"Get down!" Merry jumped on top of Sarah, bowling her to the ground, just as a dark horse sailed over them, right where her head had been moments before, bringing with it a feeling of dread and despair.
"Frodo!" Sam screamed, struggling under Pippin, who had him pinned down.
"Thanks," Sarah told Merry, brushing herself off and helping the hobbit off of the ground.
Arwen looked over at the four. "We must go, Estel," she said in low, urgent tones, though Sarah and Merry caught every word. "It is dangerous to remain, and it is almost light. We should reach Imladris by night fall tomorrow.
Sarah groaned audibly. Another two whole days of walking! Her pessimistic attitude turned out to be a rather accurate prediction. It was walking, roaming, hiking, more walking, and strolling, with very few breaks for meals and the other necessities of life, which shall not be mentioned here.
Finally, finally, in the distance they could catch the sparkling ribbon of water that lay across their path. The shadows of evening were long before them, Anor at their backs.
A random thought occurred to Sarah.
"If we are really in Middle-earth, Arda, then the sun and the morn are ships with Maiar on them. That is too cool!" Her thought stream was interrupted by Pippin, who had just caught sight of Rivendell.
"What is that?" he asked, pointing.
Arwen slowed her steps, turning to smile at him. "That, Master Perian, is my father's house, Imladris, or as it is more commonly known among men, Rivendell." Arwen abruptly turned green. She leaned over and said something to Aragorn in Sindarin.
Aragorn laughed out loud. "You brought it upon yourself," he told her.
"Do not remind me," she growled. This only served to make Aragorn laugh harder.
Their four charges exchanged puzzled looks, Sarah just as mystified as the rest of them.
The stars had come out above them by the time they finally reached the water's edge. The Fords of Bruinen.
The water splashed happily over its stony bed, giving no indication that two nights ago it had raged an angry battle with the Dark Tower's chief servants. It was about knee high on Aragorn and Arwen, thigh-high on Sarah, and waist high on Merry, Pippin, and Sam. The water about their exhausted feet as they made their way across was cooling and welcome. As they climbed the steep, narrow path, they could see an old grey figure at the top. The hobbits and Aragorn rushed him.
"Gandalf!" they cried.
"My old friends," Gandalf greeted them, smiling gently. He nodded at Arwen, and then his gaze fell upon Sarah.
"Who is this?" he asked.
Sarah opened her mouth to reply, but was arrested by the sight of a furious elf descending the steps.
"Arwen. Peredhil," the elf ground out in a tightly controlled voice.
Arwen let out a sound that sounded suspiciously like "meep."
Gandalf turned his attention from Sarah to the elf. "Ah! Lord Glorfindel," he began, "Now may not be the best time…" his voice trailed off. The blond elf was clearly paying no heed to his words.
Sarah slowly inched away from Arwen and towards Gandalf and the hobbits.
Gandalf looked between the two, and then sighed. "Come along my friends," he called to the two humans and four hobbits. Sarah, Pippin, Sam, and Merry obeyed, but Aragorn opted to stay behind and provide Arwen with some much-needed moral support.
As soon as they were out of ear-shot of the two elves, Sam looked up at Gandalf anxiously.
"Mr. Gandalf, where's my master?"
"He should be with Miss Rivers, in her room. He has hardly left her side."
Sarah ran up alongside the wizard. "Maggie. Is Maggie alright?"
Said wizard looked at her gravely, and then quickened his pace.
"She is alive," was all that he would say.
They soon came to a wooden door that Gandalf tapped lightly on three times, then pushed open. Two of the three people within rose to greet him. The first was Frodo. The second one was so shockingly familiar that it took Sarah's breath away.
"Mithrandir!" Grace called, at the same time as Frodo's "Gandalf!"
Sarah couldn't wait a moment longer. She ran at her sister and tackled her, drawing her into a prolonged hug.
"Grace," she murmured into her sister's hair.
"Sarah," Grace sobbed into her chest.
Gandalf smiled at them. "Is this your lost sister, Ithilwen?" he asked Grace.
"Yes, Mithrandir," she replied. "This is Sarah."
Their reunion was cut short by Merry. He and Pippin had slipped over to Maggie's bed side while everyone was occupied by the Hodgsons.
"Will she be alright?" the young hobbit asked. Gandalf sighed. He seemed to be doing a lot of that lately.
