Sometimes, even the simplest life can be complicated.
Caleb knew this all too well, because his life was ridiculously mundane, but it confused him on a regular basis. It was a well known truth, just like how the sky was blue, the grass was green and how Catherine could never avoid a good fight.
It was why they were late home. Cat had seen some men harassing a slightly younger woman from college and had immediately launched herself at them. It was amazing that none of the men had attempted to rip out one of the piercings on her ears, as she gave them many to choose from, and had just been too scared of a spitting Cat to retaliate.
In their (not deserved) defence, Cat was terrifying - dark makeup and piercings and leather jacket tended to give that impression at first glance, not to mention the short hair and piercing blue eyes that stood out amongst the dark eyeshadow and eyeliner applied on a daily basis.
Caleb, on the other hand, was not scary in the slightest. The only thing he shared with Cat was the dark hair and blue eyes - the genetic side of things, considering the fact they were twins. Instead of leather jackets and combat boots, he preferred worn jumpers and ratty converse. Where Cat got excitement from giving people black eyes, Caleb would much prefer to keep his nose unbroken, thank you very much.
Currently, said nose was buried in his copy of The Hobbit for what felt like the millionth time. Tolkien's writing was hard to read, the sort of thing Cat would attempt to get into but fall back to the movies, which lacked the prose that the books did. Caleb always would defer to the books, however, as the movies lacked certain things that the books did not - Glorfindel, for one, and Beregond for another. Beautifully written characters that were never seen on screen, characters he wished were fleshed out by actors. On the TV screen an old episode of Supernatural was playing, season one judging by the length of Sam's hair. It was one that Cat had definitely seen before and often, as he could hear her murmuring the lines with the actors under her breath.
"Must you do that?" Caleb glanced up from his book, raising an eyebrow which Cat returned in question. "Quote the actors word for word? It's annoying."
"Oh, and you quoting the epic speeches from Lord of the Rings isn't?" Cat retorted and, to be fair, she had a point. Caleb could recite Aragorn's speech from memory which was...probably worrying, if he thought about it for too long. "Besides, you aren't even watching it. You're reading The Hobbit. Again."
"It's good." Caleb defended his choice of book rather pathetically. "You enjoyed the films!"
"Yeah. But Tolkein's writing is so...wordy." Cat's nose wrinkled in mild distaste. Caleb resisted the urge to gasp dramatically - that would only cause her to laugh at him. "I love the world but it's easier to see it than understand what he's written."
Caleb enjoyed the films, particularly the first trilogy, when it came to Tolkein's works, but he preferred to read the words. Create his own images of the characters and the halls of Erebor and the serene Rivendell. Nothing could compare to what his mind created - he knew very well Cat could do it, too. She could weave images with words, had used her words in debates as much as she used her fists when someone said something insulting or bigoted. She seemed to have trouble visualising the things, but not when it came to speaking them. Caleb had issues with that - he preferred to remain out of the thick of things, safe behind his books.
"I think you could do with reading instead of getting into fights." Caleb said in response, marking his page before closing his book and raising an eyebrow at his twin. "One day you're going to get in trouble. I won't always be around to keep you out of it."
"One day you're going to have to realise that there is a real world out there." Cat sighed heavily. "If I see something that's wrong, I can't duck my head and ignore it - if I need to punch some sense into someone to correct it, then I will. The world is out there, Caleb. Not in your books."
"It would make life so much easier." Caleb muttered to himself, and Cat shook her head fondly, moving from her seat to kneel in front of him. She grinned.
"Maybe. But how boring would that be?" She winked, before rising to stand. She headed over to the TV, turning it off and stretched. "I'm heading to bed. Don't stay up too long - your sleep schedule is already a mess, Caleb."
"Shouldn't that mean I should pull an all nighter to reset my internal clock?" Caleb retorted, and was flipped the bird in return as Cat headed into her room. Caleb made to reopen his book, paused, before leaving it on the coffee table and curling up in a corner of the sofa.
