It would be uplifting to say that her experience in Coma Country had left Esmerelda open to the wonders of her own world, that she had learned something of compassion and wisdom from her experiences. Sadly, very few of us learn from such escapades and here, at least, Esmerelda was squarely with the majority. She put the entire occurrence down to a practical joker spiking the staff room water cooler room with a hallucinogenic drug. When careful questioning revealed that none of the other teachers had a similar experience, Esmerelda decided that one of her own drinks had been spiked. Thereafter, she took precautions to never leave a beverage unattended.

The only concession she made to the entire episode was to ask Mrs. Filion for her ugly sculpture after the school's Arthurian extravaganza finished its more-successful-than-expected run. Andrew Fortinbras took the request as a sign that the formidable Miss Finnegan was beginning to soften. He discovered that his assumption was utterly incorrect when he approached her with ideas for the next year's production, a musical version of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Esmerelda stared down her nose at the drama teacher while she listened to him spinning fantastical tales and visions of Middle-earth. She let him drone on, nodding vacantly and listening for her name until he finally asked if she was interested in helping.

"No," she said with no little satisfaction, before turning on her heel and marching away.

She put the sculpture in the extremely neat, formal garden in her back yard, placing it behind the yew tree that hid the compost heap from the house. On moonlit nights, she would self-consciously go and stare at it while pretending to add vegetable peelings to the compost.

One foggy evening, months after her chemically induced trip to Imagination Land, Esmerelda found herself alone in the back yard, studying the sculpture and wondering if the garbage collectors would take it away if she hauled it to the curb. A very small, foolish part of her wondered if she could use it to return to Rivendell. She studied the neighbour's windows to see if anyone was watching. All of them were reassuringly dark. It was Saturday night and the Moscoes were undoubtedly at the bowling alley.

Self-consciously berating herself for being ridiculous, Esmerelda took a blind run at the statue. She fully expected to end on her backside with the styrofoam on top of her. She fell as she connected with the sculpture and slowly opened her eyes, expecting to see the familiar bulk of the compost heap.

She was completely unprepared for the sight that greeted her. It certainly appeared that she was in Rivendell, but it was an oddly transformed Rivendell. The place looked as though a tornado had picked up the contents of several clothing stores and a toy store and scattered them across Master Elrond's demense. Clothes-lines hung between the fine wooden walkways, holding what appeared to be many, many, MANY diapers. A small city of shacks huddled against the wooden walls of Rivendell. The wailing of several babies and small children pierced the still night air.

Stepping carefully around the litter, Esmerelda wondered where her fevered brain had brought her this time.

"Who is there?" someone cried in that exotic, foreign language she had worked so hard to master.

"It's just me, Esmerelda Finnegan," she called, her tongue fumbling over the unfamiliar words. If this was Rivendell she was certain to receive a warm welcome if.

There was a brief, hurried conference, then two grim-faced, pointed eared individuals appeared before her.

"Please follow us," one of them said. "And mind where you step."

After picking her way through toys, clothing and the occasional sleeping body, Esmerelda found herself facing Celebrian in a small chamber. At least, Esmerelda assumed it was Celebrian. Her features were similar, but she had gained at least sixty pounds. Her once rosy complexion had faded to tired grey.

"YOU!" the woman roared when she recognised Esmerelda.

"Yes?" Esmerelda asked, wondering at the angry tone of her reception.

"Do you have any idea what sort of mess you have made?" Celebrian demanded.

"Excuse me, Mistress Celebrian," Esmerelda said sternly. She had a fairly good idea of what had happened while she had been away. "But I have not been here. I hardly see how I can be blamed..."

"I have had five hundred seventy four children since you were here last," Celebrian interrupted, her voice shrill and building in volume. "My stretch marks have stretch marks. Do you have any idea what five hundred seventy four years of morning sickness can do to your disposition?"

They were interrupted by Master Elrond. The Half Elven lord of Rivendell held a crying baby in his arms.

"I am sorry, dearest, he is hungry again," he said apologetically, handing the screaming bundle to his wife. He paused, seeing Esmerelda for the first time, then bowed deeply to her.

"My Lady! It is good to see you again," he said, a lopsided grin on his face. His robe was inside out and stained in spit-up.

"Elrond," Celebrian snapped.

"Yes, dear?" he asked.

"Don't you have something better to do?" she demanded crossly.

"Now that you mention it, I do," he said. Bowing to Esmerelda and smiling in a secretive way that made the primal teacher in her extremely nervous, he took his leave of them.

Celebrian sang a lullabye to her infant son as she fed him. The music seemed to soothe both of them, encouraging Esmerelda to offer another suggestion. Celebrian listened intently while Esmerelda paced the room, explaining her plan. In the end, there was nothing for it but to escort the biology teacher to the statue and allow her to go back to her own world with the promise to return with help for the elves' dilemma.

On the way back, she passed the statue that Erestor had made of her. Someone had smashed the index and ring fingers so that only the upwardly extended middle digit remained.

Dressed in a hat and unseasonably warm trench coat and staggering under the weight of a large box, Esmerelda once again charged Mrs. Filion's creation. She opened her eyes to a sea of fair elvish faces staring at her.

"Right. This had better work," Celebrian said, stepping out of the crowd as Esmerelda stood and self-consciously smoothed her clothing.

"These should work as long as they are used properly," Esmerelda said. She struggled to open the large box and encountered more boxes with pictures of warriors in oddly crested helms.

"What does this say?" Elrond wondered, trailing his finger across the writing.

"Trojans," Esmerelda said briefly. She waved a slim packet of a condom at the assembled elves and smiled bravely. Hundreds of bright eyes stared back at her in complete incomprehension.

"I supposed I'd better demonstrate how to use them," Esmerelda sighed, her face as red as a beet.

"This is how these work," she explained as she opened a packet, removed the condom and unrolled it over her thumb.

Several elves near the front had taken a box and passed the packets around. They placed the condoms over their thumbs and beckoned to their mates, who were openly leering.

"No, no, no!" Esmerelda cried before they could disappear into a private room or behind some bushes.

They stopped and stared at her expectantly.

Using sign language, Esmerelda launched into a halting explanation of the exact piece of anatomy the condoms were meant to cover.

It was Elrond who rescued her.

"Don't worry," he said, stopping her impromtu lesson in birth control. "I'll see to it that everyone knows how to use them properly. We should be able to make our own before this supply is gone."

Heaving a sigh of relief, Esmerelda slipped behind the Master of Rivendell. The new, crowded Middle-earth had lost its appeal. It was just as overpopulated as home, only without the amenities of electricity and running water. She fully intended to go back to her own world as quickly as possible and not return.

So it was a terrible shock to find Erestor had reached the transport statue before her. Or rather, that he had been the first to reach the pile of rubble where the statue had once stood. Crystalline stone chips sparkled in his dark hair and his clothing was covered in dust. He still held the hammer he had used to demolish the sculpture.

"What have you done!" Esmerelda shrieked in dismay.

His only response was to drop the hammer. A small package materialised in his hand. Esmerelda's eyes caught the familiar depiction of a Trojan helmet. She began to back away in open-mouthed panic as the discarded plastic fluttered to the ground.

Smiling determinedly as he approached her, Erestor unrolled the contents of the package and very deliberately snapped it in her direction before scooping her into his arms and sweeping away all of Esmerelda's objections.