It all happened so suddenly. I was just living my normal life, going to school, getting decent grades, developing a crush on the class clown, making some new friends-you get the general picture. Well, then one day everything changed.
It was autumn, September 9th, and school had been in session for about a week. It was a cool but sunny day as typical of Vermont weather about that time and the foliage was beautiful. I had decided to walk home from school, so I got home a little later than usual. When I walked in I found my parents bending over something looking excited. They didn't even notice my entrance.
"Hi, I'm home," I said, "What's up?"
"You won't believe what we found!" my mom exclaims.
"Someone is selling a nice old farm house for fifty thousand.'
"Incredible. Why is this important?"
"We're thinking of buying it," my father replies.
"What! But I don't want to move. Besides you have never even seen the place. It's probably a wreck."
"That's why we're flying out to see it Saturday," your mom said smiling.
"You can't be serious about this."
"But we are," Mom said. She seemed disappointed that I didn't share their exuberance.
"You know we have always wanted a place of our own. Somewhere were we didn't have to ask the landlord if we could do this or that. And this place is perfect. It has some land so we can have a garden, and it has its own electricity-solar power. It would like our own little hide away from the chaos of the world."
(My mom has always liked Ralph Waldo Emerson and the idea of seclusion makes her giddy.)
"And we can have chickens and maybe a cow."
"Or a goat," my father said," They're smaller and easier to care for but would produce enough milk for our small family."
"Good thinking. Then we could…"
"Where is this place?" I ask interrupting.
"Iowa," Mom and Dad say in unison.
"But that's so far away. I'll never see my friends."
"Oh, don't say that. I am sure you can see them sometimes. Besides you can always write and e-mail them."
"But… but I just got done starting school. If we move then I'll have to do it all again and I'll be the new kid."
"We have solved that problem too," Mom said cheerfully, "I'm going to quit my job as a teacher and start home-schooling you. Doesn't that sound like fun?"
"No," I said. Actually it feels like I'm in a nightmare. How could they do this to me?
"Please, Lizzie, try to understand what this means to us."
Why did my mom have to look so sad and pleading? No, I couldn't give in.
"What about Dad's job? Is he going to quit too,"
"As a matter of fact-yes. We have decided to stop working at least for awhile," Dad said.
"What about money?"
"We've decided to become sustenance farmers, living off the land."
"But that's crazy! People can't live like that."
"Sure they can," my mom said, "You read about it all the time in history. What do you think the pioneers did?"
"But that was along time ago! This is the 21st Century," I whined. Please tell me this is just a joke. Please.
"That's a silly excuse," Mom replies.
I've run out of things to say so I sink into a chair dejected. Who knows, maybe it will be a wreck and my parents will have to admit I was right all along. I comfort myself with the idea and try to forget about the whole incident.
My parents come home late Saturday night, but I am awake waiting for them
"So how did it go?" I ask.
"Great," Dad answers as Mom goes off to heat up some soup, "We're going to buy the house."
"Wasn't there anything wrong with it?"
"Well, the roof is a little leaky but that is expected in an old, historic house and it can be fixed."
"But you only saw what they wanted you to see. If the roof leaks, then there could be other problems as well."
"Lizzie, we're buying the house."
That was how it ended. I got up and went to bed. It took about three weeks for them to get the paperwork in order. During those days, I spent my time saying good-bye to my friends, watching TV (my parents said that TV was not an essential part of the country life style-they did allow me to keep my laptop though, thank goodness!), and crying hysterically. Then we sold all "non-essentials" in our yard sale or on ebay, the leftovers we donated to GoodWill. Then came the moving and the last good-byes.
The house in Iowa was large and drafty. Plains stretched out for miles on every side. The few houses that were near by were empty. The nearest town was 20 miles away, the nearest small city 40. To my parents this is paradise; to me it is my own personal hell.
Now comes all the unpacking. This takes a couple of days. My parents let me pick out my bedroom first. I choose the room that looks out towards the road. My parents choose the only first floor bedroom (they didn't want to lug another bed up the creaky stair-can't blame them—for that, but I still cannot believe they are doing this to me.
The first Monday after our arrival, Mom started home school. We all over slept(alarm clocks are not country-we need roosters) and we didn't start until about ten, so we spent the day rushing through our subjects. Dad started tilling a spot for the garden. Tuesday: the same. Wednesday: We actually woke up early enough to start class at 8, but otherwise the same Thursday: the storm.