"We do not know, though we shall always hope. We do believe that she is past the worst of it now, but there is always room for error."
Sarah walked over to the bed and her best friend, Grace clinging like a burr to her side. Maggie was pale against the white sheets. Her normally tan skin was almost white. Gandalf came over to them.
"She was fighting," he told them, "though she could not continue to do so for much longer. Lord Elrond suspected that there was still a shard of the knife in the wound, working its way inwards. He located it and removed it this afternoon. She should wake up some time tonight or tomorrow."
Sarah took Maggie's hand gently in her own. At that moment the door opened to reveal two identical elves. Grace looked up and nodded at them.
"Dan, Ro," she greeted quietly. "This is my sister Sarah."
'Dan' and 'Ro', who Sarah immediately guessed to be Elladan and Elrohir, gave Grace extremely skeptical looks.
"If you say so," said the one on the left. Sarah was not sure which he was.
"Anyway, Ithilwen," continued the one on the right, "Miril has bullied us into coming to carry you off to bed and making you sleep.
"But Maggie, and Sarah," Grace gestured to her friend and to her sister.
The fist, the one on the left, smiled at her. "Miril and Bellethiel have conspired, and they are preparing rooms for the hobbits."
Grace glared. "That still does not answer my question."
"Grace." The one on the right (Sarah was pretty sure that it was Elrohir) came and sat down on the bed next to her. "Ada says that she will most likely wake up tomorrow at the earliest." He put his arm around her in a hug. "The room next to yours, the one that has a door between the two, has been made ready for Aragorn's companion, as soon as they were spotted approaching. And, when Maggie wakes up, you will be the first to know, after Ada, of course."
Grace smiled at him. "Thanks," she said. Elrohir stood up and lead the sleepy girl out of the room. Sarah followed them, with Elladan bringing up the rear of their little procession.
Sarah woke to the sound of swords hitting each other. Puzzled, she got out of bed and when to the large window. The Sun was already high in the sky, and below the two elves from last night, Elladan and Elrohir, were crossing blades with Aragorn, one of the twins against his brother and foster brother
Sarah pulled her head back inside, and turned to look at her room. On top of the chest at the foot of her bed was a dark green gown. She blinked in surprise, and then started looking for the dress that Aragorn had given her. It was not anything fancy, but it was the first thing she had ever owned in Middle-earth, plus Aragorn had given it to her, so she was kind of attached to it. (Okay, not 'kind of', but 'really')
Since she was in a night gown, and the green dress was the only other thing available to wear, Sarah slipped it on. As she walked over to the table in search of a hair brush (which she found), she discovered a note lying on the polished wood. It was written in her sister's almost unintelligible chicken scratch, that gave everyone how tried to read it a headache after ten seconds, excepting their father. (She had gotten it from him.) Basically it could have been written in Hebrew. Fifteen minutes later, Sarah had come up with a readable version on a separate scrap of paper. (She had never been so glad for all the practice she had writing in pen and ink)
"Dear Sarah" it said.
"I have gone to Maggie. You looked like you desperately needed the sleep, so I let you be. Maggie's room is straight down the corridor; take a right, then the first left. I will leave the door open.
Armed with her translated-from-Grace-Runes note, Sarah braved the halls of Imladris. She quickly reached the open door. Inside, she heard a delighted burst of laughter.
Slowly, slowly the darkness receded, as did the chill. The air was filled with the sound of distant waterfalls, mingled with the music of many birds.
"Where am I?" Maggie asked the world in general, not really expecting an answer. To her surprise, she got one, and from the last person she expected.
"In the House of Elrond, and it is ten o'clock in the morning. It is the morning of October the twenty-fourth, if you want to know."
Maggie sat up, and then blinked. And blinked. Then blinked. And blinked again.
"Grace?" she asked, her voice incredulous.
"Maggie," Grace replied, with a cheerful grin.
"How…how?" Maggie stuttered.
"I'm not entirely sure," admitted Grace. "I think Mithrandir has an idea, though"
Maggie nodded. "That would make sense," she began, but was cut off by Grace jumping her.
"I am so glad that you are okay!" she cried, her voice muffled by Maggie's pillow.
Maggie laughed and shoved her off. "Frodo got better, didn't he? Then why shouldn't I?"
"But you are not a Hobbit!" Grace protested.
