She was being torn apart, over and over, down to the very fiber of her being. The pain ripped through her and she could do nothing but give a voiceless scream. She burned inside with an indescribable heat while her skin prickled sharply as if tiny shards of ice were trying to pierce through her skin. It confused her to the point of delirium but somehow she managed to hold on. She retreated into the recesses of her mind, to escape the pain and to hold on to her sanity. They may have control over her body but at least she was able to seek refuge in her mind.
Just when she had a small glimmer of hope that she would be okay, that she would get through this, she began to feel them probe into her mental cocoon. She felt them scraping against her shields, trying to pry it open and invade her completely…
And then it stopped. The ripping and tearing sensations left her so suddenly that if it weren't for the painful ache that it left behind, she would have thought that she imagined everything. She heard voices but she could not understand what they were saying. A moment later, she was surrounded by something soft and warm, although she couldn't tell what it was. She was however, able to feel herself being picked up and moved. Slowly she forced her eyes to open and to see where she was.
At first there was a bright light; so bright she flinched from it. But it was warm and soothing and so she blinked away the pain. Finally, a kind, old face framed with unruly grey hair looked back at her, his eyes full of worry and pity. "Rest, girl. You are safe now."
In spite of the terrible ache, she could not rest. All she can do was cry and sob and scream into his shoulder as her voice finally returned…
Buffy woke up in a start, gasping for air. Unfortunately, her nightmare was a memory and one that happened more than ten years ago. It was another life-altering moment—she's had plenty—but it was one that had ripped her away from her Earth and life and dumped into a new one. For ten years she's been trying to find a way to go back home and for all her searching and frustrations, the only thing she was able to get was a cryptic message from the Lady of the Wood. And that had gotten her nowhere very quickly.
It unnerved and excited her that she should dream about it so suddenly again. She rubbed her temple, as if to rub away the throbbing headache that she could feel coming.
Deep in her heart, part of her knew what the dream meant. There were things set in motion that should not be ignored. Fate was knocking and it was finally going to give her the answer she has been looking for all these years. She threw off her covers and began to dress.
It was time to find Gandalf.
A tall shadow loomed over her table. "I heard you were looking for me, Magorpîn." Buffy looked up and saw the same kind, old face from ten years ago. His bushy eyebrows lifted and his eyes full of mirth. "Whatever did you get yourself into this time? Another 'misunderstanding' with the Rangers?"
She snorted and tried not to comment on her unwanted moniker. "Gandalf, I've been trying to forget about those dorks for the past two years and yet here you are, bringing it up as much and as often as you can. And for the last time—it was not my fault."
Gandalf guffawed as he sat down across from her. Finding Strider and his associates bested by this mere slip of a girl remained to be one of his fondest memory. "Forgive me, my dear. I am an old man simply taking enjoyment out of the little things in life." They were at the Green River Pub, one of the many establishments located in the Bree. It was a decently populated place; quite ideal for their meeting. There was enough noise that they could not be easily overheard but it was not too crowded that Gandalf could not spot an eavesdropper.
He smiled as he took a good look at her but it quickly turned into a frown. She looked exhausted; he could see it in her eyes. It was a look that only those who have seen much of the evils of the world and have survived through it have. And it never failed to unnerve Gandalf that a fair maiden such as she could have such haunted eyes. He had known her for the past ten years and the look has just become that much lonelier and sadder. She found no joy in this world, for her heart still mourns the loss of her own.
He sighed and took out his pipe and began to smoke, blatantly ignoring the miffed look Buffy gave him. She had never enjoyed the smell of smoke but Gandalf had a feeling that their meeting was not circumstantial. And such feelings were often right and often required a good bit of weed on the side.
"You look tired, my friend," he finally began after taking a couple more puffs of the Old Tobe. "More so than you usually do and it's quite unbecoming for someone as young as you."
She laughed a humorless laugh. "You and I both know I haven't aged a single day since I've been here." She paused, unsure of how to bring up her worries until finally deciding to just get right to it. "I've been having dreams…well, dreams of my memories, of when and how I got here. I haven't had them in a long time and I…I have feeling about them Gandalf. I think it's time I begin searching for a way back again, I just need some help to start."
