Many thanks to the members of HoF for helping improve this story!
What would you do if no one believed that you had seen someone kidnapped by mythical creatures? Eamonn, his friend Eryn, an officer, a professor and possibly the whole Police Force are about to find out how much damage explosives can do in Middle-Earth...
A/N: Hello! I'm not dead—rest assured, I'm still writing, though unfortunately I have less time to do it in.
Firstly, a warning: This is on the AU side of things. This means loose interpretations of and even deviations from canon. For example, in blatant opposition to what the Great Professor (*bows*) has said on the subject, I'm making Westron and English similar languages. There are a few other things that will probably not follow canon to the letter but, you have been warned.
That having been said, please enjoy this latest concoction of mine! As usual, please feel free to make comments and suggestions, even if it's only a short one. :)
Disclaimer: If I were the real author of Lord of the Rings, I would not be writing fanfiction about it.
It was an ordinary Wednesday night in June, where the harsh, wet winter winds were stilled into only a slight breeze. The rest of Churchdale was going to sleep; on campus, however, the usual mid-week party was just beginning.
Smithston University campus in Victoria, Australia took up most of the space in the town, which was a good hour's drive from the outer Melbournian suburbs. Most of its residents lived in houses that had sprung up over the years in close proximity to the Western Residential Facility across the road from the main campus, and were quite glad that it was the end of the semester. Most of the noisy young students living at the WRF had gone home for the winter break. It meant a few weeks of relative peace and quiet—after tonight's party, of course.
Eamonn, however, was stuffing books and highly sugary food into his backpack, and had dumped the whole lot into the hall before going back into his room and picking up a few more things. One of his housemates passed him in the hall and stared at him in disbelief.
"You're not going to the party?" he asked in thickly accented English.
"Not tonight, Lee-Yin. I gotta do that essay. Haven't even started it yet and I have to get it in by tomorrow morning."
The student from Hong Kong shook his head. "All nighters, they're bad for you."
"He's right, y'know," called Eryn from her room, where the door was half-open. Eamonn came and stood in the doorway. She was sitting cross-legged on the bed, busy tying up her long dyed-black hair into a high ponytail. The room was an absolute mess, with pizza boxes and other university student paraphernalia littered all over the place.
"You do know that you're going to have to have this cleaned up for tomorrow," Eamonn pointed out. "They want us outta here by ten."
"And they want their full week's rent too, the bastards," sighed Eryn miserably, cupping her chin in her hands. Her mother had forgotten to transfer her rent money onto Eryn's card last week.
Seeing her brow crease in worry, Eamonn swung open the door a little further and carefully stepped over the various random items lying scattered around. "It's all good. I'll pay this week, and once you get the money you can pay me back. Or my aunt, technically."
There was a moment of complete silence. She blinked. "What?"
"I'm serious," Eamonn assured her.
Eryn bit her lip and looked up at him, her green eyes uncertain. "You don't have—I mean, isn't that—"
"Isn't that what best friends are for?" he finished. His rich aunt Lori always paid off his rent plus extra, while he was at uni and not working at the local grocery store. Of course, he knew that Eryn didn't want to have to be in debt to him or his family. He wouldn't blame Eryn if she declined.
As it turned out, he didn't have to worry about anything of the sort. Before he knew it, Eryn's arms were around his neck in her usual exuberant expression of thanks.
"Thank you thank you thank you," she gushed, her forehead resting against his shoulder. As he sat there and let her babble her gratitude into his shirt the faint smell of roses blew into his face when the breeze came through the open window and stirred Eryn's hair. He found himself leaning over, breathing it in. It was a nice smell.
"What are you doing?" Eryn's voice suddenly cut through his thoughts and he quickly pulled back. Her eyebrow was raised in an expression of puzzlement.
"Nothing," he said hastily, feeling a little sheepish. After all, it was a little weird to be caught smelling your best friend's hair. To hide his embarrassment, he stood up and changed the subject before things could really become awkward. "I was wondering, have you seen that box of cans? The one that we got last week."
Eryn snorted. "Even if I had, there's probably none left by now. Emo had, like, five this morning."
