Strangers From a Distant Land

Over Hill and Under Tree

(Grace POV)

"Oh, misty eye of the mountain below
Keep careful watch of my brothers' souls
And should the sky be filled with fire and smoke
Keep watching over Durin's sons"

Grace sang as she waited for her sister and Maggie. She was still ticked off at them. Not Maggie as much, but definitely Sarah.

If this is to end in fire
Then we should all burn together
Watch the flames climb high into the night

Calling out father oh
Stand by and we will
Watch the flames burn auburn on
The mountain side

Grace thought back to when Sarah had told her what had happened during the Council of Elrond.

"Grace!" Sarah came running around the corner.

"Sarah! What happened?"

"Err... That's the thing. You might want to sit down." Sarah led Grace to a nearby bench. As soon as she was seated, Grace glared at her.

"Alright. Spill."

"Maggie has volunteered to take the Ring."

Grace was suddenly very glad that she had sat down. "But I though Frodo was the Ringbearer."

"I know. And, um, Grace? Please don't be mad at me."

Grace narrowed her eyes. "What did you do?"

"I'm going with her, and you're staying here."

"You're abandoning me?"

'No! Grace, look. Nobody dies, except Boromir. We will be alright. You're just too-"

"Don't you dare tell me that I am too young Sarah Minerva Hodgson! You are only a year older than me. I am not too young!")

They had made up, but Grace was still a little cool towards Sarah. She understood why now, and all the tales about the large bodies of water along their path helped, but it still did not mean that she was happy about it.

"Desolation comes upon the sky
Now I see fire
Inside the mountain
I see fire
Burning the trees
And I see fire
Hollowing souls
I see fire
Blood in the breeze
And I hope that you remember me"

"Grace!" Maggie had come out of the restroom and given her a hug. "I'll miss you."

"I'll miss you, too," Grace told her.

Maggie shouldered her pack and walked over to where Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Frodo were standing.

A minute later, Sarah emerged, looking rather green. Grace had to fight herself so not to run to her older sister and bear hug her.

"Bye, Grace.' Sarah told her sadly, and Grace lost the battle. She launched herself at Sarah. They only parted when Aragorn emerged from somewhere and collected the older girl.

"Sarah. It is time."

Sarah nodded, then gave Grace one last squeeze. "I will miss you, little sister," she told her, giving her a kiss on the forehead. "I'll see you in Gondor." She quickly joined her companions. "I'm ready." She said.

Once they were all there, Lord Elrond looked at them.

"The Ringbearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On you who travel with her, no oath, nor bond is laid on you to go further than you will. Farewell. Hold to your purpose. May the Blessings of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you."

Mithrandir (Who Grace had finally found out was Gandalf, the elves just called him by the name that Dan and Ro had introduced him by, it meant Gray Pilgrim) stepped to the side, gesturing widely with his arm.

"The Fellowship awaits the Ringbearer"

Maggie took a deep breath, and then stepped out of Rivendell, disappearing as soon as she took a left. One by one the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring followed her.

Grace felt an arm slip around her shoulder; she looked up and saw Dan standing next to her. She leaned into him as she watched Aragorn's foot slip around the gate. Then she turned and ran to her room, not wanting any one to see her cry.


(Maggie POV)

Maggie was wondering once again what on earth had possessed her to take the Ring. It had not done much yet, just innocently sit there on its chain around her neck, but it was horrifying knowing what it was and what it did. Maggie was beginning to think that she much preferred Middle-earth when it lived between the pages of mass produced paperback copies of the Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

The first week or two had been incredibly awkward, especially when she and Sarah had wanted to change, answer the call, or bathe in the small streams that they had crossed. Blankets had turned out to be extraordinarily useful in those situations. She shook her head to clear it of those unwanted thoughts. As she did so, she looked up. Gandalf was adjusting his blue wizard's hat as he walked between two boulders. At that moment, Sarah nudged her in the back.

"Look," her friend breathed. Maggie nodded, and then started humming.

"Duuun, duuun, dun dun duuun. Dun dun duun, dun dun duun, dun duun dun, dun, duun, duuun, dun dun duun."

Sarah joined her. "Dun dun duun, duun duun duuun, dun, dun, duuuuuuun!" As they sang the last note, Sarah passed though the arch.


A few days later, they came to a rather large pile of rocks.

"This is the land once called Hollin," Gandalf informed them. "There is a wholesome air to this place. We shall rest here for a day."