Mom and I were just finishing up Biology at five, when we happen to look out and notice dark clouds covering the sky.
"Looks like a storm is coming," Mom tells Dad who is filling out a form for an order of 20 baby chicks.
"Yeah, I see."
"It doesn't look good."
"No, it doesn't."
"Well, I'm going to get the laundry in. Come on, Lizzie, before it rains."
We collect the laundry and get inside. Then it starts to pour. Water comes trickling down all over.
"A little leaky?" I ask.
My parents look up at the ceiling gloomily.
"We'll have to go to town and get some tarps," Dad said practically.
"Keep the fire going while we are gone," Mom tells me.
So, they leave me all alone in an old, scary house in the middle of a storm. I decide that this is a good time to go online and complain to my friends. Unfortunately because of the storm the signal is weak and keeps breaking just when I reach a page. I close my laptop and push it away from me in disgust and dismay.
Suddenly the doorbell rings. Who would be out in this kind of weather? I wonder.
I peer out the window. In front of my door stand four tall figures cloaked in gray. Despite my fears, I let them in. I couldn't just leave them there standing in the rain, could I? I tell them to sit down and run off to get some dry clothes. My parent's clothes don't them exactly and actually look sort of ridiculous on them, but they are most grateful. There are two men and two women. One man and one woman are blond, while the other man and woman have dark hair-it was hard to tell in the inadequate light of the fire. They are all strikingly attractive and incredibly tall. None of them were less than six feet. They all seem to be quite young maybe just a few years older than myself.
"I am Fingon," the dark haired man said, "Son of Fingolfin of the house of Finwe, and this is my sister, Aredhel," gesturing towards the dark girl," And these are my cousins, Finrod and Artanis," about the blond boy and girl, " And also I fear that we are lost."
"We're are you from and where are you planning to go?" I ask pouring them each a cup of hot cocoa.
"We are from Valinor and we were on our way to Middle-earth. Tell me, is this it?" Fingon said quietly.
"No, this is Iowa."
"What and where is that?" asked Artanis, ringing out her long gold hair. For the first time, I notice her ears. They are pointed. I look at the others. They all have pointed ears.
"It's a state in the United States of America."
"Hmmm. I've never heard of it. Have you, Fingon?"
"No, I haven't," Fingon replied, "Do you have any idea which direction we should take to get to Middle-earth?"
"I haven't a clue."
"We thank you for your hospitality," Finrod said, " This drink is quite good. What do you call it?"
"Hot chocolate," I said.
"And what is your name?" asked Aredhel.
"Lizzie," I told her.
"Lizzie?" Aredhel repeated back to me, "That's a strange name."
"She might think the same about ours," Artanis gently chided her cousin.
"It's short for Elizabeth," I said, "Say are you hungry? Because I could heat up some soup or something."
"Thank you," said Fingon, "You are very kind."
"No problem. I'm glad to help."
I heat up some minestrone soup and make some cheese and pickle sandwiches.
We eat in silence. Sadness is mixed in the beauty of their faces. Quiet in every motion, in every unspoken word. Their eyes are the only clue to their thoughts. They burn brightly, then fade becoming cold and hard like stone. Tears appear and trickle down their cheeks; they are ignored or brushed away discreetly by a napkin. Then the eyes burst into flame again. Long they sat not speaking even after they had finished their meal. I did not know what to say, so I just sat there, my hands carefully folded on my lap.
Fingon got up finally and looked out at the rain that was still pouring down outside.
"You are too kind," he said, "I do not deserve your hospitality. For blood lies on my hands! Ask of her whose kin I slew."
He gestured toward Artanis, who sprang up crying:
"My cousin, I do not blame you! For you knew not what you were about. Feanor used you as a pawn as he did us all, and now he has cast his pawns aside and left us without hope."
"But," said Fingon, "You fought in defense of the Teleri, your kin."
"And you fought in defense of the Noldor, your kin and mine," she said, pointing first at him and then laying her hand over her heart, "And there is nothing more to said, save that if we ever happen to meet Feanor again he will have little time to regret what he has done."
Artanis sat back down.
