"What's meant to be will always find a way." ― Trisha Yearwood
I stumbled for about the sixth time in the last two hours, only managing to stop myself from face-planting it by bracing my hand against a tree. With several muttered complaints under my breath, I straightened back up, brushing my hand against my skirt to clean it.
"Of all the luck! It's always forests, isn't it!" The only one that heard my exclamation was Edbert, who turned his head around and stared silently at me. "Whatcha looking at me like that for?" The dog's head tilted the side when I talked to him. "Can't smell or hear any signs of civilization yet? No? No. Okay."
Ed barked twice at me, turning around and walking off further into the forest. The meaning of his barks was clear – follow me or I'm leaving you behind. Usually with dog and owner, it was the other way around. But, Edbert and my relationship was… Unusual. We each had our boundaries, and we knew where we stood with each other. At the moment, I was lost in some forest, Gods knows where, and my best chance of getting out was Ed's nose.
Why was I lost in a forest? Fantastic question! I would very much have liked an answer to that question myself. I mean, my day did start off normal… Well, normalish.
I liked my job. Actually, I lie. I loved my job. Not many people can claim that they have a job that they enjoy doing day in and day out. I could, and I was only 19 - a rare thing to happen. I couldn't say that it was all my hard work that got me the job or anything. Nor was it luck. I was just born into the right family.
My grandparents owned a horse stable - originally a stable that only bred thoroughbreds for racing. Over time they changed it into multipurpose stable. They still bred racers, but they also started doing lessons, stable lease, pony rides at local events and everything in between.
As I grew up running around the stables and the horses, I always wished to be a jockey when I was old enough. It was a dream that I strived for. I was brought up like one by my grandfather, taught how to look after horses, how to ride, stable management, the whole deal. He didn't bring me up like some fancy little princess - I was shown how the world was and what I needed to do to help myself. I was taught proper manners, but I was also taught how to get things done by myself.
My grandfather was a preacher of tough love. If he wanted to teach me something, he didn't soften it. If I needed to learn how to take a fall off a horse, he would throw me on the craziest horse he had and told me how to land. I had to learn the rest by myself by trial and error – even if it risked my health and welfare in the meantime. He also took the whole "Skin or swim" saying very, very literal.
And no one could have saved me when I swore in front of my grandfather or grandmother. They were into all the old customs and manners that they were taught as kids. For example, addressing people older than you as "Miss", "Mr." or "Mrs.". If I swore in front of them, I would be forced to eat a tablespoon of mustard to wash my mouth out. If I ever stepped way out of line, or did something really stupid, I would be introduced to the belt. I learnt how to behave pretty quickly.
Imagine mine and grandfather's disappointment when I kept growing… and growing… and growing a little bit more. I ended up 5'7 and big boned – way too tall and heavy to be a proper jockey. I wasn't some petite little woman. I was a tall woman with broad shoulders and muscles. No part of physic looked rather much feminine, other than my chest. I wasn't a model of beauty, I was me and that was all I needed to be for my grandfather and grandmother.
So, when I was 15 and still hadn't slowed down my growth, I changed my mind as to what I wanted to do. If I couldn't ride the race horses, I would breed them and manage the stables. I could take over for my grandparents and continue all their hard work. I knew most of what I needed to do, and what I didn't know already, my grandfather could teach me.
And that led me to where I was the day that everything went wrong. As it happens every year, the renaissance fair was back in town and we were doing pony rides. My grandparents had asked me to take two of our quietest ponies to the fair to do pony rides.
So, to get into the spirit, I dressed up in a white chemise, a black and red vertical stripped laced bodice and a long black skirt that reached the ground. My grandmother had made the outfit for me because she thought it'd be good for me to get more involved in the fair. I still had a pair of breeches and riding boots under my skirt to keep myself comfortable, but at least I looked the part. It was the same thing I wore last year, but last year I had my grandfather with me to help. This year I was on my own. I'd been to many events by myself with the two ponies I'd picked. I knew them like the back of my hand, so I didn't think that I'd have any problems today.
So, off we went, the two ponies in the float, Edbert riding shotgun and me driving. Edbert was my best friend, as weird as that sounded. When you devote your life to horses, you don't have much of a social life. I was also home-schooled, so my social interaction mostly occurred with other adults or a few of the students that came to our stables. And even then, I had to be all business like around them.