"I am in this world, apparently," returned Maggie. "Just like you are an elf, or elfling as the case may be."
"You are an elf?!"
Both Grace and Maggie's heads whipped around to look at the new comer.
"Sarah!" they both exclaimed, before Grace's mind caught up with what Maggie had said.
"Wait…I am an elf?"
"Of course you are," Maggie rolled her eyes. "You mean you haven't noticed? I noticed it first thing."
Grace's eyes grew wide, and she slowly reached her hand up to her ears.
After a long moment, she brought them down again. She took a deep breath, and then smiled.
"I guess that explains the eye sight and hearing"
Maggie opened her mouth to pursue the matter further, when Sarah caught her eye and shook her head. Maggie quickly changed what she had been about to say.
"So I'm guessing that we are in-" she began, but was interrupted by the arrival of the Great Mariner's son.
"Welcome to Rivendell, Maggie Rivers," said Lord Elrond.
Grace immediately jumped up and curtsied.
"Lord Elrond." She seemed flustered.
"Grace." He smiled at her, and then turned to Maggie. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
Maggie suddenly felt very shy. "Very well, thank you." She replied.
Lord Elrond nodded. "I expected that you would be. Grace, would you show your sister and friend around Imladris?" It was phrased as a question, but all three know that it was not a request. Not that it mattered, Maggie was quite ready to get out of bed, and Grace seemed just as eager to show her and Sarah the place that two weeks ago had only existed within the pages of a book, and on the TV screen, of course.
"Sure thing," Grace smiled; then got up and walked to the chest at the foot of the bed.
Lord Elrond (The eye brows were just as cool in person) slipped out quietly, unoticeced by the Hodgson sisters.
"What are you doing?" Maggie asked then, sitting up farther and leaning over so that she could see more easily.
"Seeing if there is anything your size," Sarah told her, continuing to fold the blankets that Grace tossed on the floor in her haste.
Grace was muttering to herself, but the best friends could hear her as clear as anything.
'Where is it? I could have sworn I saw Miril altering a dress yesterday, where did she put it? Come on, YES!"
Grace triumphantly held up a purple skirt, neatly tied together with a blouse and a bodice. (It was the bodice's string doing the tying)
Sarah rolled her eyes, the stood up. She walked over to the side of the bed, and pulled back the covers.
"Up!" she ordered in a no-nonsense voice.
"Yes, Madam Pomfrey," Maggie grumbled jokingly as she complied with her best friend's wishes.
Grace's ears visibly perked up. It was one advantage of having extra-long, pointy ears.
"Madam Pomfrey? Do you know that most people put her as either a Hufflepuff or a Gryffindor? I read this really good story where she was best friends with Professor Minerva McGonagall, but I think she is more of a Hufflepuff. She is ver-"
Sarah and Maggie exchanged long suffering looks, then spoke in unison.
"What?" said girl broke off her ramblings. The two teenagers looked at her. "Oh."
Maggie nodded approvingly. "That's better. Now, am I going to get dressed or not?"
The next couple of minutes were a flurry of activity. Soon, where Maggie had stood was a young hobbit woman. Whoever this Miril was, she had clearly consulted Gandalf and Frodo. The dress, skirt, and bodice all looked like they had come straight out to the Hobbiton/Shire/Birthday Party dressing room from Peter Jacksons' The Fellowship of the Ring.
Maggie stared at herself in the mirror. "Wow." She could have spent longer, then the over-excited twelve year old that was Grace seized both her and Sarah's hands and dragged them from the room.
When they reached the gardens, Grace ran on ahead, leaving Sarah and Maggie alone for the first time since Grace had gone to the restroom at the movie theater.
"Penny for your thoughts," Maggie told her pensive friend.
Sarah gave a small laugh. "It's just so weird. One minute we are normal kids, or as normal as we can be, the next we are scattered all over Middle-earth, I am threatened within an inch of my life by Aragorn before he decides to take me under his wing, you are turned into a hobbit before getting stabbed by a Nazgul, my little sister becomes an immortal elf, and Christopher is nowhere to be found. Not to mention that the Council of Elrond is tomorrow. I guess I'm just a little over-whelmed."
Maggie gave her a hug, and then winced, rubbing her shoulder. "It will be alright, Sarah. They win in the end, remember."
"I know," Sarah answered, casting a worried look a Grace, "but not everyone survived."