A few minutes couldn't hurt.
The sound of birdsong roused Caleb from his nap and he groaned, refusing to open his eyes. A few more minutes - just a few and then he'd wake up and…
Caleb's eyes flew open and he sat up with a start. He hadn't heard birdsong in the city - it was one of the things he missed most about his childhood. The sound of birds, the wind rustling leaves on the trees. He could hear all that now, and instead of being comforted he was now ultimately confused and just a little bit scared. Birdsong. That wasn't right.
The sound of a groan made him move his head, and he had never been so relieved to see Cat before. At least he wasn't alone here. She opened her eyes, furrowed her brows, and spoke.
"What the fuck?"
"Eloquent." Caleb couldn't resist quipping, before taking in what, exactly, he was seeing.
His sister was donning clothes he would associate with Valkyries from Norse mythology - a long, dark blue tunic and loose brown trousers, which ended where the top of leather boots began. Accompanying this were gloves, brown and fingerless and well made. About her shoulders was a grey cloak, lined with fur of some form, but none of that made him freak out too much. No, what made him confused beyond belief was the sword at her hip, the spear at her back, the knife strapped to her thigh. Weapons they had no right to have.
"Caleb." Cat started, blinking. "Why do you have a bow?"
"Says the girl with the sword." Caleb retorted, but reached behind him and, yes, that was definitely the wooden curve of a bow. It took him a second to register his own attire, a dark green tunic and brown trousers, and boots that looked like they were made for speed instead of sturdiness like Cat's. He, too, had a knife at his thigh, and when he looked inside the jacket (long, brown leather, unlike any of the others he owned) there was a variety of throwing knives. "Ok, what the hell?"
"That's what I said." Cat agreed. "No one should trust you with a knife. That's just asking for trouble."
"Hey at least I don't start brawls in alleyways!"
The sound of a throat clearing stopped the inevitable squabble that would have broken out efficiently, and Caleb turned his head to see who made the noise. He felt his jaw go slack without his permission.
That was Gandalf. From his long, grey beard, kindly blue eyes and grey, pointed hat, Caleb was looking at a wizard. Olorin, Mithrandir, Gandalf, whatever names he knew him by were now irrelevant, because he was standing here. In front of Caleb, who was wearing clothes suited for an adventure that he had only read in stories or watched on a screen.
Fuck. This wasn't happening.
"Caleb." Cat whispered, voice pitched low. "Why is Gandalf standing in front of us? Did you drug my tea?"
"You don't drink tea." Caleb replied, voice just as quiet. "I'm trying to not freak out. This is like...bad fanfic. Really bad fanfic." Cat immediately looked offended.
"I write that sort of thing."
"Hence the 'really bad'."
Before a squabble could inevitably break out, the...wizard, God it was a wizard, spoke.
"May I ask why two men are sat on the side of the road in the Shire?" His tone held the same cadence of Gandalf, and Caleb hoped this was a dream. A very realistic dream. If it was a dream, it was one of the better ones he had.
"Oh my God." Cat whispered. "Oh. My. God." Caleb realised she was going to be little to no help. He knew Gandalf had some sort of link to the Valar - the gods of this world were the only ones who would have stuck him and Cat in the middle of Arda, in his opinion - and figured that trying to explain their current situation was the best course of action.
He noted Gandalf's eyebrows raising higher and higher with each new revelation Caleb spoke of, Cat eventually managing to input every now and then with things Caleb may have missed.
"...And I am supposed to believe this tale, how?" Gandalf asked, which stopped Caleb in his tracks. That was a good question, he had to admit, because if someone had told him that they had come from another world, where books were written about him and that they knew all about him, he would think they were slightly, if not completely, mad.
"You were born before the shaping of Arda." Cat's voice was quiet, and Caleb knew she only knew that fact from Caleb telling her when he had been reading the books. "You have many names - Gandalf, Mithrandir, Tharkun - but you were born with the name Olorin, and sent to Arda by the Valar to combat the threat of Sauron. I...remembered that right, didn't I Caleb?"
