Hello old and new readers! Yes I've come up with a new story. I'm almost done writing the first Liquid Gold story, (although there have been some complications) and now I'm trying my hand at something new. This particular story was demanding to be written partly because it's based on an experience I had and thought "Hey this would make a good story beginning" and mostly because of the lack of stories revolving around an entire family. Therefore, please Enjoy!
WARNING! THIS STORY HAS BIG WORDS. Also, DISCLAIMER!
"So why did I punch that guy for you?"
Asher Hunter. No he isn't the main character.
"What! You mean you didn't even have a reason to punch him?!"
Henry Hunter, otherwise known as Dad. He isn't the main character either. In fact, I should probably mention that there isn't really a main character in this story - there are many main characters. Well, there's me - the narrator - and I'm in the story, but since that isn't important I'm just going to refer to myself in third person and you'll just have to guess who I am. Or not, doesn't matter to me one bit.
Anyway as I was saying, the family was on a road trip- Oh… I should probably introduce the rest of the family too at this point.
There's Henry - he's thirty-eight and married to Roselyn, who's thirty-six. Henry is a high school art teacher and track coach. He's also the designated family cook because the others don't even understand the concepts of 'simmer' and 'salt' and 'tablespoon'. Luckily for the rest of them, he's excellent at making a piece of paper with words on it into something one can eat. Roselyn on the other hand, is very particular. She insists that her name be pronounced Rahs-ah-lyn and shames anyone who doesn't do likewise. She's the CEO of some famous company which I've forgotten the name of and a hard core knitter in her spare time - which the children complain bitterly about, on account of the millions of socks and the copious amounts of yarn lying around the house.
Which brings me to the children. The oldest - Morgan - is fifteen, an intermediate snowboarder, and most likely to be future prom queen. Her fashion sense is top notch and she can usually always be heard commenting on her younger brothers' lack of said sense.
Asher, the middle child and twelve years of age, is a right nerd. Obsessed with all things Middle Earth, he is quite the accomplished Tolkien disciple and historian. And might I add, he is also a Dungeons and Dragons master player - whatever that means. He differs from his younger brother on the account that his fashion sense is at least some what acceptable - according to Morgan.
David, universally known as Davy (if the universe is even aware of his existence) is a Survivalist Minecrafter and Playground Strategist - titles he has bestowed upon himself. At seven years old he, of course, has seen all the world has to offer and is very opinionated, rivaling even Morgan's pious comments (if such a thing were possible).
There. Those descriptions should do well enough for this narrative and I- Oh dear. I forgot to tell you what they look like. Ah well, here goes.
Roselyn has dark brown skin, light brown eyes, and black curly hair.
Henry has dark tan skin, green eyes, and light brown straight hair.
Morgan has medium brown skin, green eyes, and black curly hair.
Asher has light tan skin, hazel eyes, and dark brown curly hair.
David has medium brown skin, dark brown eyes, and light brown wavy hair.
There. I'm not expecting you to remember. You've probably already made assumptions on their appearances before now any how. Oh well. As I said, doesn't matter to me. But just know that I will be reminding you of what they look like periodically in this narrative because it is actually rather important once the story really kicks off. Now where was I? Oh yes. They were on a road trip…
"I had an excellent reason!" Asher proclaimed. "Morgan told me to!"
"Just because Morgan tell you to do something, doesn't mean you should do it!" Roselyn remarked despondently.
"I am well aware." Asher's tone was rather miffed. "However Morgan was being bothered by a rather presumptuous young man. I merely offered my assistance and she had me deck the fellow."
"Do ya have to talk like that?" Davy complained. "You sound kinda weird."
"It's not my problem that your vocabulary is far more limited than my own," Asher crossed his arms.
"Morgan..." Henry accused. "What have I told you about hanging out with annoying guys?"
"It's not my fault that he thought I was an easy target!" Morgan protested. "Besides we had it covered!"
"Indeed!" Asher grinned. "He tucked tail and ran like the coward he was after his friends laughed when I decked him. They even congratulated me. Apparently he wasn't very popular among them."