So, I ended up with a dog as a best friend. Not just any dog though, Ed was an Australian kelpie. Chocolate brown with tan marks on his chest, muzzle, ears, stomach, eyebrows and a splash of white on his chest.
I'd rescued him from the local animal shelter a few years back, his pervious family gotten rid of him because he had too much energy for them. They kept him locked up in their small backyard all day, and he got bored so he dug lots of holes. They didn't want him doing that, and they weren't willing to walk him every day to get him to stop digging, so they dumped him at the shelter.
I'd fallen in love him the moment I'd walked past his cage and saw him neurotically chasing his tail around and around. The poor thing had more energy than he knew what to do with, and no one had even bothered to get him to use it constrictively. I took him home with me and spent months training and working with him until he was perfect partner to help me with the horses. Edbert loved helping me out around the stables to burn off his endless energy, whether it be rounding up horses, fetching things for me, or just following me around and annoying me. It didn't take long for us to become inseparable because behind all that energy was one of the smartest dogs I'd been fortunate enough to meet.
Unfortunately he came with the name Edbert when I'd adopted him at the shelter. I'd tried to rename him and he stubbornly refused to respond to anything but his original name. Eventually he also started responding to Ed or Eddy, but Edbert was his real name and he liked it that way.
When I'd pulled up at the fair with the ponies and Eddy, I'd opened the door to the truck, flung my legs out the door and slid off the seat. I expected my feet to touch solid ground, but they never touched anything. It was almost like a hole had opened up right outside my car door.
I let out a breathless shriek, as I felt myself falling, and I heard Edbert bark in the background as the hole swallowed me, everything going black just like a switch had been flicked.
I'd woken up thanks to Edbert who'd sat there, obsessively licking my face until I'd finally regained consciousness. It didn't take me long to noticed that it was only him and I around, in a forest, in the middle of nowhere. That realization was followed by a short mental break down, which included running like a headless chicken for 15 minutes whilst trying to find out where I was. All I saw was trees, trees and more trees. I couldn't find the car, or my ponies. My grandparents were going to kill me!
What was even worse was the type forest it was. None of the plant life or bird calls were what I was used too. I'd been trail riding with my horses a lot, and I'd learnt a lot about the local fauna so that I could keep my horses safe. Most of the plants and birds that were in the forest were not native to Australia where I lived. I knew straight away that something was seriously wrong.
I only stopped running around when I was hyperventilating so bad that my body refused to move anymore, causing me to flop to the ground and lay there, panting for breath. I'd been known to suffer from panic attacks in the past, so I tried to calm myself down before I set one off. Normally my trigger was being left alone without anyone around, thus the original reason that I'd gotten Ebert from the shelter. He was there to be constantly around so that I didn't suffer from my panic attacks.
Poor Edbert had followed me the whole time I'd run around like a hysterical woman, never letting me out of his sight until I dropped to the ground. He then came and sat next to me, staring at me with judging eyes. He knew that I was working myself up to a panic attack, and he was not impressed.
I looked up and my green eyes met Ed's brown eyes, both of us staring silently for a few seconds. I bit my lip before holding my arms up like a child. "Eddy… Where are we? You wouldn't let someone drug me and dump me in a forest, would you? What about the ponies! The car! The float! I've lost them! They're gunna kill m-" My rant was cut off when Edbert flop down onto my chest, his front legs and body sprawling themselves across my stomach, his head placing itself on my breasts.
I wrapped my arms tightly around him, closing my eyes as I tried to calm my breathing. He always did something like this when I had a panic attack - he was my protector. Without him I'd be a nervous wreck. Without him I'd be lost.
Edbert waited patiently, not moving while I regathered my composure and did my breathing exercises. It took a good 20 or 30 minutes before Edbert deemed me calm again and he wiggled out of my arms, standing back up. I sat up, running my hands through my hair to dust the leaves and twigs out of my wavy, shoulder length, auburn hair.
Once that was finished, I looked back to Edbert only to see his walking away from me into the trees. "OI!" I yelled after him, scrambling back to my feet. I stumbled over my long skirt before straightening up and jogging after my dog. "Wait would you! Where do you think you're going! Hey!"
And that is how I got lost in the forest.
"Edbert?" I questioned softly when the kelpie suddenly paused, his ears perking up. "What is it, boy?"
