1. Chapter One.
Aimee slowly sat up, her eyes opening to the late afternoon sun. She could hear birds chirping in a nearby tree. But where was she? How did she get to where she was? She didn't know the answers to those questions. She frowned as her memory drew a blank. It was like a missing scene from a book or movie.
She remembered her first celebrity crush, Chris Rock, the time her niece tried to open a can of ravioli with a knife instead of a can opener, and her very first curse word. She had been in the dormitory lobby at the school for the blind, the couch was full.
"Is there anywhere to shit?" she had asked. She meant to say sit. She heard the collective ooh from the assembled girls and remembered the embarrassment. She had received a scolding from the house parent. Her musings were cut off by a knock to the forehead. She reached out her hand to feel what got her in the head, it was a fucking tree. Next, she transferred her hand to her forehead. There was a tiny knot there, and it was painful.
"Oh fuck," said Aimee.
"Watch out for that tree indeed." As she walked, she began to be thirsty. All she had to do was find a stream. She heard one about five minutes later. The sun disappeared under the shadows of some trees. The path sloped on the way down to the stream. She had to be careful as she walked, one wrong step would have her tumbling down the steep hill, and hit her head on a rock or something. The sound of running water grew louder as the stream drew nearer. She was relieved when the ground leveled out. A minute later, she was at the shallow end of the stream. With a grin, she knelt by it and began lapping up the water. It was ice cold but damn good. She had never tasted water so fresh in her life. After drinking her fill, she walked on. Her next thought was on how she was going to get food. She walked for a couple of minutes, thinking on this dilemma when the sound of a campfire drew near. She stopped, wondering if she should ask the person to help her or not. She wasn't certain if it would be a good idea, he or she could be dangerous. The woman stood there, torn between her need for help and her instincts. She was so deep in her thoughts, that the voice startled her when it spoke.
"Hello there." Aimee stifled a scream.
"Hi," she replied. There was an awkward silence for a minute. Then the man spoke again.
"Good afternoon, are you lost Miss?"
"I think that I am," said Aimee.
"I see. Perhaps I can be some assistance?"
"Yes, that would be helpful. Where am I?" Aimee asked the man.
"You are just outside of the town of Bree. It is a trader's town." Aimee was quite confused by this statement.
"Bree, what do you mean?"
"As I have just told you, Bree is a small trader's town." The man said to her.
"Ok, I am really lost then," she said.
"Where are you from if I may ask?" The man asked her.
"I am from Oklahoma," she said rather reluctantly.
"Hmmm, I am afraid that I have never heard of Ok-la-home-a," the man replied.
Is this dude on drugs or what? She thought in disbelief. Well, might as well play along for now.
"You have never heard of Oklahoma? It is one of the states in the United States of America."
"Interesting, I know nothing of this states being united by America," the crazy man replied.
"America is a country that has fifty states. Oklahoma is one of them... It is located in the southern part of the country," Aimee explained.
"Who are you?"
"I am Gandalf the Grey, traveling wizard of Middle Earth."
"For reals?" Aimee asked.
"I beg your pardon?" There was a note of slight amusement in the man's voice.
"You mean you have never heard of America? What about England, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Japan, India?" Those are all different countries."
"I am sorry, but I have not heard of any of those places."
"I must be dreaming. Gandalf the grey is a fictional character in a group of books." Aimee had not intended to speak those words aloud.
"I can assure you that I am most certainly real," a slight note of irritation entered the man's voice.
"Look, this is not funny anymore. Who are you really? Do you seriously expect me to believe that you are Gandalf the Grey?" Aimee asked. The man's voice grew serious.
"I have no reason to lie about my identity miss. I know where I am, I know what's around me whereas you apparently do not. And judging by your attire, you haven't the slightest clue what even happened to you! Now I have offered to assist you.
If you still wish for me to help you, then cease with the false accusations and start explaining yourself."
"I am not going to just run off into the wild with somebody that I do not know. You could be a serial killer for all I know." This man must have taken a lot of LSD if he thought that he was a fictional character from a book.
"serial killer?" Gandalf balked.
"perhaps for someone who hasn't heard of me then you have a point. But seeing as you HAVE heard of me, even if it is from some story book, what do you think?
Can you trust me based on what you have read or heard? If you still refuse to do so, then I shall be on my way and leave you to yourself."
"How can I?" Aimee asked the man.
"How would you react if you were in one place and wake up to find yourself in a whole new world? I want to trust you, but where I come from; it would be dangerous to go with a person who you have never met."
""Then do whatever you do in your world." Aimee could hear that he was losing his patience with her.
I however am on a schedule. Come if you want or go on your own. The choice is yours." With those words, he began to pack up his camp. Aimee bit back a sigh of frustration. She did not have enough time to decide her next plan. Her in stinks were telling her to go with him. She would get food, water, and some help. On the other hand, he could be a serial killer with mental issues.
"Well, what shall you do?" The man asked her.
"If you really are Gandalf the Grey, I wish to see some proof." The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them.
She didn't care though; did he really expect her to happily go along with his story without proof? No, this was obviously some guy that escaped from the sike ward who needed a serious reality check.
"Look bud, I don't know what fantasy is playing in that head of yours, but if you seriously expect me to believe that you are Gandalf, then you really need some serious help. I would also advise that you lay off the LSD for awhile. It is clearly messing with your common sense."
"Do not take me for a conjurer of cheap tricks young lady!" Gandalf yelled, losing his patience entirely. Aimee's breathing quickened as the man's presence loomed over her. She could feel his raw power as he stepped in front of her. His voice grew cold as he spoke.
"I have not the time for this! As I have said, I am Gandalf the Grey! I do not need a reality check! I have no reason to lie about who I am!"
Gandalf's anger was replaced by regret when he saw the terror on the woman's face. She was backing away, her hands in a defensive posture. She was forced to stop when her back hit a tree.
Now her eyes took on the look of a trapped wild animal who knows that escape is futile. He slowly walked towards her and put a gentle hand on her shoulder. She recoiled from his touch.
"Don't touch me you spawn of Satan!" she yelled as she scrambled up the tree.
Gandalf let out a frustrated sigh as he ran his hand through his hair. His regret grew sharper as he saw the tears streaming down her face.