Henry sighed. "Well next time just tell him to go away. If you keep giving off mixed signals then boys will think you're interested. And don't you protest! We all know you do."
"Whatever." Morgan slouched in her seat and put her earbuds back in.
"Henry?" Roselyn pondered. "Look at this." She took a hand off the wheel and gestured to the map displayed on her phone. "The road is all red up ahead. The Google lady wants us to get off and go around. Here, there's a suggested route."
"Out here in the middle of nowhere?" Henry shook his head. "I wouldn't rely on it."
"But this isn't Japan. The map knows which roads are actual roads and things."
The narrator should probably take this moment to explain that Google maps cannot differentiate between one way roads and highways in Japan. It thinks you can take any of them in any direction.
"I know, but these look like dirt roads."
"We have four wheel drive, and this is a truck."
"If you think it's a good idea," Henry shrugged.
"The lady says it will take an hour off the total. What do you guys think?"
"Go for it." Morgan shrugged.
"Might as well." Asher glanced over his mother's shoulder. "Davy?"
"I'm fighting Creepers. Don't bother me!"
"Right, off roading it is," Roselyn declared. They took the next exit and followed a road next to the freeway for a while before it turned right and ran through the forest. After several minutes they came to what looked like a campground entrance.
"This won't go anywhere," Henry cautioned.
"The map says it goes all the way through. It comes out on the other side." Roselyn insisted.
The family continued on along the bumpy dirt road until they hit a patch of land devoid of cell service. The map couldn't track their location anymore but the route was still outlined so the CEO made an executive decision and decided to keep going. The road, which at this point was more of a wagon trail than anything else, continued to deteriorate until it could be called a trail, or possibly a goat track.
The Narrator confesses that, strictly speaking, "goat track" is a bit in an under exaggeration. The road was still wide enough for the truck to pass under the branches of the trees without undue damage. Perhaps the word lane would be better suited to the true nature of the road. It was covered with grass and there were sad little patches of snow in the naturally shaded areas. The sun had gone down before the Hunters had left the freeway and the stars were shining brightly in the clear heavens.
The lane continued to twist and turn, and Henry glanced at the gas needle. With a shocked start, he announced, "The tank's empty."
"What?" Roselyn frowned, peering at the gage. "But we just filled up about an hour and a half ago! It can't be empty yet."
"We'll see for yourself."
"Are we going to die out here?" Davy demanded.
"No dear. We'll call 911 if we get stranded."
"And how, pray tell, are we supposed to do so when there's still no cellular?" Asher inquired.
The adults fell silent, trying to formulate an acceptable answer, when suddenly the vehicle came to a stop.
"Great!" Morgan retorted. "We're lost in the middle of the woods, with no gas, no cell service, and no way to call for help."
"We're going to starve to death! Or freeze," Davy moaned.
"We have plenty food left and the battery still works. We can run the heater." Henry opened his door and jumped out. "I'll get the extra blanks from the back."
As soon as he returned with the fluffy woolen comforters, he revealed his plan. "I'm going to head up the road a bit see if it branches off and matches the map. Anyone want to come? Morgan? Asher?"
"I'm inclined to stay in the warm interior if you don't mind."
"I've got nothing better to do. My phone's dead anyway. Asher, leave it plugged into the portable while we're gone."
"Mm," the nerd made a noncommittal noise as she got out.
"Don't go too far. Be back in an hour," Roselyn warned.
"Right. How far do you think we can get Mor?" Henry grinned.
"Let just go already. I'm freezing." She led the way down the lane, shining a small flashlight at the trees. "Of all the places to get lost in. Why couldn't we have ended up somewhere tropical?"
"Because bugs," Henry laughed.
"There is that," Morgan conceded. "But still. It's cold!"
"Then walk faster."
After several minutes of silence Morgan remarked, "Is it just me, or are the trees getting thinner?"
"You're right." Henry peered at surrounding trunks, using this phone as a flashlight. "Maybe the road joins the rest of civilization after all."
They kept walking until the forest ended and the arrived at the top of a small hill. "Look there!" Henry pointed away to the right.