The hobbits and Sarah let out a cheer. Sam immediately started a fire for a hot meal.

Maggie watched Boromir teach Frodo, Merry, and Pippin how to use their short swords, Legolas practice his aim, and Strider show Sarah different ways to hold her long knife, and realized that she, the Ringbearer, had no weapon.

"That will have to be rectified," she thought to herself, and then began to dig around in her pack.

"Yes!" she exclaimed a few minutes of searching later. Her hand closed around some strips of leather that she was not sure why she had packed. Picking them up, she walked over to Sam.

"Hey Sam!" she called. "Can I borrow a small sharp knife?"

"Certainly," Sam answered, shuffling around in his over loaded bag for said piece of equipment.

"Here you are, miss."

"Thanks Sam."

Maggie laid the strips out and cut two thin long ones pieces and one short thick one. Using the knife, she punched two holes in each end of the smaller piece. Picking up a small, round rock that fit neatly in the palm of her hand, she started working the small piece of leather around it, shaping it into a shallow cup. It was as she was doing this that Sarah came up.

"What are you doing?" the thirteen year old asked.

"I'm making a sling, like we used to do when we were younger, remember?"

Sarah chuckled. "Of course I do. Remember how we used to terrify Becky-the-cat with them? I remember she wouldn't come near me for years afterwards."

Maggie nodded. "Weren't you with Strider?" she asked.

"Yeah, I was, but he went to go break up the fight between the other hobbits and Boromir – look!"

Maggie looked, and saw Strider buried under a pile of hobbits. She laughed.

They sat in silence for a minute, during which Maggie attached the two thongs and finished the pouch. Sam looked up.

"What is that?" he asked, pointing to a small black patch in the sky, moving towards them. The wind, Maggie noticed, was at their backs.

Gimli let out a breath, heavy with smoke. "Nothing," he replied, waving his pipe around vaguely in the air. "It is just a whisp of cloud."

Boromir extracted himself from the hobbit pile with some difficulty. He narrowed his eyes. "I is moving fast," he pointed out, worried, "and against the wind."

Legolas suddenly realized what it was. "Crebain from Dunland!" he shouted.

Everyone flew into a flurry of activity. Sam kicked out the fire, the other hobbits and Gimli gathered up the rest of the bags, packages and paraphernalia, and Sarah, Gandalf, Legolas, Aragorn, and Boromir ran around gathering up everything the others had missed, and shooing everyone into a hiding spot.

As it was, they barely got themselves and everything else hidden in time, before a huge flock of cawing crow mutants that could somehow communicate with Saruman were upon them. The birds made two sweeps of the small hillock before they sped back the way that they had come, south and east, to the White Wizard.

Legolas peeked out, watching with his far-seeing eyes until the birds were out of even his sight. "You can come out, now," he called.

Everyone squeezed themselves out of impossibly small crevices, from under bushes, and, in Pippin's case, out of a small pit in the ground that he had found.

"Spies of Saruman!" Gandalf exclaimed, once every one had brushed themselves off. "The passage south is being watched. We must take the Pass of Caradhras.

"Burr!" shivered Merry, who seemed to have the best grasp of all the Middle-earthian hobbits of what that meant.


(Sarah Point of view)

It was freezing. Bitter. Icy. Chilly. Frosty. Glacial. Wintery. Subzero. You get the idea. Sarah was cold. There were no warm, down, water proof coats in Middle-earth. All they had were cloth cloaks. She was wearing all the layers that she had, with Boromir's spare fur coat on top, and she was still cold. She glared at Maggie. Her currently not-best friend was walking barefoot, and was not even shivering. When asked, all that she would say was:

"I'm a hobbit. And anyways, I've always liked the cold."

Sarah did not get it. She had always been one of those people who always had freezing hands, even on the fourth of July.

"Ahh!"

"Oi! Watch it!"

"Frodo! Maggie!"

Sarah's attention was drawn to further up hill. (She was only in front of, well, nobody. Yep, she was the furthest behind. And not because she was doing rear guard) The ridiculous hobbit that was Frodo Baggins had fallen over, tumbling downhill and taking Maggie with him. They were being helped up and brushed off by Aragorn.

Instead of reaching for the Ring like Frodo did in the movie, Maggie stared straight at Boromir. To both her and Sarah's surprise, after the first glance behind him, which everyone took, he continued on like nothing was the matter. Now Sarah saw Maggie's hand go to her neck, then start. As everybody continued climbing, she dropped back to speak to Sarah.