She was a woman who was lost and afraid. He had no right to get angry at her for using her common sense. What made him feel worse was the fact that he had frightened a defenseless woman who had no idea where she was and who she was with.
Nienna would not have been pleased with his haste to anger.
"I am sorry for frightening you Miss," he said in a more gentle tone.
"Please come down, I only wish to give you aid." The woman's fear was lessening a bit, but the suspicion was still there.
"I shall not harm you Miss," said Gandalf. The woman had a thoughtful look on her face.
"You have my word, please come down," he coaxed.
"All right," said Aimee.
"No funny magic business though," she said, climbing down from the tree.
"Very well," said Gandalf. They stood there in an awkward silence for a minute as the woman thought. She let out a sigh as she came to a decision.
"All right, I will come with you," she said.
"I am only coming because I need help. I still do not trust you though."
"Very well, we must make haste." She took his arm and he led her to his tall horse.
"Do you need assistance getting into the saddle?" Gandalf asked.
"Yes I do," said Aimee. He glanced at her forehead as he helped her into the saddle.
"What happened to your forehead?" he asked her.
"I ran into a tree," she replied in a sheepish tone.
"That happens to the best of us," said Gandalf, thinking of the bumps he got when he ran his head into a hobbit hole's ceiling. Aimee smiled at this.
"That is too true." They rode in silence for a few minutes. Then she spoke again.
"Where are we going?"
"We are going to Bree as I mentioned earlier," said Gandalf.
"We will be staying in an inn called The Prancing Pony. We shall reach it by nightfall if we do not run into any trouble." The wizard reached behind him and rummaged in his pack.
"Here, you look like you could use some food." Aimee took the food but did not eat it.
"It is not poisoned Miss, I promise you." Aimee took a small bite of the cheese and bread. When she was satisfied that she wouldn't keel over, she devoured the food.
"Thank you," she said, swallowing the last bite.
"You are welcome my dear."
"I love horses," Aimee said, running her hand through the beasts main.
"I have not ridden one since I was a little girl."
"How do you travel if you do not ride horses?" Gandalf asked her.
"We travel in a car."
"Pardon me?' the Istari asked.
"Just think of it as a motorized carriage. I do not know the mechanics of a car. The only thing that I know is that it runs on fuel and it goes very fast. We also travel in machines that fly. We call them airplanes. They take us to different states in America and to other countries as well."
"Fascinating," said Gandalf. As they rode, she tried to remember what happened to her before this crazy situation. She was startled as the memories came to her.
It started on a Wednesday morning. She had been drinking coffee in the living room when the national weather service broke in with the report of a tornado watch. She grabbed her purse and ran into the down stairs bathroom, the tornado sirens beginning to wail. It didn't take long for the tornado to be over the roof. She had been frightened by the sound.
It was like a train. She held onto the toilet for dear life as the roof came off with a splintering sound. Her hold on the toilet was no match for the storm. It lifted her up and spun her around and around, her screams were cut short as she slammed against a car and knew no more. She was jolted out of her memories as the horse tripped over a rock in the road.
"Well Toado, we are sure as hell not in Kansas anymore," she said in a sarcastic tone.
"I beg your pardon?" The wizard asked her.
"It was a tornado," she said.
"It slammed me into a car," Aimee replied.
"Who is Toado? I thought you said that you were from Oklahoma," said Gandalf.
"It was a quote from a story from my world," said Aimee. She told him the story of The Wizard of Oz. She gave summaries of the book series. The wizard harrumphed when she told of how Glenda gave the man from Kansas magical powers.
"How utterly ridiculous," said Gandalf.
"You can't just get magic from a witch in that manner. You are born with it."
"You also cannot say there's no place like home and appear back where you were."
"I agree, it would be like Harry Potter giving magic to his muggle relatives," said Aimee.
"Who is Harry Potter?" Gandalf asked her.
"I hope it is more entertaining than that ridiculous tale you just told." Aimee smiled at this.
"It certainly is," she said, and proceeded to tell him the story.
"Far more entertaining and realistic," said Gandalf. He shuddered at the thought of having part of Lord Voldimort's soul attached to you. He was also glad that the woman was becoming more relaxed around him.
They reached Bree as the sun began to set. The gate keeper nodded at them as they passed through. When they got to the inn, a stable boy took the horse and led him away while Gandalf and Aimee headed inside.
"Ah, Gandalf, it has been a while since you have stopped by. How may I help you and the lady this eve?"
"I need two rooms for tonight. I also wish to use your parlor."
"Very well, I shall have those rooms made up for you. Do you wish for food and drink as well?"
"A pot of tea would be most welcome," said Gandalf.
"My wife shall have that brought to you in a few minutes,"
With a nod of thanks, Gandalf paid the inn keeper and led Aimee out of the noisy common room and into the parlor.
There was a fire burning in the grate as they entered. Gandalf pulled out Aimee's chair, closed the door, and sat down across from her. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. When the wizard answered it, there was a woman bearing a tea service on a silver tray. She set it on the table.
"Just ring the bell if you are in need of anything," she said. She left the room, the door closing behind her.
"Tea?" Gandalf asked Aimee.
"Yes please." He poured her a cup and slid it in front of her. Gandalf got up, opened the door and peered out. Satisfied that they would not be disturbed, he closed it again and resumed his seat, pouring himself some tea.
"So you are really Gandalf the Grey?" asked Aimee.
"Yes I am," the wizard replied.
"You say that I am a character from a book?" He asked Aimee, gazing at her with a thoughtful look on his face.
"That is right," said Aimee, taking a sip of tea.
"It was more than one book. They were written by a man called J.R.R. Tolkien."
"I do not fault you for your mistrust of me then," said Gandalf.
"I would have reacted in a similar fashion if I was in your situation."
"I am sorry for calling you spawn of Satan," said Aimee.
"Think nothing of it. I am used to folks being suspicious around me."
"All right then," said Aimee. She paused as she set her cup on the saucer. Taking a deep breath, she lowered her voice to a soft murmur.
""I know about the quest that is about to happen with the dwarves. I also know of things that happened in the past and things that will happen in the future. I know a bit of how you came from Valinor and the hidden ring you where, Olórin. I also know your other names as well."