"Are those lights?"
"It's a town. Or village or something, but there's people! Maybe we can use their phone to call in some gas. Also find out where the nearest pump is." Henry's tone had turned optimistic.
"Or maybe we can do that in the morning after they let us stay the night?" Morgan suggested.
"That too. I'm going to go check it out. Can you run back to the truck and bring them over?"
"Yeah. It's not that far. I'll scream if I get into trouble."
"Good girl. Now off with yeh." He watched as his daughter disappeared back into the forest before descending the hill and making his way to to little village. As he got closer, the details of the place became apparent. The buildings were made of unpolished wood and had thatched roofs. Surrounding the little outpost was a log wall with a solid looking gate. It was closed and locked but a lantern was burning on either side, providing enough illumination to turn of his flashlight.
Henry took a hesitant breath before working up the courage to knock. After several tense moments, a latch was undone and a panel slid back to reveal the tired face of the gate keeper.
"What do you want?" He growled grumpily.
"Well, for starters, I'd like to know the name of this place," Henry confessed. "My family and I ran out of gas on the road over there and we were wondering if we could use your phone. Also to come in, maybe?"
"What the devil are you talking about? What's a phone? And I don't see no family of yours," the gatekeeper's eyes narrowed in distrust. "You one of them South Men?"
"Um no. I'm not from the South. They're just on their way over. Give them a few minute to get here. What was this town called?"
"Right. It wasn't on the map, but then again, I'm surprised the road we were on even showed up. There was an accident on the freeway so we decided to go around but then we got lost. I don't suppose you could give us directions?" Henry asked hopefully.
"That depends on where you want to go, and how much you'd be willing to pay?"
"Oh come on mate, it's just some lousy directions."
"And I still don't see no family o' yours. Come back tomorrow and maybe I'll be inclined to let you in." The gatekeeper slid the panel shut.
"Thanks a lot," Henry mumbled under his breath. He started back up the road toward the woods and met the rest of his family at the top of the hill. "Alright gang. I see you've made it without getting eaten by wolves."
"You shouldn't have sent Morgan back by herself. She could have tripped and hit her head!" Roselyn admonished him.
"But she's fine. It was only fifteen minutes, we would have hear her call out." Henry shook his head, dismissing the subject. "The town over there is called Bree and it's a got a big fence and gate blocking the road in, and the gate guard isn't the friendliest of guys."
"Well let's go try again," his wife suggested.
"The town is named Bree?" Asher exclaimed. "Like from the Lord of the Rings?"
"You can ask them when we get there," Henry rolled his eyes fondly.
"Ugh. Stop being a nerd," Morgan grouched.
"Come on already! Let's go! I'm cold!" Davy pulled on his father's hand.
As soon as they had knocked on the gate for a second time, the gatekeeper angrily opened the panel and hissed, "I told you to go away!" Then he caught sight if the rest of the family and his nose crinkled. "So you were telling the truth then after all."
"Please let us in. We have children," Roselyn beseeched him.
"Bless my soul! You're dark! One of those heathen folk from down South?"
"Excuse me!" The CEO interjected. "First of all, you're being exceedingly rude! Secondly none of us are from the South. We live in Washington State and if anyone is being a heathen, then it's you and your rude assumptions."
"Oh she's a feisty lass, that one! Watch yourself there mate." The gatekeeper grinned in mirth. "What are you doing traveling at this time of night?"
"We were in our way home!" Davy responded.
"Were you indeed? Traveling's best left til daylight, eh laddie. Well, I suppose you can come in, but if you cause any trouble then us folk'll drive you lot outta town."
"Fair enough," Henry nodded. The panel slid shut once more and the gate opened with a creak.
"In with you, and be quick about it." The gatekeeper made sure to latch the large gate securely after everyone was inside. "The local inn, the Prancing Pony, is just up a that way. Good night to yur." He shuffled back into the little hut to the left of the gate and let them family get on for themselves.
"Well," Henry began. "That was interesting."
