The Road to Middle-Earth

A fanfiction by MushrooomsPTook

Disclaimer: I own nothing. You might as well say it owns me!

Chapter Fifteen: The Spell Breaks

A shiver ran down my spine as I fluttered my eyes open. It was still dark in the room and I could hear Alice's labored breathing. I lifted my head from her shoulder, looking around at the emptiness uneasily; there was something not quite right. I gripped Alice protectively, my eyes wide with a feeling of apprehension growing in my heart. There was someone, or something approaching; I could tell from the barely audible footprints, and they were not human. I heard a soft rumble, a sound that only a giant beast could make.

I turned my head toward the sound and saw that the door was wide open, and through it came a light. The large shadow of a nameless creature slowly came into view, walking on four legs. Its head alone was nearly larger than the sun from which Glinda, the good witch, had appeared, and its body was taller than any horse I'd seen. It turned and stood in the doorway, and I had the horrible feeling that it was staring at me. But with the light behind it, the silhouetted creature looked strange, mysterious, and a fear of uncertainty grew in my heart.

"What are you?" I said, holding Alice close to my chest.

There was a soft growl and then a low voice came from the creature. "I am." It drew in a breath, and seeing the faint outline of a mouth open made me pause. I squeezed my eyes shut, expecting an attack from the vicious beast. I silently said goodbye to all my friends and family, and to Alice, who lay motionless against my body. But instead of sharp teeth and a terrific roar, I heard a soft exhale. I peeked open an eye. A golden breath came from the creature's mouth, and the more it exhaled, the more golden became the breath, and it grew so much that it lit the entire room, allowing me to see everything as clear as if it were in daylight. A movement against my shoulder gave me a start, and looking at Alice, I noticed her chest slowly rise and fall as she drew in a deep breath. The light dimmed, and I again heard the low resonating growl of the creature, but it sounded more like the purr of a cat. I looked in the doorway, and the beast took a step forward. "Alaaaayna," it said.

...

My eyes flew open and I sat up from the bed with a gasp. I was sweating. The room was dark, and everything was as before. I looked apprehensively toward the door. It was open, but nothing stood in the doorway. It was just a dream. I looked down at my cousin, who was breathing deeply. She was sleeping, and the look on her face suggested peace had found her in her dreams. Once my breathing evened and my shoulders relaxed, I resumed my position by Alice's side and folded her in my arms. I kissed her softly on the cheek, and within minutes I was out.

I woke up a few hours later with Alice's hand in mine, our heads slightly touching. The birds were chirping happily, but I couldn't bring myself to match their jovial energy. My cousin had survived the night, miraculously, but I didn't expect anything good to come out of this day. I was pleased, however, that she didn't seem to be in pain, and that her breathing had become normal. I shifted my body and stared at the ceiling, wondering if this was what death was like: Hard and painful at first, but eventually finding a sort of harmony and freedom in the end. I sighed, wishing I could be happy that Alice would leave this world without a shadow of hurt. But I didn't expect to ever be happy again. Not after this, and not after confronting her parents. What would I say? Perhaps they would never speak to me again. That thought brought me a sort of comfort that I wasn't expecting. I imagined, not for the first time, that the color in her face would return, and that she would squeeze my hand, at least one last time. The fingers were clasped around my hand so snugly and I was happy that her body was no longer ice cold.

Then quite suddenly she did give my hand a squeeze. I thought I was still daydreaming, so I looked at her face, and the color was quickly coming back. My heart skipped a beat. Was my Alice still somewhere in there? As if in answer to my question, my cousin breathed deeply and then, "Faster, Alayna..." Her voice was like silver bells on Christmas morning, and the tears were flowing freely down my face as she continued. "Pull me faster. Don't let me go yet, Alayna. I'm not ready."

"Alice, I'm here! I will never let you go!"

I squeezed her hand tightly with both of mine. She opened her brown eyes and looked at me. The spell was broken. "Promise?"

My heart leapt and I pulled my cousin into a fierce hug, releasing all the emotions through my eyes. "Alice, Alice! Yes, I promise! I promise..." My cousin, my baby cousin, was alive. It was a miracle, and I couldn't figure out how to explain it, though I didn't want to, because I knew I didn't need to. My grip loosened and I gently pushed her back, examining her state and taking in the most beautiful sight I had only but dreamed of. Alice lifted her hand and brushed a tear from my cheek.

"Why are you sad, Alayna?"

"I—I'm not sad, sweetie."