"That was odd," she said quietly, so as not to draw attention. "The Ring stayed on my neck. Didn't it drop off of Frodo's, when it happened to him?"

"That is what happened when Frodo was the Ringbearer," Sarah said after a pause. (She had been turning it over in her mind) "Something had to change, besides the obvious of you having the Ring. Not everything can stay the same. Speaking of that, how are you holding up?"

"As well as I can. I can feel it growing, Sarah. The Fellowship did not say that Frodo started feeling it until after Moria. Or at least, I don't think that it did. Do you think that that also has changed? That I'm more susceptible to the Ring than I thought?"

Sarah gave her friend a hug through her many layers of clothing. "I think that you are doing just fine, Maggie. You are certainly doing it much better than I ever could. And I don't think that you are less tough than Frodo. Remember Bree? You were there; you saw how he was turning it over and over in his hands. And in the movie, you can actually hear it whisper to him. That reminds me. Why on earth did you take it in the first place? I know what you explained to the council, but I don't think that that is all there is to it."

"You are right," Maggie told her. "It is not all. Do you remember when Granddad died? How I wanted to find the killer, and bring an end to all Bad Guys, forever? That is partly why I like books like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and Narnia so much. They always win. They always beat the Bad Guys. I couldn't do anything as a nine year old, in our world, but now we are stuck here, and I can do something. I know that probably, at the end, I will not be able to do it without Frodo, or Gollum, or Sam, but I will have born it, and saved Frodo a lot of pain and suffering. He can live in the Shire without having to take a forever vacation."

"But you can't stay. Maggie, you are only fourteen. Don't you want to be able to go back to our world?" Sarah protested.

"I do, I really do," Maggie assured her. "But we are not going to come out of this unchanged, so I might as well be more changed than I would have been. I honestly think that it will be different, though. I am not from here; we are not from here, so I do not think that the objects from here will have the same effect on us as they do on people who live in Arda. Anyways, going back to Earth, to America, might be for me like going to Valinor was for Frodo, Bilbo, and Sam. And Sarah?"

"Mm?"

"I promise to avoid getting stung by Shelob at all costs, excepting the lives of Frodo and Sam."

Sarah laughed. "But what about me? Surly you do not think that I would allow you to go off to Mordor all on your lonesome?"

"That is why I am planning on taking Frodo and Sam, as they would have gone if we had not intervened. I have a feeling that you will stick with Aragorn, though. You look at him like a father or an older brother, don't you?" Maggie looked at her friend knowingly.

Sarah blushed. "So what if I do? I think I understand, though. Thank you for telling me, Maggie."

"Anytime. Is it starting to snow?"

It was indeed starting to snow. At first it was a few small flakes floating gently down, which Sarah and Maggie had demonstrated to Frodo, Pippin, Sam, Legolas, Merry, and Gimli how to catch on their tongues, (Gimli and Legolas turned it into a competition. Those two turned everything into a competition) but it gradually became heavier, with larger flakes. They were walking on a ledge around the side of the mountain when it turned into a full out blizzard. The older men, and elf, were all looking for someone to blame.

Legolas had had great fun showing off how he could walk on snow, and was now using it to an even greater advantage: listening for the cause of the unnatural snowstorm. After a minute of intense staring into the gloom, he called back to Gandalf.

"There is a fell voice on the air."

That seemed to confirm a fear of Gandalf's. "It is Saruman!"

"He is trying to bring down the mountain!" Aragorn yelled, a hobbit under each arm. "Gandalf, we must turn back!"

"No!" That was one stubborn Wizard. Gandalf struggled to stand up a little from his bent over position. He raised his staff, trying to sooth the mountain back into its former serene state. "Losto Caradhras, sedho, hodo, nuitho I 'ruith!"

Boromir put his two cents in rather loudly, as it was the only way to be heard. "We must get off the mountain! Make for the Gap of Rohan and take the west road to my city!"

"The Gape of Rohan takes us too close to Isengard!" Aragorn pointed out the main flaw in this plan.

"If we cannot pass over the mountain, let us go under it," Gimli suggested. "Let us go through the Mines of Moria."

Gandalf closed his eyes, or at least, Sarah thought he did. It was hard to tell through all the snow. "Let the Ringbearer decide," he said resignedly.

"We- " Boromir began, but Maggie cut him off.

"The mines. Definitely. We will all die with cold if we continue trying this particular path."

Gandalf nodded once. "So be it." Middle-earthians seemed to be rather fond of that phrase.


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