"He said the inn is called the Prancing Pony!" Asher was elated. "This place is most certainly based on the town from the Lord of the Rings! I wonder if everyone is in character and why I haven't heard of this place before."
"What? So you mean this place is like a medieval reenactment village or something?" Morgan voiced impassively.
"But based on Tolkien's works!" Asher confirmed. "Let's go!" He took off at a brisk pace in the direction of the inn.
The Hunter family followed after the excited child and caught up with him under the eaves of the establishment. Asher was gazing up at the hanging sign above the door, which was swinging gently in the wind. "The Prancing Pony," he whispered reverently.
"Well? You coming in, or shall we leave you and the sign alone for a while?" His mother pushed the door open.
The building's interior was brightly lit and warm enough to send shivers of temperature shock through the newcomers. The main room was mostly empty apart from two wizened old men in a corner, both smoking pipes. The bar man was snoozing behind the counter with his feet propped up next to an empty pint of mead. As they heard the door open, all three seemed to rouse themselves. The Hunter were met with quizzical gazes and the bartender stood up and leaned over the counter.
"And who might you be?" The man was rather fat with a cheerful face, currently marred by the searching expression on his countenance.
"I'm Henry Hunter, this is my wife Roselyn, and my children Morgan, Asher, and Davy. We were on our way home when our truck ran out of gas."
"I'm not sure I rightly know what you're talking about but we don't see many black folk round these parts. I mean no offense to yur," he added seeing their offended glares. "Just stating the truth is all. Where were you doing traveling around these parts at night? The road can be dangerous at this hour."
"We were in our truck…?" Roselyn's face twisted in confusion. "We were perfectly safe."
The barkeep shook his head. "I'm not sure what a truck it but there's thieves and such around at night. Tell you what, you can stay here the night and we'll get you sorted out in the morning. And the name's Butterbur. Barliman Butterbur at your service. And this here is my inn."
Asher grinned widely at this statement and looked around to share his excitement with his family, but none of them recognized the name and his smile dimmed slightly.
"Do you take Visa?" Roselyn asked.
"What?" Butterbur frowned in confusion.
"Nevermind. I think I have some cash. How much for the night? And dinner?"
"Ah!" His face cleared. "That'll be one silver. And another for dinner and breakfast."
"I don't think they use dollars Mom," Morgan whispered.
"But this is America! Of course they use dollars!"
"But if this is an accurate reenactment town then they won't."
"Then what do you pay with?" Roselyn looked cross.
Butterbur, overhearing the end of the conversation, offered, "Well, have you got anything of value?"
The family turned to each other and did a quick inventory of anything they had on them that could be considered valuable.
"I've got my watch," Henry stated.
"I'm wearing diamond earrings," Morgan added.
"I've got the gold necklace you gave me for Christmas," Roselyn offered.
"I've got a lump of iron," Davy added.
"How is that valuable?" Asher rejected him. "I've got the silver coin I got from Grandpa on my birthday, but that's only one coin."
"Well let's see it lad," Butterbur grinned genially.
Asher fished the coin out of his pocket and passed it to the innkeeper. The man's eyes widened and he stared in awe at the coin. "Lad, this is amount of silver is worth at least eight silver pennies. Is it solid?"
"Yessir. Pure solid silver."
"Bless my soul. And you got this for your birthday? Your Grandfather must be rich!"
"It's only worth about fifteen dollars," Asher shrugged. "That would pay for a small meal for one person where I'm from."
The innkeeper's expression changed from wonder to pure astonishment at Asher's dismissive statement.
"You must come from a rich land then." Butterbur took the coin and placed six smaller silver coins in his hand.
"I suppose we do," Asher pondered.
"Follow me and I'll take you to your room, or if you want supper first you're welcome to stay here. You've missed the evening rush. Most folk are in bed at this time of night. Any special requests for supper?"
"Whatever you have I suppose," Henry shrugged. "You guys wanna go check out the room or stay here?"
"Might as well," Morgan shrugged. We can take off our jackets and whatever."
