A/N: This story began as an experiment, but within eight days I had written thirty-seven pages. Guess it's time that I submit it for reviews. Please let me know what you think. Oh and, by the way, it will eventually be a Legomance, but that's going to take a while. Also, this is written to match the movie, not the book. I decided that the book was a little bit too advanced for me to try to match. Enjoy!Title: The Traveler – The Lord of the Rings
Author: The Elfin Child
Date Started: August 13, 2002
Rating: PG (parental guidance suggested)
Summary: A young girl named Riley Ashton finds herself in Middle-Earth one day with some things to learn about life, love, and happiness.
Main characters: Riley (OC), Legolas, Boromir, Aragorn, Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Arwen, Gandalf, Sam, Gimli, Elrond, Galadriel, Haldir… yada yada yada….
Disclaimer: I, in no way, shape, or form, claim to own any characters or settings from The Lord of the Rings… yet. *evil laugh*Chapter One – Life Before
Riley Ashton, in one word, would have described herself as "different". Mind you, she knew the difference between "weird" and "different". Though modest to a fault, in her own mind, Riley would examine her character down to the bone and still further. She knew that she was extremely open-minded, yet firm in her beliefs, intelligent, perceptive, intuitive, and unusually trusting. Those were the things she counted when she was desperately clinging to the beautiful things about her personality. Even her closest friends were deceived by the perfect appearance that she put forth. The goings-on of her life seemed in perfect balance.
Riley admitted her very deepest secrets to only a few people. She told them that she was proud and quietly self-righteous, and for those things she felt continually guilty. And because the only people she admitted her faults to were named Aragorn, Legolas, and Gandalf, she sincerely lacked the encouragement and motivation that our best of friends should provide for us.
As for her looks, she certainly was pretty. Her wide green-hazel eyes always betrayed every emotion and her smile lit her entire face when it was sincere. Chestnut hair bounced down to her chin and messy short strands often found their way in front of her face. Her skin was light, with a natural healthy glow about the cheeks, and her slightly upturned, freckled nose was definitely unique. Riley was not the tallest of the girls she knew, but was about half a head taller than her best friend, who stood at five feet four inches. Therefore, as you can imagine, she was considered tall and slim.
As I have mentioned before, Riley Ashton was intuitive and trusting, which made her much more likely to believe things that all "rational" people would have dismissed as fairy tales and fictional stories. Knowing this, you can now understand why Riley so persistently spoke with her friends from Lord of the Rings, though she could not see or hear them. She believed in her heart, and often forced herself to believe in her mind, that her closest confidants could very well be real. And, as you will see later on in this story, this belief would give her a much-needed strength.
Now in her room, Riley had a special box that hid behind mirror closet doors for short amounts of time during the day. On the side of this plain-looking cardboard box was a small label, which held four letters: "LotR". As can be guessed, those letters were abbreviations of the words Lord of the Rings. Inside were four shoeboxes that were also labeled with abbreviations; "FotR", "TTT", "RotK", and "RW". If the Lord of the Rings books are familiar to you, you can easily identify the first three groups of letters as abbreviations for Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King. As for the fourth, that simply meant "Real World", and referred to articles and pictures of the actors in the movie-versions of the books.
The three main boxes contained the three "LotR" books, and anything in the form of articles, pictures, and flyers that had to do with their book or movie, respectively.
For Riley, school was fairly simple, though she had had some trouble with her English teacher. For a fifteen-year-old girl in a rather demanding environment, Riley seemed to have little trouble living up to the expectations of her parents and teachers. But at night she would cry until she had no more tears to be shed, after which she would fall asleep imagining herself in Middle-Earth with the only people she knew would understand her. To be short in my explanation of such desperation, I will only say that our young friend was sorely aware of the lack on motivation and caring in her life.
"Make sure you're ready for the test on Friday!" Mr. Carroll called over the bustle of teenagers hurrying to leave the classroom, though most of the young girls in his fourth period class undoubtedly were hoping to catch a few last words from their gorgeous Algebra II teacher.
Riley approached Mr. Carroll's desk slowly, taking several deep breaths. "Mr. Carroll?" she said softly, clutching her math book to her chest nervously.
"Yes, Miss Ashton?" Mr. Carroll asked with an encouraging smile.
Riley tried desperately to ignore the heat in her hands. "Um… I was just wondering if the quadratic equation is going to be on the test." Believe it or not, that was the sole reason for her approaching her teacher's desk. Unlike the other girls who were in Mr. Carroll's class, his ice-blue eyes, wavy brown hair, beautiful smile, tan skin, perfect body, and the fact that he was extremely young for a teacher had absolutely no effect on Riley. Nope, none.