Oh, my, I thought, what have I gotten myself into? One confesses to murder, and another plots it.
"That's not what Mandos thought," Fingon said shaking his, "or, else his curse would not rest so heavily on my shoulders."
"Please," Aredhel plead, gazing sorrowfully up at her brother, "Must we speak of this tonight?"
Fingon walked over to her and laid his hand on her shoulder.
"Oh, Aredhel Ar-Finiel, my beloved sister, how did you ever get mixed up in this?"
Fingon sat down and took Aredhel's hand. She smiled sadly at him.
"It was my own choice, as is everything I do," she said. She leaned her head against his shoulder, and he leaned his head on hers.
Finrod shifted uneasily in his seat. He has been studying me for quite awhile in silence, but now he finally spoke:
"What are you?"
"What?" I asked startled.
"I am sorry," said Finrod, "I meant no harm. It is just that I have never met anyone else like you before. You are not an elf, so what are you?"
"Um, I'm a girl."
"Yes, but of what race are you? Are you of the race of men?"
"Uh, yeah. I'm human."
Curiosity and fear played on the faces of my guests, and they rose and looked at me.
"Morgoth told of you," said Fingon, "He said that your race would rise and take our place in Middle-earth. That is one reason we left Valinor."
"But Morgoth's words are lies," said Finrod, "And those who listen to them are foolish."
"This we have been," Fingon said, "but let us now be wise, and perhaps by the joining of our races we can at last cast Morgoth down."
"Who's Morgoth? And who's Mandos? And Feanor?" I demand, not being to take it much longer.
"Feanor," Artanis replied, "was our king. He was the eldest son of Finwe, high king of the Noldor. Finwe was slain by Morgoth, who took the silmarils, the most treasured jewels of Feanor. Morgoth was Melkor, the most powerful of the Valar, but now he is called Morgoth for he is the black foe of the world. Feanor will do anything in his power to get back these three stones, for, to him, they are even more precious than his seven sons."
"Mandos," said Finrod, "Is the Valar of death and judgment."
"And what are the Valar?"
"The Valar are the Valar," Finrod said confused, "I am surprised you have never heard of them for they are everywhere. They are the great powers."
"Are they like gods?" I ask.
"You might call them that. Yes."
"Alright," I said, "Let me get this straight. You are all princes and princesses. Your uncle made three jewels. Some god named Morgoth stole these jewels, and now Feanor wants them back, and a curse was set on you for killing some Teleri guys? Why did you kill them?"
They were silent for some time. Their faces were grave and sad. Finally, Artanis broke the silence:
"They would not give up their boats. Feanor needed boats to go across the sea. He was unwilling to take the time to make boats of his own, so he asked for theirs. They refused him. So he gathered a host together and tried to take the boats by force. That is when the fighting broke out. When Fingolfin (Fingon's father) and his host arrived the Noldor seemed to be losing. He didn't know the cause of the fight but leapt to the side of his brother, thus sealing his fate. I did my best to defend the Teleri, but that wasn't enough. They didn't bear the great weapons of the Noldor, and they were quickly scattered. They fell and their blood stained the sands of Aman. The Noldor then grew very afraid for they saw the evil that they had done and they took the ships and went northward, and I went with them, determined that through the long years of my life I would use all power I had to thwart him. Yet, all did not go as I thought, for indeed it was I who was thwarted and not he. He marooned us. Leaving us with two choices: to return to Valinor in shame or to cross mountains of ice and at last find Middle-earth. It was the latter that we chose. And then somehow we ended up here, though I don't know why. Perhaps this is Middle-earth, perhaps you just have another name for it."
"I doubt it," I mumbled as I went to retrieve their clothes from the dryer (yeah, we did keep our dryer for socks and underwear and things, though Mom tries to use it as little as possible.) Afterwards I went upstairs to mesh this all over, while they dressed. A thought struck me. My parents are going to return any minute now and here are these people claiming to be the children of kings and knowing gods and stuff and looking like models!
What am I going to do? I mean they are going to think they are crazy-which I almost agreed to-and are going to blame me for letting them in. I paced my room trying to think of a solution. I dug through my clothes trying to find something for them to wear, but they were all so tall and I'm only 5' 5".
"Um, guys, could you come up here for a moment?" I called down the stairs.