Alice stroke my cheek, and tears gathered in the corners of her eyes. "But you're crying..."

"Yes, Alice. But I'm crying because I'm so happy to see you."

A droplet fell down her cheek and I kissed it, pulling her head close to mine. "Then I must be happy to see you, too." I smiled softly and embraced her again, rocking her in my arms and whispering I-love-you nonsense in her ear. I laughed, wondering how I ever came to doubt my cousin's strength. She was always strong and rebellious too. If she could win an argument against her dad about why stuffed animals are people too, then she could certainly pull through this.

"Alayna?"

"Yes, sweetie?" I hugged her tighter, afraid to let go.

"I'm hungry."

I released her and I grinned enormously. If she was hungry, then she was indeed better. "You are? Tell me what you want, anything! You name it, and I'll make sure you get it! What would you like, pancakes? Spaghetti? Sweet potatoes? Ice cream? McDonald's?"

"I just want some cereal."

"Oh. Well, you just sit tight, Alice—I'll get Bert to find you some cereal—in the meantime, I'll have Tom watch over you—he's been worried sick over you!" I was so flustered, I could barely keep my sentences straight as I stumbled over my feet, walking to the door with a bounce in my step. I opened the door to Tom's room and jumped on the bed, making Tom peek open a glaring eye. "Get up, you lazy bum! It's morning!" Tom groaned and went to pull the covers over his head, but I snatched them in my hands quickly and stripped them off the bed. "None of that! It's a beautiful morning and it's time you were awake."

Charming stretched his feathered wings and yawned. I giggled when I saw the disheveled mop on his head. I had become quite fond of the duck and I scooped him up in my arms, giving him a ferocious hug and a sloppy kiss. Tom looked at me incredulously. "'Ave you lost your mind?" he asked.

"Probably," I answered with a shrug. "I'm sure I've lost more than that these last few days, but I have my cousin back. So what do I care?"

"Alice!" cried Charming, eyes popping open.

"She's—" Tom interrupted.

"Awake?" they said together.

I laughed and ruffled Tom's hair. "Yes, and she's hungry. Hungry! That means I need to get her something before she settles on duck for breakfast!" Charming blushed. "Would either of you like to keep her company while I do that?" Charming fluttered out of my wings and rushed for the door while Tom jumped out of his bed and started after the duck, but I caught the boy's arm before he could get far. "Hey, just because Alice is better doesn't make you automatically healed. I'll carry you over; you still have a while to go before you can walk."

Tom looked down at his feet curiously. "But...they don't feel hurt. Fact, they feel pretty good."

I looked at him mysteriously before pulling him to sit on the edge of the bed and putting his feet in my lap to examine the bottoms. "What is happening? Your feet are healed! That doesn't make sense, though, we've only been here for just a few days."

"I'll tell you what's happening," said Charming. "We finally have got some luck, that's what! I wouldn't be surprised if...if we open this door and you find your Middle-Earth, or whatever you call it."

I looked at the duck skeptically. "I wouldn't go that far, Charming. Besides, I want the doctor to look at both you, Tom, and Alice before we go back."

"Go back?" asked Tom. "Go back where?"

"Home."

Tom grabbed my arm as I sat up from the bed. "But you can't do that! Alice will be heart-broken. And I...I..."

"You have an aunt that's probably worried sick over you. And that fence isn't going to paint itself, Tom. As far as Alice is concerned, well...I won't tell her just yet—and neither will you!" I added the last part quickly before either Tom or Charming could protest. "I don't want another occurrence of the one we just had. Besides...it probably doesn't exist anyway."

Both Tom and Charming glared at me in silence for a long time until it was broken my Charming. "Can we go see Alice now?"

I walked towards the door with a sigh and pulled it open. "Don't tell her anything."

"I won't," said Charming, refusing to meet my gaze. "You're the one who has to explain why she won't be returning Gandalf's stick."

I swallowed, but didn't say anything in response. I watched as Tom and Charming opened the door to Alice's room before I disappeared down the hallway, dimly hearing the overjoyed cries from Alice as she reunited with her friends.


Next Chapter – Preparations are made to set out once again...But which way will Alayna lead them? Muahahahaha! Sorry this chapter was so short. Next one will be longer. :)

WackyWillow – Thank you very much!

B The Shadow Ninja Samurai – [Smeagol]Mustn't ask us! Not its business![/smeagol] ;)

Calemireth – Yes it is sad. But things will get better, as you can see from this chapter. ;)

Patchwork Knightess – Okeedokes

seafarer – I won't. ;)