"I see," said Gandalf.
It seems you know a bit too much for your own safety. If those of darker intentions were to find you, well then you'd be in dire trouble indeed. I believe it to be wise of you to keep what you know to yourself." He lowered his own voice to match hers.
"Especially about the more present events, such as the quest for Erebor and the future. Do you understand?"
"Yes I do," Gandalf could see no lie in the woman's eyes.
"Where will I go?" She asked him.
"The shire will not be a safe place for a woman who has knowledge of the future." Gandalf rubbed his chin, brows knitted together in thought.
"I have an idea, though I wish to hear from you first. What would you do?"
"Me, I would go to Imladriss."
"And?" Gandalf prompted.
"I would seek Lord Elrond's council of the situation." The istari nodded at this. She was a wise Lady who was careful to plan her next course of action.
"I must agree with you," Gandalf said, pouring them each a second cup of tea.
"I cannot take you to Imladriss just yet I am afraid," he added.
"That is understandable. A guardian's work is never done after all. What shall I do in the mean time?" asked Aimee.
""I am meeting someone this eve actually. Thorin, as you may well guess who he is. This night, I will encourage him to take his homeland back. You may stay with me for the time being. Though if you please, keep the knowledge of the future to yourself."
"I will, I promise."
"That is good. After you finish your tea, we shall buy some more appropriate clothing for you to where. Those short leggings may be normal in your world, but they are not here. I am glad that you can trust me with your information."
"I am a good judge of character," said Aimee.
"That is a good thing," replied Gandalf.
"If you are done with your tea, I shall summon a maid to assist you with buying your clothing."
"I am ready," said the woman. With a nod of his grey head, Gandalf led her back into the common room. The inn keeper spotted them and hurried over.
"I have your rooms ready for you. Do you need anything else?" he asked.
"Yes, Miss Aimee here needs assistance with buying some clothing," said Gandalf.
"My wife Betsy can assist her," the inn keeper replied. She came walking over to them at his call.
"This lady needs assistance with buying some wares," said Gandalf.
"I am not busy at the moment, I shall be glad to help her." Betsy took her arm and led her from the inn.
"I need some travel clothing," said Aimee as they walked down the quiet street.
"Our town seamstress shall assist you," said Betsy.
"I hope her shop is open at this time of night," said Aimee.
"It shall be open for thirty more minutes, "Betsy replied as they approached the shop. The door gave a squeak as Betsy turned the knob.
"How shall I assist you?" The seamstress asked as the two women entered the shop. She looked Aimee up and down with a critical eye. She did not like what she saw.
"I have told you many times that your circle of friends needs some improvement," the woman said to Betsy in a snooty voice.
"Where did you find this one? In a brothel? Her clothing certainly suggests it. I suppose that thing you call a husband is hiring prostitutes now?"
"You shall not speak of my husband in that manner. He is a good and respectful man." Betsy's voice had a dangerous edge to it.
"Are you going to assist this lady or not?" The woman scowled at Betsy.
"Very well, how shall I assist you this evening?" Her tone clearly indicated that she didn't want to assist a bar maid and this inappropriately clad woman.
"I need some appropriate travel clothing," said Aimee.
"Very well," The seamstress said.
""Tell me, what are you doing in the company of that wizard?"
"That is none of your concern," said Aimee. The seamstress's scowl deepened as she glanced out the window. She saw a dwarf dressed in a sky blue hood with black hair.
"Never trust a dwarf," she spat, turning back to her customer.
"They are only good for working in our forges and mining. They are too short and hairy. They grumble and complain about the pay that we give them at the end of a work day." She cast a nasty glare at the dwarf as he walked past the shop. He returned the glare with one of his own.
"I hear that dwarves spring out of holes in the ground." Aimee let out a snort at this.
"Oh please, that is a load of rubbish," she said. Betsy was laughing out loud at the woman's statement.
"Well, it is true," said the seamstress, sounding a lot like the British version of Harriet Olson from Little House on the Prairie.
"Have you seen a dwarf woman before bar maid?" she was giving Betsy a look that clearly stated her displeasure of having to talk to her type.
"As a matter of fact I have," said Betsy.
"How would you know? They look like men to me with their ridiculous beards. Very improper."
"If you must know, I had to help deliver her baby," she said.
"I was trained to be a midwife while I was courting my husband."
"I believe that your theory has been disproven," said Aimee with a smirk. Betsy flashed her a grin that she couldn't see.
"Now, will you help me find some travel clothing?" The woman gave a short nod. Thirty minutes later, Aimee and Betsy left the shop.
When they got back, Betsy led Aimee to her room and drew her a bath. While she relaxed in the hot water, she thought about her family. She hoped that they were well and that they survived the tornado.
Fifteen minutes later, she got out of the bath, got dressed in some of the clothes that Betsy bought for her, and went in search of Gandalf.
She ran into him in the common room. She could smell the sweet smoke from his pipe.
"Come," he said.
"I have had words with Thorin while you were in the bath. We shall leave for the shire at first light. Do you wish for a drink?"
"I would like a glass of red wine," replied Aimee. He gestured at a near/buy bar maid to come over.
"How may I assist you Sir?" she asked, approaching their table.
"The lady wishes for a glass of red wine. I will have the same thing," said Gandalf.
"Two glasses of red wine," the bar made echoed.
"I shall have that out momentarily." Receiving the wine a few minutes later, they drank it in silence before going to bed.'' Gandalf woke Aimee at five thirty the next morning. She got dressed and went to the common room for a breakfast of eggs, toast, fried potatoes, pancakes, porridge, and two cups of orange juice. After gulping down a cup of coffee, she and Gandalf saddled up his horse and set out from Bree to The Shire.
As they rode, Aimee told the wizard more about her world. She told him about how different governments worked in her world and her views on human rights.
"I see that you have a keen interest in politics," said Gandalf.
"Yes I do. I was planning on running for city council back in Oklahoma before the tornado. I was also planning on getting a guide dog. They are dogs that are trained to lead blind people around."
"That is quite interesting," said Gandalf. For supper that night, Gandalf cooked some fish that he caught at the stream they were camping by. It was rather good for camp food.