"Why?" asked Fingon, when he was half way up.
"Because I have to talk to you about something and yes it has to be up here."
Their undying curiosity was getting on my nerves. They had already asked me about a hundred questions since they had arrived. How does the sink work? How does the refrigerator work? How does the stove work? How does the dryer work? Etc., You'd think I was a how-to book.
"Alright," I said, "Listen your story is just not going to work. You simply cannot claim to be elves and know gods."
"Well," said Finrod, "The Valar are not really gods. They are the Valar. There is only one God really and we call him Iluvatar. You have heard of him, haven't you?"
"No, I haven't," I groaned, "And your story still isn't going to work. You cannot claim to be elves. No one believes in elves. They are only in fairy tales not reality, and the sooner you come to accept that the sooner you will be able to do well in this world."
"Well" Finrod said troubled, "perhaps they don't believe in elves, because they have never met one before."
"I dare say so," I replied stifling a scream, "But if they did they wouldn't know what it was and in their determination to find out they might analyze it to death. Okay, now do you see why your story doesn't work?"
"This world, is it controlled by humans?" Artanis asked.
"Yes! And unfortunately there is no place for elves here. I would also drop the part of being royalty. That won't pin well in America. We got rid of our king a long time ago, and no one will believe you anyway. They'll think you are crazy. "
"If you don't have a king, who rules the land?" asked Fingon.
Damn their curiosity!
"We have a president, but I don't have any time to explain what that is. You need to trust me. My parents will be back any minute. You need to have changed by then. You need to become human."
"That's impossible!" Fingon said.
"Fingon, what she says makes sense. Maybe the reason the Valar did not want us to leave for Middle-earth is because we do not belong here. I also thought of something. Remember, Finrod, when we would alter our appearances and make our father try to guess who we were? Well, I always wondered what good the ability would do us, but I think it could come in useful now, don't you?"
Finrod nodded gravely. He placed his hands over his face, whispering something in a strange language. Then his hands fell to his sides and I was able to see his face. I gasped for though he was still quite cute he was not the same beautiful elf I had seen before. His hair was short though still gold. His face had become more round; his eyes less bright. His ears were rounded and a few freckles were sprinkled across his face. He seemed very amused by my reaction. He turned to his sister next. Her eyes he dimmed, her ears he rounded, her mouth he unperfected, her nose he made less elegant, but at her hair he stopped. He turned to me.
"Do you all wear your hair so short?" he asked.
"No," I said smiling. I wear my hair boy cut. "But I have never seen hair as beautiful as your sister's."
"And you never shall," Finrod replied. "Hers is like no other's."
Artanis blushed and looked uncomfortable.
"Finrod, please," Artanis begged. She turned her face away and looked out the window. The sky was dark, but the rain had lightened up a little. I wondered why she was so upset about the compliment. Finrod dulled her hair a bit and braided it. It was still gorgeous, and I would have protested but there wasn't much time and he had turned to his cousins.
"Do you have paintings of your family members," Finrod asked, "I think it would be best if I based my work on more than just one person."
"Here use this," I said handing him a magazine. Fashion, unfortunately, and all the models were beautiful. He looked a little confused.
"These girls paint their faces."
"Let me see," Aredhel said, "Oh, yes, how strange."
"It's called make-up, and they use it to look pretty."
"Ah, that's sad," Aredhel said, "They need to paint themselves to look pretty."
"It's to enhance their features. Now can you please finish what you're doing? We need to work out a story for you."
"Do many girls wear make up?" Finrod asked as he changed his cousins into a pair of cute, human brunets.
"Well, I don't, but lots of girls do," I said rather impatiently.
Suddenly I heard the sound of our car pulling into the driveway.
"Alright, it's too late for us to discuss a story for you, so just play along, okay? Good."
We went down the stairs. My dad was already in, looking up at the ceiling.
"Uh, Dad, I'd like you to meet someone, some-ones actually, but maybe Mom should be here too."
That was quickly remedied for as I spoke she came in, a tarp wrapped about her body to shield her from the rain. She placed the tarp down and looked at the strangers, interest shining in her brown eyes.
"Who are they, Lizzie?"
My mind had been quickly compiling a story for them, and now I had just about got it.
"They're musicians," I said remembering the harp Finrod had been carrying, "There heading to California and got caught in the rain."