"Yes. You didn't want to come here, originally - Sauron scared you. Which is rational - he can raise the dead, after all, cannot seem to die." Caleb looked at Gandalf's face, startlingly pale as Caleb and Cat spoke words he had never heard spoken in Arda. Things that, yes, others knew about him, but not two complete strangers. "You know Sauron still lives, even if he is merely a spirit who is running to the east. I...may I ask the year? Or the age?"
"It is...the third age, which I assume you have gathered based on...your knowledge." Gandalf's speech had gone stilted. "The year is 2941."
"You will be going to Bag End, then. To meet up with Thorin Oakenshield's company." Caleb deduced.
"To reclaim Erebor." Cat agreed, nodding her head, though the age and the year made little to no sense to her. The downside of not reading the books, but if Caleb filled in the blanks, she was good at catching onto what he was saying. "To secure the advantage against Sauron if - no, when - he comes back. Right? Because Smaug is a neutral party in general, but you need that stronghold."
"I'm impressed you remembered that much." Caleb admitted, and Cat shot him a grin and a wink.
"I do listen to you, brother."
"You know of the future. And the past." Gandalf's voice was a whisper, but thoughtful, as though thinking something through. "Of this quest - will it succeed?"
"Yes. But not without...without losses." Caleb felt his voice waver. "Three will die upon Ravenhill. There is victory, yes, but at a cost."
"Do you believe you could prevent it?"
"Maybe." Cat cut across Caleb before he could find a response. "We know what's going to happen - is there any reason we could not change fate? If you believe in things like fate."
Gandalf nodded once, then once again.
"Very well. Would you like to partake in this adventure? Your...knowledge will be of use, and you already look prepared for one." His voice grew very quiet, and Caleb thought he probably wasn't supposed to hear the second part of his statement. "Have you sent me help, Manwe, in the form of these two?" Cat caught Caleb's eye and shrugged. Supposedly in answer to Gandalf's rhetorical question - Caleb was in the same area as Cat. If they were supposed to change the fate of those who died...why them? Why not anyone else who had read the books or seen the movies? They weren't...special, or any different from those who revered the world created by words. They were the least qualified for the job, they should deny the opportunity to go on this quest because they would probably die somewhere on the road and ultimately fail in changing anything.
"Yeah, alright." Caleb answered, shrugging. "What harm could it do?"
After introductions were given - meaning their names and ages - the trio made their way through the Shire. Caleb was openly marvelling at everything, and Cat every now and then would grab onto his arm and whisper about something she'd seen, excitement bright in her eyes. It had been the only time she'd been excited about something that wasn't resulting in bloody knuckles, as far as Caleb could recall.
It wasn't from the oh so familiar garden that Caleb recognised Bilbo's house. Nor was it the door - it was the group of dwarves gathered in front of said door, apparently all trying to get in at once. Caleb couldn't see the logic in that idea, although if he thought about it, the dwarves of the Company held little common sense between the lot of them. Maybe that was why he was here, to provide at least a slight amount of common sense to this group of impulse driven, reckless dwarves. Easier said than done.
It also didn't exactly explain why Cat was here, as she could be just as recklessly impulsive as dwarves. That was a feat in itself, if Caleb thought about it long enough. He decided against it. Thinking too much on that would lead to him regretting this entire thing and he didn't think he could handle that right now.
The same thing that happened in the film happened again - Bilbo opened the door and the dwarves tumbled in, inelegant and haphazard as they had done the first time. They were arguing and grumbling at one another, oblivious to the small blonde Hobbit who was giving Gandalf a look that promised pain.
"Gandalf." Bilbo sounded thoroughly unimpressed, but also resigned to the fact that he would be playing host to thirteen dwarves, a wizard and - as of now - two humans. Caleb pitied him - he understood the appeal of staying at home with no interruptions, a good book and a cup of tea.