I didn't get a reply, my dog just took off at a sprint, not bothering to look back to see if I was following him or not. He knew I had to no choice but to follow him, so he just ran. I shoved down the urge to swear at him, hitching my skirt up around my knees before jogging after him. As hard as I tried, I couldn't keep up with Edbert when he was running at full speed, he disappeared pretty quickly and I had to try and follow him using the sounds of him crashing through the forest. My heartbeat picked up again and my chest started to ache at the thought of losing him in the forest.
"Edbert, when I catch up to you, I'm going to skin you alive! You hear me, mutt! Eddy! Don't leave me! I could get eaten by dingoes or-" My rant was cut off when I stumbled out of the forest and onto a dirt track.
I felt a rush of love for the dog wash over me, but it was quickly swallowed by apprehension when I saw Edbert standing not far from some old man dressed in grey. I dropped my skirt, straightening up and calling out, "Edbert, heel."
The dog did as he was asked, trotting over to sit by my side as I stared at the odd looking man that just happened to be on the only road in miles. I wasn't sure what creped me out more, his long grey beard, his pointy grey hat, his grey cloak, or his big staff. Edbert tended to be a good judge of character though, and if he wasn't reacting badly to this guy, then I should at least give him the benefit of the doubt.
"Ah, you have finally arrived. A bit later than I anticipated, but we shall still make it in time," the old man greeted, walking towards me.
"Uh, sorry… What? Who are you? Where are we?" I asked cautiously, glancing around the area.
"I have many names, but you may refer to me as Gandalf the Grey - and we are late," he stated as he walked straight past Eddy and I, continuing down the track.
"We? Late? For what? Where am I!" I asked again, reluctantly following him so I could try and get answers.
"For an adventure, my dear. One that you have been chosen to participate in," the cryptic old man said, not stopping his march.
"Wait a minute!" I protested, pausing in the middle of the path and crossing my arms over my chest. "I was meant to be doing pony rides today at the fair! I've lost my car, and the ponies… I've even lost the fairground which is no easy feat to do. I'm not stupid. That forest… Most of the planet life is nothing like what we get in Australia. The trees… The shrubs… The birds… I'm nowhere near home, am I?"
Gandalf paused, turning back to me. "No, you are longer near your home – you are close to Hobbition, Middle Earth. I was informed that the person I was looking for would appear here at this time. There is no doubt, you are the one I am looking for. Fate works in odd ways. It is up to you whether you accept this job or not. No one is forcing you to come. The road will be long and dangerous – even deadly – but the reward will be great."
I was silent for a few seconds as I tried to process what he had said, but all that seemed to process was our location. And it was not normal Earth – nowhere near it. "Middle Earth?" I squeaked.
"Yes," Gandalf answered. "Home to Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Humans, Orcs and many other creatures."
"Dwarves? Elves?" I questioned, picking up on two words that I recognized. "Oh. I'm defiantly not home anymore… Nowhere near it… Oh." I swayed on my feet. My gut told me that he wasn't lying.
"Are you feeling unwell?" the old man asked.
"No, no," I protested, shaking my head. "I'm okay… Just… Ah, yeah, I'm good. So, wait, what are you then?"
"I am a wizard," he answered. "Now come, we must make hast. We are already going to be late. Best not to leave Mr. Baggins with the dwarves too long."
It had been a long walk - the sun had faded by the time we reached signs of life. Gandalf, as cryptic as the old wizard was, had explained some things to me. I now knew what Hobbits were, and where they lived. I also knew that we were going to meet one such hobbit. He hadn't said much about this so called "Adventure" or my "Job", he reassured me that would all be explained when we got to the hobbit's house. I'd asked him if I could go back home somehow, and he had said, with some sympathy, that he'd didn't know. Yet.
"Ah, there they are!" Gandalf announced.
Edbert and I both looked ahead and noticed several small men on the lane ahead of us. If it wasn't for the fact that Gandalf had warned me that we were going to meet up with some dwarves, I would have been more shocked at their size. They weren't as small as I'd thought they would be, and they were built thicker. They also looked a lot rougher. I'd imagined little men in caps, but these dwarves were more human looking than that. They were also covered in weapons, which a tiny bit intimidating.
"Ah, Gandalf!" one of them called out loudly when they noticed us. I jumped, not expecting such a booming voice to come from such a small man. "It is good to see you!"