"Oh, you poor dears," Mom said sympathetically, "Would you like some soup or something?"
"Your daughter has already extended that hospitality," said Finrod smiling, "You are both most gracious."
"It's the least we could do," Mom said shaking the compliment off, "Is there anything else we can do for you?"
Finrod hesitated and glanced in my direction, but since I did not know what to say at the moment I remained silent.
"Well, my lady," he said, "We have no place to stay, if you would be willing to share your house with us, we would be eternally grateful. I don't know what you use as payment here. We are willing workers and also posses a small amount of jewels among us …"
"Nonsense! We would be glad of company. We haven't met anyone else since our arrival. Tell me where are you from? You have such a delightful accent, and you are all so cute."
Fingon opened his mouth to speak, but I quickly interrupted him.
"They are from Wales, but how careless I have been in not introducing them yet," I said hurriedly. Oh, no! I am starting to talk like them!
"Mom, Dad," I continued (Dad was still looking up at the ceiling with a worried expression on his face, but now he turned), "This is Finn," (indicating Fingon) "Rod," (Finrod), "Aria," (Aredhel), "and Tonya." (Artanis)
"What beautiful names!" Mom exclaimed.
"Finn, Rod, Aria, Tonya, these are my parents: Mr. John and Mrs. Diana Madison."
"Oh, but forget the formalities," Mom said, " Just call me, Diana."
"John, will do," Dad said. Then he decided to put on his grave sage act. "You shouldn't go to California. You're more likely to meet with an earthquake or a forest fire than any success. All the young artists go there. The competition is monstrous."
"Well, darling, they have to have their dreams. And you haven't heard them yet."
"I'm just saying that they needn't think that California is the only place in the world where there is culture."
"Would you guys like some pie?" Mom interrupted, "Lizzie, get the extra apple from the fridge. We have been doing a lot of baking lately."
"That's nice," Fingon said. I think they were all a little unsure about their new identities.
We ate the pie. The elves seemed both surprised and delighted by the ice cream that came with it. Aredhel even laughed. She had a beautiful laugh. Finrod often smiled. Fingon spoke quietly and politely, but Artanis spoke little. Her eyes often seemed to drift away into dreams or memories. And sometimes if you happened to catch her in the right moment a glint of anger gleamed in her eyes though quickly it was dispelled.
After we finished, Finrod stood up and took up his harp. His sister and cousins joined him in the saddest, most beautiful song I have heard. The words were in an unknown tongue, but the meaning seemed to resonate in my heart. I could not help but be enthralled. They sang for hours. When Finrod put down his harp it was as if we had been wakened from a spell. Dad sighed contentedly. Nothing was worth saying. No compliment could equal the beauty and feeling we had just experienced. Mom glanced at the clock.
"Goodness!" She cried, "It's two!"
"Lizzie, go to bed," he said. I got up rather sulkily, said my goodnights, and disappeared upstairs. I lay down on my bed and fell almost immediately to sleep.
The next morning dawned warm and bright, and I wondered if what had occurred the night before had been but a dream. Or maybe I was going insane. Could be with all the drastic changes that had just happened in so short a period of time. I decided to check the 'guest' rooms. I crept over to the nearer room, suspecting that they would have put the girls there. Sure enough there they lie, but there was something definitely wrong. Their eyes were open gazing into nothingness and their hands were folded on their breasts. No, they can't be dead! I ran to the bed and shook Aredhel. She sat up with a start:
"What is it?"
"I thought you were dead."
"Why did you think that?"
"You're eyes were open."
"We always sleep with our eyes open."
"Yes, don't you?"
"No. Human beings sleep with their eyes closed. You really scared me."
"I am sorry."
"It's alright. You just kind of creeped me out, that's all."
"Creeped you out?"
I think that teaching them slang next.
"Your open eyes send shivers down my back. Creeped out."
"Creeped out," Aredhel repeated, "That's an interesting term."
"Yes. There are a lot of interesting terms in our language. They are called slang, and I am going to try to teach you some of it, so you can communicate better."
"Oh, how kind of you. Did you hear that Artanis? She's going to teach us how to communicate better."
Artanis smiled back at her cousin and sat up.
"Well, shall we start?" she asked, curiosity shining out of beautiful, blue-gray eyes.