After they ate, Aimee played some songs on her ukulele while Gandalf blew multi colored smoke rings into the night. She did her best to ignore the pain of her backside.
She would have to get used to traveling by horseback.
The days and nights continued in this manner. They blurred into one another. Aimee was quite glad when the wizard announced that they had arrived in The Shire. Children ran after them as they rode into Hobbiton.
"G for Grand!" they chanted as the horse with its two riders clip clopped along the road. They grew disappointed when the wizard didn't produce any firework shows. Trading solemn looks, they headed back to their hobbit wholes.
Gandalf and Aimee dismounted at The Green Dragon inn and a stable boy led him away.
"We can walk the rest of the way," said Gandalf. Aimee nodded in agreement and they began their walk to Bag End. Aimee couldn't see this, but hobbits were staring at her through their little round windows. They wondered what one of the big folk was doing with Gandalf. Maybe a party was going to happen.
Aimee could smell bread along with other kinds of food cooking in the various houses they passed. She could hear hobbit mothers scolding their children, other hobbits debating on ways to bake a pie, and another group conversing on planting methods of flower gardens. Aimee smiled as she walked. Life was so much simpler in the Shire. Her world could learn a thing or two from these little people. These people didn't have to worry about the shitty things that the people in her world worried about. Paying rent, the scores on the Monday night football game, the next American idol contest, and the rest of the meaningless bole shit that her world concerned itself with. She smiled to herself as Gandalf opened the gate to Bag End.
Aimee listened with some amusement to Gandalf and Bilbo's conversation. She stifled a laugh at Gandalf grumbling about Belladonna Tooke's son selling him buttons at the door. Bilbo glanced in Aimee's direction.
"Who is this lady?" he asked Gandalf.
"This is Aimee. She is a friend of mine who has been traveling with me for a few days. I hope that she can stay with you."
"She is most welcome," said Bilbo. Gandalf and Bilbo's conversation continued. The hobbit finally had enough of hearing about adventures and ushered Aimee inside the hobbit hole.
"Would you care for some tea?" he asked, leading her to the table.
"Yes, I would like some." Bilbo nodded and put the kettle on the fire.
Aimee smiled as she sipped her tea.
"I love this tea. It has a fruity flavor in it."
"I am glad that you enjoy it," said Bilbo.
"Is there anything that you would wish to have for dinner?"
"Oh. The only meat I eat is fish."
"Then fish with vegetables is what we shall have."
"That sounds nice," said Aimee.
After drinking their tea, Bilbo showed her around the hole. Tolkien was not lying about all the rooms that he had.
"I could get lost in this place," said Aimee.
"Don't worry about it Miss, you will get used to the place quite soon," said Bilbo, putting some fish in the pan to fry.
"I hope so," said Aimee.
"You will, now will you wash these carrots for me?"
"Of course I will," said Aimee.
An hour later, Bilbo and Aimee washed their hands and sat at the small table to begin the meal.
"Would you care for some wine?" asked Bilbo.
"Yes please," said Aimee. Bilbo left the table, returning a minute later with a bottle of red wine and two wine glasses. He had just poured the wine when the doorbell rang.
"Excuse me," said Bilbo, getting up to answer it.
Aimee heard the door and a deep voice.
"Dwalin at your service." She listened to the dwarf ask Bilbo about supper as he walked into the dining room. Aimee listened as he sat in Bilbo's chair and began to eat the hobbit's dinner. This made her a bit angry. Why couldn't he get his own like a normal person? She figured that he hadn't had a proper meal in some time, but that was no excuse to take from another's plate. It was too late for her to say anything. The dwarf sank his teeth into the fishes head with a loud crunch.
"Very good this," said Dwalin.
"Is there anymore?"
"Oh, yes there is," said Bilbo, taking a plate of rolls and setting it in front of him. The dwarf devoured the rolls. He looked up from his plate and spotted the woman sitting across from him.
"Who are you?" he growled.
"My name is Aimee," she said, a note of nervousness entering his voice.
"Tis a queer name. I have not heard it before. From whence do you hail?"
"It is a rather long and complicated story. I am still trying to wrap my head around it myself. I would rather wait until later to tell it."
"Very well, I can wait, but I shall expect some answers." Aimee could hear the suspicion in the dwarf's voice.
"I will do my best to answer any questions you may have for me," said Aimee.
Dwalin was about to reply when the doorbell rang once more. Bilbo scuttled down the passageway to answer it. Aimee could hear Dwaling trying to get some cookies from the cookie jar.
"Do you need help with that?" she asked the dwarf. He cursed as his hand got stuck inside the jar. He managed to get his hand free.
"I can manage," he grunted. Aimee nodded as Bilbo let the next dwarf in.
He spotted Dwalin and gave a yell of delight. The two dwarves began to chat as they inspected Bilbo's pantry. Bilbo remained polite as he asked what they were doing in his house, but he was ignored.
Aimee could hear him scuttling down the passage as the bell rang again. The second dwarf noticed her as she got up from the table.
"I apologize for not introducing myself my lady. I am Balin, son of Fundin, at your service."
"At yours and your families'," she replied, giving the customary response. Like his brother, he asked for her name. He grew suspicious and asked for her story. Like before, she promised she would tell the story later. Balin accepted her answer and filled his mug with ale. There was a third ring of the doorbell. To Aimee's surprise, it was not Fili and Kili that came in the hobbit hole; it was Oin and his brother Gloin.
'Where the heck was Fili and Kili?' Aimee asked herself. Both the book and the movie had them arriving after Balin. Her thoughts were cut off by a series of yells and curses as the new arrivals fell in a pile on Bilbo's door mat.
"Carefully, carefully," said Gandalf who was leaning on his staff.
"It is not like you Bilbo, to leave friends waiting on the mat and opening the door like a pop gun." Bilbo could only splutter as he followed the new arrivals into his home.
Aimee was ignored for a time as the dwarves devoured Bilbo's pantry. She could hear Bilbo's angry protests as he tried without success to keep the dwarves from destroying his food supplies. She could hear him and Bofur conversing near her spot. She chuckled as Bofur said that crochet would be a good game.