Mr. Carroll gave Riley a happy smile and replied, "Yes, it will. Good thing you asked. I forgot to mention that today; better remind myself to do that tomorrow. Thanks, Riley."
Riley smiled at the praise, but did not feel it hit core, as gratitude should. "You're welcome, Mr. Carroll." She began to leave, but as an afterthought turned back, slipping something out of her pocket. "Mr. Carroll? I was going to see Return of the King this afternoon with Shawnna, but turns out she can't go after all, and I don't want to go alone. My mom got the tickets for me yesterday and seeing as I can't use them, I was wondering if you might like them."
Mr. Carroll looked in wonder at the tickets. "Riley, did you know that I love Lord of the Rings more than any other books?" Riley shook her head. "Well it's true. But are you sure you can't go with someone else?" Riley nodded hastily, and pushed the tickets into his hands. "Well then… thank you! Money's been a little tight even though we teachers get paid a lot," he made a face that clearly showed his sarcasm, "so I didn't know when I'd get to see this one. Thank you."
Riley nodded and as soon as she turned around, she grinned to herself. With only two minutes left until he bell rang, she hurried off to study hall. Just as the bell let out its warning shriek, Riley slipped into a seat. Only after she did so did she realize that she had sat down next to Jeremy Bradford, Rolling Crest High's most popular, adored senior.
Jeremy was Mr. Carroll's half-brother, and you could tell. They looked so much alike that, except for Jeremy's California-blonde hair, they could have been mistaken for twins.
Jeremy was every girl's dream guy. He was funny and smart, with just the right balance of bad-boy and sensitivity. And the younger girls in the school didn't have to just stare longingly after him. He was kind and attentive to everyone. He had even dated Leslie Adams, a sophomore, briefly at the beginning of the year.
Riley, like many of her friends, had had a crush on Jeremy for part of her freshman year. But that, for some reason, had faded to a kind-of sisterly admiration.
"Hey, Riley," Jeremy whispered as he opened his Spanish II textbook.
"Hi, Jeremy," Riley whispered back, feeling oddly at ease for someone who had never spoken to Jeremy before.
"I know something you don't know," he sang softly, giving her a teasing glance.
Before Riley could ask what it was, Greg Hathaway bent down next to her ear and hissed, "Hey, Kid! This is my seat!"
Riley's face flushed and she silently reached for her backpack, but she stopped when she felt a hand rest protectively on her shoulder.
"Hey, man, you're late. Why don't you find another seat?" When Greg hesitated in backing down, Jeremy's voice gained a warning tone. "Greg, man, I'm talking to Riley, okay? I needed some help with my Spanish." Greg glanced at Riley one more time before stomping off.
Jeremy waited until their grumpy teacher went back to her book before saying softly, "Sorry 'bout him. Anyway…."
Riley smiled. "What do you know that I don't?"
Jeremy grinned excitedly. "You know that house that's for sale across from you?" Riley nodded, briefly bringing up a mental image of the mansion across the street from her house. Its last owners had been old and mean. She had been glad when they moved to Florida. "Well… my parents bought it last night." He grinned triumphantly.
Riley couldn't help smiling. She had immediately understood that Jeremy expected and looked forward to hearing every detail of her life. The smile he gave her explained plenty; he had already gathered as much about her as he could without asking questions. Just like Riley had observed his personality in play, Jeremy was dead sure that he knew her personality. In a way, it was comforting.
Jeremy took her home that day, and she could have sworn that her face glowed the entire time. It was a wonderful feeling to be totally comfortable with someone, something that she didn't have with her family anymore.
Riley sighed as she fell on her bed, relaxing her entire body and listening to the familiar sounds of her house. Her mom was just finishing dusting the den thoroughly, so she still had her movie playing.
Her dog Barton was playing with himself, rolling his tennis ball down the stairs then racing after it. "Thump, thump, thump" then a loud "BLAM!" as he ran into the wall at the bottom.
And… ugh! Homework was calling her name. She hated when it did that. Study hall always sent her home with a filled-to-the-brim brain.
She sat up and stared at herself in the mirror. She would have a friend across the street soon; she had to keep remembering that.
*Ring!* Riley rolled off her bed and checked the caller-I.D. before she answered the phone. "Hey, Shawn."
