
And from the depths of the wardrobe, a tiny, white-winged moth fluttered out and settled on the floor.
I really can't describe how this feels.
This is five and a half years of sweat, blood and tears, and re-watching the twelve to fifteen hours of the trilogy.
Piece. By. Ever. Loving. Piece.
I love Lord of the Rings (OBVIOUSLY) but pausing every scene to make sure the lines were right was enough to drive me to the point of insanity.
Obviously I didn't have that issue with Narnia (And even if I did, the three movies now would only be about nine hours).
It all spawned- All of this- from a picture in my head of Frodo and Lucy sitting in the orchard and talking.
You may recall me saying many, many moons ago that this started off as a vague, fun little idea I had, based entirely on the notion of crossing over the two worlds with the usual theme of 'What if?' That is what motivates me to write fanfiction: I love exploring the 'What if'. What if the Wardrobe had led to Narnia? What if Lucy met Frodo? And what if the Pevensies got sucked into the war in Middle Earth?
As well as loverly reviews from YOUS ALL…
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: THANK YOU REVIEWERS AND ALL THE ALMIGHTY KICKS IN THE BUTT YOU GAVE ME TO KEEP THIS STORY UP.
THANK YOU. :D
Oh, and by the way…
Remember that poll from an eternity ago, about me wondering if any of you wanted a sequel?
Well, the majority said "HELL YES", and that makes me happy.
I have a confession to make: Many times, when the chapters were late, it wasn't because I wasn't working my butt off on HRF- It was because I was forming the layout for the sequel, and typing up some of the chapters ahead of time so that I'd have a solid base to work off of when HRF was finished. There may also be a side-story (or a few) in store, describing the adventures that the Pevensies undertook in their remaining time in Middle Earth.
Now, I can't guarantee that the sequel or those side-stories will be up soon (Not even close): You've already experienced my tendency to get caught up in other fandoms, an obvious issue when dealing with a movie that isn't consistently giving me new material to work with. But with the sequel, let's just say I won't have to be watching the entire LOTR trilogy again, so it shouldn't be quite as bad (though the trade-off is that I'll have to have a bit more originality there… Hmm…). I don't know when I'll be able to work up the focus to work on and then post it, so don't expect it anytime soon. But eventually, it will go up.
Anyway, thank you ALL for reading. This story probably wouldn't have gotten far without you.
Or maybe it would have. My particular set of plot-bunnies have exceptionally sharp teeth. :D