"If you had the balls for it." She ducked under the table when they started throwing Bilbo's plates. When the song began, she got out from her hiding place, felt on the table fore a spoon and wine glass, and tapped a counter rhythm. The ting, ting, ting, of the spoon hitting the crystal made a lovely sound to go along with the silly song. These dwarves knew how to throw a party, she thought as the song ended. Laughing along with them, she handed the spoon and glass to the nearest dwarf.
"Thank you Miss, I shall hand this to Biffur." Aimee was about to thank him and ask for his name but a loud knock at the door interrupted her.
"He is here," said Gandalf, walking to the door.
"Gandalf," Thorin said, walking into the hobbit whole and hanging his cloak and hood on the peg by the door.
"I thought that this place was going to be easy to find. I lost my way, twice." There was no Fili and Kili standing behind him. What on earth was going on?
A bout of shyness crept on Aimee as she stood alone in the hall. Gandalf was the one who noticed.
"Come and join the gathering Miss Aimee," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder and guiding her into the dining room. She was guided into the chair beside Thorin.
"Who are you?" he asked her.
"My name is Aimee," the woman replied.
"Gandalf has told me of you," said Thorin.
"What did he say of me?" Aimee asked the dwarf.
"He said that you were traveling together for some time. He told me nothing else. I am curious however. Your accent is one I have never heard of before. Where do you hail from?"
"I am not from Middle Earth," said Aimee. She could feel the dwarves' suspicious gazes.
"I got caught in a tornado," said Aimee.
"It through me against a vehicle and I blacked out, waking in the woods. I ran into Gandalf who was on the way to Bree and he helped me."
"What is a tornado?" asked Balin.
"It is a storm that rotates very fast. It is dangerous when you are caught in one."
"If you died from this tornado, why are you here?" Dwalin asked.
"I don't know why I am here," Aimee replied. Thorin gave her a hard look. He could see that she was hiding something from him by the nervous look on her face.
"You are not telling the whole truth. I would have you tell me what you are hiding." The woman ran a shaking hand through her brown hair.
"All right, I will tell you. But I would like to say this in private." Her voice was shaking a bit; she took a breath to calm herself down.
"I would like Balin and Dwalin to hear this as well, for I promised them an explanation." Some of the dwarves were about to protest, feeling that they too had the right to hear where this strange woman hailed from. Some of them opened their mouths to do so, but Thorin silenced them with one of his glares.
"Very well," he said.
"Master Baggins, is there a room where we may take council?"
"You can use my study if you wish," said Bilbo. Thorin nodded his head in agreement to this. The four of them got up from the table and followed Bilbo. Thorin had to steer Aimee in the right direction when she started to go into a different room. The hobbit bowed them in.
"Do you wish for drinks?" he asked. Thorin and Aimee requested red wine while Balin and Dwalin preferred ale. With a nod, Bilbo left the room. He returned a couple minutes later with a tray in his hand. He took off a bottle of wine, two wine glasses and two mugs of ale. Thorin pulled out Aimee's chair as the hobbit left. He uncorked the wine and poured them each a glass.
"This may come as a shock and I don't blame you if you don't believe me at first," said Aimee, taking a sip of the fruity wine.
"Go on," Thorin replied.
"I know of your quest from a book that was written in my world. You were born in the imagination from an author from my world. He invented this world along with all of you." She took another sip of wine and continued.
"Thorin Oakenshield, you have a sister named Dis and a brother named Fraren. You got the name Oakenshield from when you fought Azog the Defiler using a branch as a shield." The woman hesitated to continue.
"I don't want to bring up any bad memories for you," she said.
"It matters not," said Thorin.
"Dis has two sons named Fili and Kili. They were supposed to go on the quest. Gloin is son of Groin, brother to Oin, and father to Gimli." She drained the wine.
"Like I said, I understand if you don't believe me. I used to think that traveling to whole other worlds was impossible, especially fictional ones." They could hear loud laughter from Bilbo's dining room.
"I used to think that getting a second chance at life was impossible," said Balin.
"What?" Thorin, Dwalin, and Aimee asked. Thorin got up, opened the door, peered out, and sat back down.
"I too have a secret," Balin said, his voice lowered.
"I also know the events of the quest, for I lived through them and died at a future battle that took place. Mahal granted me a second chance to redue the events of the quest," Balin copied Aimee, taking a sip of ale before continuing.
"I am sure that you have noticed the absence of Fili and Kili Miss Aimee?" he asked her.
"Yes I have," she replied.
"Balin advised that I have them stay at home with their mother," said Thorin
"I agree with you on that," said Aimee. Balin and Dwalin nodded as well.
"At least some of my company have sense in their heads," said Thorin. He had faced opposition from most of the company, but this was a decision that he would not revoke
"Mahal also told me that I would have a guide who would help me from afar. I asked him what he meant; he said that it would be revealed in time." Balin looked at her as the pieces began to fit in his mind.
"It is interesting," said Aimee.
"I die from an illness and get taken to a whole new world. You die in a future battle and you also get sent back to this point in time."
"Both of us know of future events that are to come," Balin added.
"Come, we shall talk of this later. We have a hobbit to convince to be our burglar." Balin, Dwalin, and Aimee nodded at Thorin's words and followed him from the study.
Events continued as Balin and Aimee remembered. They both winced at Bilbo's hysterical shriek when he was informed of the possibility of his demise. Gandalf struck a light at the end of his staff and shone it in the hobbit's eyes. He was taken to his study with a drink to revive himself.
Aimee was growing irritated as the dwarves argued on the merits of taking Bilbo with them. She winced and rubbed her aching head. All she wanted to do was go to bed.
"Are you all right lass?" Balin asked her.
"It is just a headache," Replied Aimee.
"If you guys don't mind, I would like to go to bed. I am rather tired."
"Very well, we shall be leaving early in the morning," said Thorin.
"Gandalf informed me that he would be taking you to Rivendell, you shall journey with us." His tone suggested he was not pleased with the idea.
"The roads are too dangerous for a woman who cannot defend herself, but no matter." Aimee wished the dwarves a good night and headed to the passage where the rooms were. Going into the nearest one, she closed the door and snuggled under the covers. She was asleep a few minutes later.