"You gave my ticket to Mr. Carroll?" Shawnna Brown shrieked. Riley laughed, but Shawn wasn't done yet. "And Jeremy Bradford took you home?"
"Gee whiz, Shawn! How the heck did you know that? I only got home ten minutes ago!"
Shawn giggled. "So it is true! You know that Lana is gonna have a hissy fit when I confirm it, right?"
"Why in the world would your sister care if Jeremy gave me a ride home?"
"Duh… cuz they're going out as of yesterday!"
"You're kidding! But I still don't understand why she'd be mad. He's moving in across the street on Saturday, so he wanted to know how to get there from school."
Shawn screamed, and Riley wondered how she could get away with being so loud in her house. "I didn't know he was moving!"
"Well, they only bought the house last night."
"How did you find out?"
"He told me in study hall…."
"You mean you talked to him afterwards?"
"No, I sat next to him."
There was silence on the other end of the line for a split second. "… in Greg Hathaway's seat?"
"How did you know that? You never have study hall fifth period."
"Ri, come on. This is Greg the football player! Everyone knows he has his own seat in that classroom! It hides you from the teacher and he sleeps that period."
"Babe, you're kind of out of it. I'm gonna go tell Lana that what we heard about Jeremy's giving you a ride home is true." Riley heard a faraway panicked gasp. "Whelp… guess she knows. Sorry about the movie. See you tomorrow!"
She didn't know how Shawnna did it, but Riley suddenly had enough energy to feel like starting homework.
"How was school, Ri?" Riley glanced wearily at her father and considered snapping that it was the same as always, if there was something special about it, she would have told them already.
Instead, she smiled sweetly and chose some random facts about the day. "Well, I helped someone with their Spanish, I met the star football player, and…"
Her mother broke in. "And a senior boy brought her home." It wasn't exactly the happy-for-you attitude Riley had hoped for.
Her father simply said, "Oh." But he didn't hide his disapproval well.
Riley had been about to explain why Jeremy had offered her a ride, but her parents' attitudes seemed to warn that an explanation would not be taken seriously. It was an attitude that Riley despised, for she had learned that it meant that she was a teenager and nothing she said should be taken seriously. It often came after Riley had been talking to her friends, and gave all of them the impression that her parents did not approve of them at all.
Riley picked at her food, realizing somewhere in the back of her mind that her silence was giving her parents the impression that their disapproval had been earned, and she was just a misguided little girl.
After dinner, Riley carried the dirty dishes to the sink and began to wash them. She hummed a song she had written to herself, and then started singing softly.
"Riley!" her dad called as he picked up the television remote control and prepared to turn the T.V. on. "Can you be quiet? I'm gonna watch T.V.!" Riley clamped her mouth shut, silently repeating what she wished she could say back.
She had just begun to scrub off a cookie-sheet when she felt her mom behind her. "You know, it's easier for me if I get it soapy first." Without a word, Riley reached for the soap to make her mother happy. "No, like this." Riley dried her hands on a towel, watching her mom finish the dishes the way she wanted to. Riley never understood why her mother always insisted that Riley's method of washing dishes, or anything else, was incorrect.
She could barely hold her tears of frustration back as she walked out of the room at a normal pace.
When she finally reached her room and had closed the door softly, she picked up a teddy bear and threw it at the floor. Tears streamed down her face.
"Why can't they treat me like a person?" she asked her bed. The desk didn't have an answer either. Riley opened her closet and pulled out her "LotR" box. Grabbing Fellowship of the Ring, a soundtrack to one of the movies, and her portable CD player, she went to her window and threw it open. Let her parents have a quiet night. Riley climbed out of her second-story window and tossed her things into a soft bush, then shuffled down the oak tree on the side of the house.
Two minutes later, she was making her way to her favorite spot in the back of Jeremy's new backyard. The last owners, the Prestons, had installed a fountain about three years before Riley was born. They had probably enjoyed it for a while, but eventually they forgot it and as a result, the path leading to it became overgrown and hidden. Riley had discovered that Mr. and Mrs. Preston were very forgetful, which was why their neighbors always ended up feeding their animals.
One day, when her family had been over for dinner, Riley had gone exploring and stumbled upon a little cove. Feeling that she had discovered her own secret garden, Riley had immediately left, but returned in secret many times.
Now Riley sat down on a rock and leaned back against a tree, letting the quiet of "her cove" flow over her and sooth her nerves. She sighed and opened her book and put on her headphones. Then she was lost among friends and caught in a story that helped her to forget her own troubles.