"And you," the wizard replied, walking up to them. Edbert and I stood back as Gandalf greeted all of them. I glanced at my dog who was staring at the men. He was probably confused at the full grown men that were the size of children. I felt bad that I had no way to explain it to him.
"Gandalf, who is your companion?" one of them finally asked and I drew in a nervous breath, staring at them all with wide eyes.
"Ah, this is…" the wizard trailed off and beckoned me forward. "My apologies, I never did get your name."
I hesitantly took a few steps forward, standing next to Gandalf. Short they may be, but they were daunting all the same. "I'm Scott. And the dog is Edbert. It's a pleasure to meet you all." The greeting was awkward because I had no idea what to say or how to act. In the end I just decided to use all the manners my Grandparents had taught me. To finish the greeting I grabbed my skirt and curtsied as best as I could while mentally praying that I was doing the right thing and not making a fool of myself. I was no longer home, and judging by the speech and clothes of the dwarves, I was in a time where proper manners were expected.
"Bofur," one of them pipped up, and I guessed that was his name, not a greeting. I glanced at him, taking note of his physical features. He had a cute little hat on, which I hoped would help me pick him out of a crowd. He then gestured to another dwarf near him, saying, "And this is Bifur." The said dwarf let out a grunt of some sort in greeting and I squinted my eyes in the dark… He had something stuck in his head. It looked like an axe head which made me queasy. Who walks around with an axe in their head!
"Bombur." This dwarf had the oddest looking beard. It was one giant braid that looped across his chest like a rope. He was also the chubbiest dwarf there, which made him look like a giant teddy.
"Gloin." Gloin had red hair and a long beard with several plats. He seemed pretty normal for dwarf standards.
"Oin." He had a grey beard and it was parted in the middle, each side styled to bend back towards his shoulders.
"Dori." Dori's hair was grey and he had a chin strap that his beard was placed in.
"Nori." The said dwarf bobbed his head in greeting. His beard was braided into three sections, and his hair was styled to have three separate points. The way it was styled reminded me of a leaf.
"Ori." The last one introduced himself and I was surprised at how soft and childish his voice was. He must have been the youngest of the bunch.
"At your service," they all chorused at one time, bowing politely.
"Now that introductions are complete, we must be on our way. No sense in being late," Gandalf instructed, walking off.
Gandalf led us to a large, round, green door that was in the side of a hill. The dwarves, noticing my apprehension, had left me alone and were talking amongst themselves as we had walked there. Edbert was acting surprisingly calm, and was happily smelling everything in reach without wandering too far away from me.
One of the dwarves, Bofur, stepped forward and rang the bell at the door to get the occupant's attention. The rest of the dwarves were crowding around the large round door, all pushing and shoving to try and get to the front. Gandalf, Ed and myself all stood back calmly, not keen on the idea of getting in-between all those shoving and pushing dwarves.
I blinked awkwardly when I heard a disgruntled voice from inside as someone made their way to the door, yanking it roughly open. It opened at exactly the wrong time. Bombur had shoved Gloin, who, in turn, had fallen into several of the dwarves, causing a chain reaction like dominoes. With a shocked cry, all of the dwarves fell into the house in a big pile, all groaning and complaining.
Gandalf bent down a bit so that he could peer into the door way, meeting the eyes of the owner.
"Gandalf…" The man that opened the door seemed to be in unsure how to react, although it didn't look like he was all that pleased. Mind you, once I got a close look at him, I couldn't blame him. The house owner was a hobbit - he looked exactly like how Gandalf had described hobbits. And this particular hobbit looked like he had been ready to finish up for the night and go to bed before we'd come along and interrupted.
I looked down at Eddy who was standing patiently next to me, and he looked up at me. I had a feeling that tonight was going to be interesting to say the least…
So, I finished writing this story, and I had all the chapters posted... And then I got a few books about the Hobbit movie. I said I'd consider re-writing this story, and that's exactly what I'm doing. I messed up a lot of things in my writing that need to be fixed up in the re-write. For example, I didn't know that Bifur didn't actually talk in anything but grunts and Ancient Dwarvish. I also know a lot more about each individual dwarf, which will help me to add more character interaction. I'll also be working on Scott's character a lot more than before so that she stands out a lot more - rather than just being her normal meek self.
My updates won't be as quick as last time because I'm back at school now, but I should be updating regularly again.
So, yeah. :)