Balin sighed as the woman's footsteps retreated down the passageway. He rubbed his aching head, not knowing that the woman was doing the same as she walked down the corridor. He took a deep drink from his mug of ale. He followed that with a big bite of seed cake. He loved seedcake. It brought back fond memories of his mother teaching him how to cook and bake. His mouth twitched into a smile as his memories of him and his mother trying to teach Dwalin how to cook came to mind. It was a dismal failure. He let out a chuckle as he remembered his mother's exasperated voice proclaiming that he couldn't even boil water correctly. His mind drifted back to the present as the dwarves continued to argue over Bilbo's inclusion into the company. He looked at the hobbit. He was sitting in his chair, wringing his hands together. The poor thing looked terrified at the thought of facing a dragon. He couldn't blame the tiny creature. Balin had gone on the quest once all ready, the thought of doing it again made him afraid. Bilbo Baggins had a lot of courage in him. He just needed to find it within himself.
"If I say Bilbo Baggins is a burglar, then a burglar he is!" Gandalf boomed, finally loosing his patience with the whole lot of them. Balin was surprised that the wizard's booming voice didn't wake the lass.
"Come Mister Baggins, I wish to have a word with you," Bilbo nodded his curly head and followed the wizard from the dining room.
"Will the hobbit come?" Thorin asked from beside him.
"I know not," the white haired dwarf replied. Thorin nodded at this.
"What of the woman?" Thorin asked.
"Do you believe her tale?"
"I know not," Balin said with a sigh.
"DO you think she may have an item from her world that may back up her tale?" asked Balin.
"I shall find out tomorrow," said Thorin.
"What of my tale, do you believe me?" asked Balin.
"I do not know as of yet," said Thorin.
"It shall take time for me to process this information."
"I thought as much," said Balin.
"It is not every day that you hear of your friend and kin coming back from the future to change certain events." He got to his feet and pushed in his chair.
"I am weary; I shall adjourn fore the evening. I bid you a good night." He disappeared down the hallway and into one of the guest rooms. He was asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow.
In his dream, Balin was standing in the beginning of a long and dark hallway. Before he could wonder what he was doing here and where the hallway led to, a shadow appeared to his left. He looked in that direction to find Miss Aimee. She looked as confused as he felt.
"Well met lass,' said Balin.
"You as well," the woman replied.
"Where are we?"
"I know not," Balin replied.
"Let us walk and see." He looped his arm through hers, and they began their walk. The thuds of their shoes hitting the stone floor was rather loud in the silence. After half an hour of this, they were both becoming frustrated at the long walk.
"Is there no end to this accursed hallway?" Balin snapped.
"I don't know," said Aimee her tone as annoyed as his. They continued their walk. They began to hear something. It sounded like footsteps.
"What was that?" they asked together. The footsteps were behind them. Aimee clutched at Balin's arm as the noise grew louder.
Who's coming?" the woman asked, rather scared.
"I do not know," Balin replied.
"Check behind us. It feels like it's coming from that way, but it's so faint." Aimee said to the dwarf.
"Aye, it does. I cannot see it yet," said Balin. Aimee let out a scream as she felt a hand land on her shoulder. Balin looked over his shoulder, but he couldn't see a thing through the pitch black darkness.
"Who are you?" he yelled, a hint of nervousness in his voice. Aimee strained her ears, trying to listen.
"They are light footsteps," said Aimee. The dwarf nodded his head.
"What do you want with us?' they asked together, flinching at the echoes that bounced back. Aimee let out a soft scream as a voice answered.
"Lions and tigers and bears, oh my," she muttered.
"Peace, be not afraid,"
"I am not afraid, I am fine and dandy," said Aimee.
Balin could hear a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"Where are we?" asked Balin.
"You are in the halls of Mahal; he has summoned you both here."
"Oh crikey," Aimee said. "DO you have any chocolate?" Balin did not know what a crikey or what chocolate was. He watched as a huge bar appeared in front of the woman. She broke off a piece and popped it in her mouth. She offered a piece to the dwarf. Rather curious by now, Balin broke off his own piece. It was delicious. It had a sweet and creamy taste to it.
"Why are we here?" Balin and Aimee asked together.
"" I am a messenger of Mahal. He approaches. Prepare yourselves and do not fear. he shall explain." The voice said as it disappeared. They both felt the sensation of a large and looming presence.
"Oh crikey," said Aimee.
"Calm yourselves, you are in my halls. I have brought you here for a purpose," said Mahal. His voice reminded Aimee of Morgan Freeman. She imagined that it would be what the actor's voice was like if he was British.
Spotting the chocolate in front of her, the creator of the dwarves broke off a piece and put it in his mouth.
"Pardon me, I forgot about the light," said Mahal. He snapped his fingers and a bright light appeared overhead.
Clap on, clap off. Aimee said to herself, thinking of Bruce All Mighty. She suppressed a giggle of amusement.
Balin had a small smile on his face. He remembered where this was now. They were in a huge room with a throne in the center. This was the same room that he was in after dyeing in Moria. He saw a pair of chairs and a table adjacent from the throne. He led Aimee to a chair and pulled it out for her. She gave her thanks and sat down.
Balin sat down beside her as Mahal put the chocolate on the table. They ate the chocolate for a minute or two. It seemed not to shrink, no matter how much they ate. After eating their fill, Mahal spoke.
"You wish to know why I have summoned you here do you not?" he asked. Two heads nodded in agreement.
"You, Aimee of Earth have been allowed to come to Middle Earth because you have a special gift.
A gift people are given and one that could help save Middle Earth as we know it.
""Oh boy, here we go, let me guess. I can control time with my awesome powers." Aimee's voice had equal parts of sarcasm and humor in it. Mahal smiled as he laughed.
"No," he said through his chuckles.
"Do you remember a book from your world?" Aimee nodded in the affirmative.
"You can use that information to help change future events."
"All right," said Aimee.
"You Balin, son of Fundin have been saved from death as you can remember from last we met," Mahal continued.
"Aimee has information, the gift of a seer, which will aid you and the future of Middle Earth."
"All righty then," said Aimee.