The wizard sighed sympathetically. "Magorpîn…other than your dreams, what information could you possibly find that you have not found already? Which persons could you ask that you have not previously asked thrice? I am not saying you should ignore your feelings, as I have often found them to be very telling in the past, but I am afraid that I do not have useful counsel. I have kept a very mindful ear for anything that could help you in anyway these past years and nothing has changed."
"So what are you telling me? You want me to do nothing!? Sit back and let the next ten, twenty years of my life slip pass?" Buffy angrily snapped back. She may have been tired but she was never one to give up. "I'm exhausted Gandalf and I want nothing more than to go back. To my home…my world."
Home...Now this made the wizard pause. Several small smoke rings rose from the corner of his mouth as he thought and re-thought over his ponderings. "Perhaps…hmm, yes, yes. Interesting. This could work," he muttered to himself.
"What's interesting? What could work?"
His eyes focused back at her. "I may after all, have some useful advice, my dear. I have a few friends that are much in the same predicament as you are. They are on a journey, a quest if you will, to return back from whence they came. It will be perilous and they will always need a capable hand, a bit of a warrior's touch if I say so myself. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to say much more, but this may give you answers that you seek."
Buffy shook her head and frowned. "Gandalf…I'm not in the mood to play babysitter with your new kids. I have better things to do so thank you, but no thank you."
"Oh?" the wizard asked mockingly. "Did you happen to realize a new nook or crevice that you have yet to search in the past few minutes? Or perhaps you've been blessed with a new revelation?"
"Look you were right! You have don't have anything useful for me. I have nothing to gain from this new adventure of yours so you don't have to get all uppity—"
"Buffy Summers!" this time, Gandalf thundered angrily and rose from his chair. Buffy was shocked; more so about him having used her full name of course, rather than his usage of magic to intimidate her. Several patrons of the pub eyed the pair warily; an angry wizard was no easy company. "You ask me for my counsel and here I give it freely, yet you mock it and throw it away without giving it much thought. It may not make sense now but I would not ask you to come if I did not think it would help."
Gandalf sighed as he let go of the magic. He sat down and relit his pipe. Buffy still looked dubious about his suggestion, but he had already made up his mind about her coming and he would not let her stubbornness and pride get in the way. At least now she was ready to listen. "You of all people should know how they feel. They are seeking to return to their home too Magorpîn. Maybe in their quest to reclaim what they have lost, you will find yours."
It took a few more minutes before Buffy finally gave her answer. "Alright, you win. I'll join your merry band, but ONLY because I have nothing else better to do and I don't really have much of a lead to my questions anyways."
Buffy may not have said it aloud, but Gandalf knew the true reason. So instead, he smiled knowingly and tapped out his pipe. "Excellent! There will be a meeting to be held in three days time in the Shire at Bag End. The door will be marked, so you will know which door to knock upon. Come at around dinnertime; I heard our host is more than a capable cook. It should be a merry gathering.
"Be prepared to leave for the next day. It will be a long journey, and I fear there will be some trouble or another in the road, as these things oft have. I will contact the head of our company, Thorin son of Thrain, about you and take care of most of the formalities," he hummed and muttered a couple of things under his breath, which Buffy failed to catch. "To make things easier, I believe it would be wise to hide your identity and your gender for now, until the right opportunity arises. You will be coming as a…consultant of mine. A very, very silent consultant."
She gave him a dry look. Already, this adventure was asking a lot from her—he had just asked her to Mulan part of the trip! "And what exactly am I a consulting you with if I can't talk?"
Gandalf harrumphed and was tempted to pull out another pinch of the Old Tobe. "That remains to be seen, Magorpîn. That remains to be seen."
A/N: Please let me know what you think! I wasn't expecting to get back into BtVS-verse, but after watching the Hobbit (twice), I couldn't help myself. Reviews would be AWESOME. Oh, and Merry Christmas!