To Bilbo's credit, he allowed them into his home, even with his nervous flitting and panicked voice.
It only took seconds for Caleb and Cat to be noticed by the dwarves - although, the first to actually point it out was one of the princes.
"Who're the humans?" Kili called out from where he was seated in a corner, boots kicked up on the table.
"Humans." Cat replied before Caleb could even introduce themselves, her hand reaching for a bread roll. She paused half way there, before turning to look at Bilbo. "Sorry - we can help ourselves, right?"
"At least someone has manners." Caleb heard Bilbo mutter to himself, before the Hobbit raised his voice. "As everyone else has, I don't see why not."
"Thank you, Mister Baggins." Cat flashed a dazzling grin, before grabbing a bread roll and tearing a piece off, popping it into her mouth.
"Yes, but who are you?" Kili asked yet again. Fortunately Cat swallowed before answering.
"Catherine Adams, and my twin, Caleb. We're here to assist in your quest - the one that includes mountains and maps and secret doorways." She smiled prettily and Caleb resisted the sudden, overwhelming urge to sigh heavily.
"Secret doorways?" One of the dwarves scoffed, and Caleb identified them as Gloin - Gimli's father, master jeweler. "I think your head is off in the mines, my lady." Cat pulled a face at the title, which was expected, but another dwarf was humming thoughtfully.
"Now, don't be too hasty - secret doorways sounds just the sort of thing we'd find on this journey." Bofur pointed out, easily identifiable by his hat. "Much more interesting than just a walk."
"Sounds like fantasy to me."
"No offence, but we are about to undergo a quest that involves perils and dangers, with a group of unlikely heroes, in which we are supposed to reclaim a homeland and possibly slay a dragon." Caleb pointed out, earning him lots of looks. Bilbo let out a squeak of the word 'dragon', which Caleb ignored. "If you ask me, that sounds like a plot right out of a book." There was silence, then Kili let out a bark of a laugh.
"Oh, I like you." He said with a grin. "You do make a good point - and you haven't even mentioned the best part yet."
"You do seem to know a lot about this quest." Balin sounded suspicious, and rightly so. Caleb jerked his head in Gandalf's general direction as a way of explanation.
"We're not naive enough to agree to some sort of quest without at least some knowledge." Caleb managed to sound insulted when he said that, which was easy enough. "We may be young, but we're not stupid."
"Unlike some." Cat muttered to herself, grinning when Nori had to disguise his laugh as a cough. "I might be talking about you for all you know, Master Dwarf."
"I don't think you were, though." Nori retorted. "You know some stuff - do you know about who you're working with?"
"I know enough." Cat ran her eyes over Nori nonchalantly. "I know a thief when I see one - I believe that you thought you could get away with nabbing my coin purse?" She held out a hand and the laugh Nori let out was real this time, unhidden as he returned Cat's coin purse to her.
"Not as green as you look." He said in approval. Caleb felt a sense of dread fill him - those two together practically reeked of trouble, and he didn't want to see the consequences of that.
"Thank you." Cat replied, before holding up a finger. In three...two...one." There was a knock at the door, and Cat's supposedly psychic abilities earned her impressed and maybe scared looks. Caleb resisted the urge to sigh.
"Someone should get that." He said instead, wondering how Thorin would react to the presence of he and Cat.
Not well, he decided, and readied himself for the inevitable fallout.
Me: I'll just post ITB as it is
Also me: *hates the old one and proceeds to rewrite the whole thing*
Apparently, my writing changes drastically over a few years and I was not happy with the old one. It's still up on AO3, but I'm gonna periodically change each chapter on there as I post this on here. It'll be slow going, but I am determined to rewrite the whole thing if it is the last thing I do.
Thinking of renaming this anyway - Into the Book doesn't suit it as much, so that might be happening.
Anyways, enjoy! - Jazz xx