Balin remembered the conversation that he had with the lass and his friends back in the hobbit's home.
He broke off a piece of chocolate and nibbled on it in thought.
"DO you speak of the book that I have read?" Aimee asked, just to confirm the situation.
"Yes," said Mahal patiently.
"Your copy of the book had information that was to remain a secret but I fear it will come to pass, that is why you are here." He clapped his hands together and a bottle of wine appeared on the table.
"Would you care for some wine?" he asked Aimee.
"I would like that," the woman replied. He grabbed two wine glasses and poured the red liquid in both of them. Mahal clinked his glass against hers, and they drank to a silent toast.
"Would you care for a drink?" he asked Balin.
"No thank you," he replied. Mahal nodded.
"Very well, I have a puzzle I wish for the two of you to solve," he said.
"I am not very good at riddles," said Aimee. The god of the dwarves chuckled with a gentle smile on his face.
"I believe that the two of you will be able to solve this one, Balin is rather good at riddles." He took a sip of wine and continued.
"The riddle is this," he took a piece of paper out of his robe pocket and began to read.
"Warrior, councilor, schemer.
Writer, artisan, musician.
Sightless and seen.
Dying he lived
Living she died
Fierce to gentle.
Alone now together.
The rope that never ended.
Tying end to end.
Travel from land to land.
But never took a step.
Found each other
Without having to search."
Balin and Aimee were silent as they went over the riddle.
"Warrior, councilor, schemer—"
"Writer, artisan, musician." They spoke at the same time.
"I think that the first line is talking about you, and the second line talks of me," said Aimee.
"I agree with that," said Balin. He spoke the third line.
"Sightless and seen,"
"I can't see, so I am sightless," said Aimee.
"You are the seen part." Balin agreed with her.
"Dying he lived
Living she died," said Aimee.
"I was dead when Mahal brought me back in time," said Balin.
"I was alive, but I died from a tornado," said Aimee.
"It seems to link similar things or ideas together, though I don't get the rope bit, or the alone, but now together idea," she continued, sipping on her wine.
"The two ends of the rope are tied together," Balin replied.
"Now the part that puzzles me is, found each other, without having to search."
"Is the riddle talking about how we are linked in some fashion?" asked Aimee.
"Precisely," said Mahal.
"The two of you share a link with each other's minds, use it to guide each other's footsteps as you go forth."
"A whattie what now?" Aimee asked, she was rather confused.
"All shall be clear, one step at a time." Mahal said, a smile in his voice.
"I must send you back now, farewell and may luck be with you."
"Mahal Wait, I have one question for you." Aimee had a grin on her face.
"What is it my lady?" he asked. Aimee's grin grew.
"Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Balin traded an amused look with his creator.
"The duck," said Mahal. He laughed at the stunned look on the woman's face as she and Balin disappeared.
Back in the home of Bilbo Baggins, Balin and Aimee woke from their shared dream.
"Was it a dream?" They whispered, it felt too real, too vivid to be a dream. They were surprised to find that they were holding a box in their hands. Opening it, they found that it was full to the brim with squares of chocolate wrapped in paper. Engraved on the lid, there was a letter M.
After getting dressed and putting the chocolate in their packs, they met in the dining room.
"Good morning lass," Balin greeted as she sat down in a chair.
"You as well," Aimee replied, rubbing sleep from her eyes.
"Do you wish to have some coffee? I am about to make some."
"Yes, I would love a cup," said Aimee. She listened as he put some firewood in the wood stove, lit it, and put on the water to boil. This was followed by his footsteps coming back into the dining room, the scrape of wood as he pulled out his chair, and the rustle of his clothing as he sat down. They were silent as the water began to boil, each of them wondering when one of them would bring up the shared dream.
Balin got up a few minutes later to fix the coffee.
"How much sugar and cream do you want?" he called from the kitchen.
"Two teaspoons of sugar and a lot of cream," Aimee replied. The dwarf was back a few seconds later with a cup of coffee in each hand. He set one in front of her.
"Thank you," she said, taking a sip of the hot drink. It was good and strong, just the way she liked it.
"I had a rather vivid dream last night," said Aimee, sitting her coffee cup on the table.
"What did you dream of?" Balin asked.
"To make a long story short, you and I were in the halls of Mahal, he told us that we have a telepathic connection. This morning when I woke up, I had a box of chocolate in my hand. I didn't have chocolate in my pack. I suppose that it was a gift from Mahal." Balin was silent as he drank his coffee.
"I think that I had the same dream," he said with a sigh.
"I have been pondering what he meant by me having help from afar during the journey. I think that he meant… you." He took another sip of coffee.
"I too had a mysterious box of chocolate in my hand as I awoke."
"So what do you think that this connection will entail?" asked Aimee.
"I know not," Balin replied.
"We may be able to talk mind to mind, and read one another's thoughts."
"Well then, this will be interesting," said Aimee, draining her cup.
"Do you want me to help you cook breakfast?"
"I would appreciate that," said Balin. Together, they made a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, ham and bacon. The rest of the group wouldn't be awake for an hour or so.
Balin watched as she put the bacon on a baking sheet.
"What are you doing?" he asked her.
"The bacon tastes better when you bake it in the oven," she said.
Balin was curious, he had never cooked bacon in the oven before, he always fried it. After shutting the oven door, she made herself some scrambled eggs while Balin fried some ham for Thorin.
When the pancakes were done, she took her plate outside and sat on the garden bench.
She had just taken her last bite of egg when she heard footsteps coming towards her..
"Miss Aimee," it was Thorin.
"Good morning, did you sleep well?" she asked as he sat beside her.
"Yes I did," the dwarf king replied.
"I wish to have a word with you before we depart."
"All right, what about?" asked Aimee.
"I meant to speak to you of this last night, but you were asleep. You say that you are from another world. Do you have anything that you can show me that will give your tale some merit?"
"Yes I do," said Aimee.
"I will have to grab it real quick. I will be right back." Thorin nodded as she got up from the bench and headed into the hobbit hole. After putting her plate in the wash basin, she headed to the guest room and grabbed her packed bag.