"Right then, follow me." Butterbur led the way down a side hallway to one of the bigger rooms. It had four beds and a wide window with padded seat. The fireplace was ready and waiting to be lit, and the round man set about lighting it first thing.
Asher watched him in fascination and followed the man out when he had finished. "You interested in my work boy?" The innkeeper smiled.
"Yessir. I've never seen a proper inn like this before. Can I watch supper being made?"
"If you like."
The rest of the family made themselves comfortable in their room. Henry and Roselyn took the biggest bed, closest to the fireplace and Morgan claimed the bed nearest the window. Davy settled himself in front of the fire and curled up, gazing at the flames. Morgan took out her phone and remarked, "There's still no service."
Henry turned to his wife and tried his best to school his features into something that didn't say "I told you so". He didn't quite manage it, but Roselyn didn't take offense. Instead she joked, "Well at least we're on an adventure, instead of stuff in traffic."
Henry agreed and the two started discussing the impact their situation would have on work. "We can't even call in," she sighed.
"I'm sure they'll understand. At least we won't have to go in tomorrow," Henry smiled, trying to make the best of it.
Several minutes later, Asher burst into the room, announcing, "Dinner's ready. But they call it supper here. Dinner is lunch."
"Right. Kids? Davy wake up. Morgan." Roselyn stood up and followed her son out of the room. The other son followed and they all sat down at one of the tables in the main room. The other two occupants had apparently gone home. Asher helped Butterbur bring out the plates of food and the family tucked in.
The innkeeper disappeared into the kitchen to clean up and left them to themselves. Asher was the first to speak. "So as far as I can make out Butterbur is either a fenomenalny good actor or he's really never heard of the U.S. and cars and CEOs and doesn't know who the president is. He's under the impression that this is really Middle Earth."
The family pondered on that for a while. Then Davy spoke up. "So I've been noticing… The sky is different. I couldn't find the North Star. There's no clouds. I was keep track of it on the freeway, but after we went into the woods I lost it. It's not in the sky anymore. And the constellations are all wrong. We can't still be on the same part of the Earth."
"Or on the Earth at all," Asher added.
"We're in Middle Earth!" They both concluded.
The family stared at each other and Henry slowly pointed out, "Whether we are or not, which doesn't seem possible, we still need to decide what to do next. There's still no cell service and our truck is out of gas. There probably isn't a gas station anywhere near enough to get to so I think we can count the truck as out of commission. That brings me to problem of money. We don't have anything they use as currency here and I'd rather not have to trade our valuables for food and lodging. As for the issue of how long we're going to be here, let's just assume it's going to be indefinitely. We need to prepare for the fact that we're not going to get home anytime soon. Everything seems to be made from scratch here. That means we need to already be owning something if we want to make anything out of it. And without money that means we'll all need to get a job or have some way of earning money. Ideas?"
"You're a great cook," Roselyn reminded them. "You could probably get a job here at the inn."
"And you knit, Mom," Morgan added.
"But we don't have yarn, or wool, or sheep to get wool from, so that idea is out for the time being," Asher sighed.
"Morgan, you can run pretty fast, maybe you could get a job as a messenger? Do they have couriers here?" Henry turned to Asher.
"In the big countries maybe. Not here. So you believe that we're in a different world?"
"I'm going off the evidence provided. It sounds laughable but we're in a clear area, there should be satellite service. Plus the whole thing with the stars. I'm going to say, might as well believe it. If we're wrong then we're wrong. But if we're not, then we're in a lot of trouble."
"So what do we do?" Davy yawned.
"For starters, I suggest we all go to bed and work everything out in the morning. We can ask Mr. Butterbur about it too." Roselyn's tone was firm. "It's past everyone's bedtime. I'm sure we can all sleep in. Come on. Back to the room everyone."
Once the family was settled in, everyone was too tired to even try to come up with solutions and within a few minutes they were all asleep.
Alright. I'll try to get a chapter out once a week, but no promises. My laptop is broken and I don't have access to this site on the school laptops, so updates will probably be sparse, but I will keep writing chapters even if I can't upload them. Anyway, REVIEW! I want to know what you think of this story!