Nothing wrong with being prepared, she thought, heading back through the passageway. Some of the dwarves were awake, she could hear two of them arguing. One of them had apparently stolen some of Bilbo's silverware. Her lips were pressed into a thin line as the round door thudded shut with a loud bang behind her. She threw herself onto the bench as the argument drifted from the hobbit hole, she hated thievery.
She was about to speak when Balin's angry voice floated through the door.
"That is enough of that lads, I am not going to listen to you squabbling all morning! I suggest you ready yourselves for our departure." The door opened and shut for a second time as Balin made his way down the front steps. He sat himself on Aimee's right, running a hand through his beard.
Aimee rummaged through her pack until she found her iphone. She handed it to Thorin.
"This is an iphone, it allows us to communicate with other people over many miles.." Thorin gazed at the rectangular device.
"Can you demonstrate how this works?" he asked, handing it back to her. The woman nodded as she pushed the home button to unlock the screen. Thorin drew his sword in alarm when he heard the voice coming from the speaker.
"It's all right, it is called voice over. It tells blind people what is on the screen." She demonstrated this by going to her contacts and selecting her sister in law.
"What kind of magic is this?" Thorin asked.
"It is not magic," said Aimee.
"It is powered by electricity. There is a battery in the phone that helps it work."
"That is nothing I have seen in Arda before," said Balin. Thorin was gazing at the photos that Aimee was showing him.
"How do the pictures appear on this device?" he asked.
'There is a device on here called a camera. It takes the picture when you point the camera lens at a person or an object and press the take picture button."
"I see," said Thorin, handing her back the phone.
"Let me introduce you to the company," Thorin said, leading her into the hobbit hole.
An hour and a half later, they left Hobbiton and made their way to The Green Dragon. She was walking with Thorin at the head of the company. She could hear some of the dwarves grumbling their disapproval of her joining the company. She did her best to ignore them. Her thoughts turned to her family back home and how much she missed them.
They arrived at the inn at half passed nine. Balin, who was the watch man kept watch by the door while the other dwarves went to the stables for the ponies. Aimee was told to stay with Balin and keep an ear out for the burglar. He came huffing and puffing up to them twenty minutes later. The dwarves walked back in single file with the ponies and Gandalf's horse. The wizard thanked them for getting his horse and gave the hobbit his handkerchiefs and pipe weed. On hearing that he didn't have a cloak and hood, Dwalin gave him one from his pack.
The tattooed dwarf helped Aimee onto his pony and they got going. The dwarves sang and told tales as they rode, Aimee remained silent, pondering the telepathic connection that she and Balin shared.
She hoped that they would get to know one another a bit before the bond showed itself.
Evening finally came, to her profound relief. She had grown bored from the lack of conversation from her riding partner and her butt was hurting from being on a pony for so long. She stood there, feeling rather useless as the company bustled around her, setting up camp.
"Come help me clean these weapons," She jumped at the voice.
"Balin? Is that you?" she asked.
"Aye," the dwarf replied, leading her to a secluded spot.
Balin was pleased to find that she was a fast learner. He only had to correct her two or three times. They worked together in silence for a few minutes.
"When are we going to tell Thorin and Dwalin of our telepathic connection?" Aimee asked.
Balin put down the axe he was working on to face her.
"In truth, I believe we should wait until the bond has begun to show itself. They will need proof of our story before they can believe it."
"That makes sense," said Aimee. They picked up the weapons they were cleaning and began their work again.
After another stretch of silence, Balin spoke.
"How are you faring?"
"As well as can be expected," said Aimee.
"I feel out of place and I am rather lonely," she ran a hand through her hair and continued.
"I know it is stupid, being that it is only day one of our journey, but—"
"You are not being stupid," Balin interrupted.
"You are in a whole new place that has entirely different standards of living than you are probably accustomed to. Just give it more time and you will be fine.
Try not to let our attitude towards you upset you. It is in our nature to be wary of outsiders. You just have to try and be patient with us, for we are slow to trust others outside our race."
"I will try,' said Aimee. The dwarf got to his feet.
"I shall see you later, I have a meeting with Thorin I must attend." Aimee nodded as his footsteps disappeared from her hearing range.
Well, if trust is to start, I must be the one to make the first move, she thought as she headed to the center of the campsite. The first male she ran into was Bombur.
"Hello lass," he said.
"Hi, do you need any help with cooking? I can chop potatoes and add any seasoning that you may need. I can also taste test the food."
'Very well," the dwarf said, leading her over to the campfire.
"I wish for you to chop these potatoes in quarter chunks, I am making a potato stew." Aimee nodded at this as she went to the stream to wash her hands.
Bombur was rather nervous as she began to chop the potatoes. He expected her to chop her fingers off. His fears were rather foolish however, she was careful in her movements as she chopped, feeling for a place to cut before inserting the knife.
After she was done, the dwarf added them to the pot of boiling water. He allowed her to add the seasonings as she desired. He was quite satisfied with the end result.
"As my aid, you get the first bowl," he said, handing it to her.
"Could you give this next one to Thorin?" he asked, handing her a second bowl.
"Yes I will, where is he?" asked Aimee.
"Turn right and walk ten paces," said Bombur.
"Miss Aimee," the dwarf king said as she approached.
"I have dinner for you," she said, holding out the bowl in her right hand.
"I helped make it."
"Thank you," said Thorin, taking the bowl from her.
"I'll go if you want me to," said Aimee.
"You may stay," Thorin replied. He took a small bite of the stew as she sat down.
"It is good Miss," he said to her.
"Thanks," she said, taking a bite of her own.
"It is rather good." They ate in silence for a few minutes. They could hear the stampede of dwarves as they rushed to get a serving of the stew.
"If you don't mind me saying…" The woman's voice trailed into silence as she hesitated.
"Go on," Thorin encouraged.
"Well, I think it would be neat if you let Bilbo cook once in awhile, he is a rather good cook."
"Cooking over a campfire is different than cooking over a stove," Thorin countered.
"If a blind woman can cook over a campfire, surely a hobbit can as well. I am not saying that he has to, I am just laying the suggestion out on the table." Thorin's silence made her wish she had kept her mouth shut.
"Never mind, I shouldn't have—"
"I shall think about it," said Thorin. The woman gave him a smile as they ate their dinner.