The muffled voice of Emo—whose name was really Andrew—came from somewhere in the kitchen. "Correction: six."
Eryn giggled and turned back to Eamonn, her head tilted to one side as she tried to attach her earring. "You'll need a lot more than Coke, if you're pulling an all-nighter. Try V or Mother or something. Actually, wait a sec—" She leapt off the bed and skipped lithely to the closet, leaving Eamonn wondering how she managed it when there was so much crap everywhere. A few seconds of rummaging around on one of the shelves yielded a familiar-looking can of energy drink, which she waved around with a grin.
Eamonn pulled a face. "If there's one caffeinated beverage I detest, it's that." He gestured with a half-amused, half-disgusted face at the can of black V—one of the most hyperactive-behaviour-inducing substances known to man.
Eryn's eyes widened in mock surprise. "What?"
"Can't stand the stuff." He shuddered. At this Eryn rolled her eyes.
"Eamonn Codds, you're exhausted enough as it is already. If you're going to stay up all night writing bloody research reports or whatever you're gonna have to stay awake somehow!"
"I'll be fine," he assured her, trying to suppress the yawn he felt rising in the back of his throat. He was exhausted. But his professor had agreed to let him re-do his paper even though it was the end of semester. He had to hand it in and try to at least get a pass or he'd fail the unit. Besides, he could sleep in till twelve if he wanted to the day after tomorrow, when he went to stay with his aunt in Hazel's Creek five minutes away.
He didn't notice until he felt Eryn tugging on one of the many zips on his bag that she was stuffing the can in. "What're you doing?"
She looked up and shot him a grin. "You'll thank me." With that she shoved him out of her room, nearly making him trip over the wires of her phone charger, and the wind blowing in from her window slammed the door in Eamonn's face.
"Well, I s'pose I'm off then," he muttered. He picked up his bag and hoisted it onto his shoulders with a jerk, and barely suppressed a wince when the corner of one of his heavy textbooks suddenly slammed into his back. One of the doors creaked open and the spiky-haired head of Li-Yin appeared, followed by a pair of feet wearing flip-flops. Eamonn tilted his head to one side.
"You always dress like that during winter?"
Lee-Yin chuckled. "Different culture."
"Or maybe that's jus' you," laughed May-Li, smacking him in the arm as she went past.
Lee-Yin rolled his eyes before following her and turned to Eamonn. "Hef fun."
"Oh, I will," answered Eamonn cheerfully. As he walked past the kitchen he called out, "Bye, Emo!"
Andrew turned his head, gave him his usual apathetic stare, and turned back to doing...well, whatever it was that he was doing. Usually only Eryn called him Emo; a ready scowl met anyone else who dared. He must have been in a good mood tonight. At least, a reasonably good mood.
As Eamonn shuffled toward the door he almost stepped on a crumpled white envelope, which stood out against the faded, worn green of the carpet. Puzzled, he picked it up. Turning it over in his hands, he found that it wasn't sealed. A quick peek inside revealed three fifties. He let out a low whistle. It wasn't like many of the students on campus could afford to leave 150 bucks just lying around. He waved it around in Andy's direction.
"This yours, Emo? Er, Andy?"
The latter glanced up and shook his head, his black fringe swaying as he did so.
Eamonn doubted the Asians would have left it lying around—both Lee-Yin and May-Li were neat freaks and proud of it. So in that case. . .
It's just enough to pay off Eryn's rent for the week.
Smoothing out the crinkles in the envelope, he laid it neatly on the ancient, stained dining table. As he was about to leave, he caught sight of a book sitting near him, with a dark red strip of paper serving as a bookmark.
Oh, Lord, not that thing again, he thought, once he caught sight of the title: The Two Towers. Memories of studying The Return of the King back in high school flooded back into his mind and he barely suppressed a groan. The movies had been pretty good, he had to admit, but the books—ugh. Eryn was always trying to get him to read the entire trilogy, plus some book called "The Silly Marilyn" or something, but he had steadfastly managed not to on the grounds that it was too geeky for his tastes.
The shoddy wooden door with its peeling paint took a few efforts to push open, protesting and creaking away on its old hinges, giving way so suddenly that Eamonn nearly fell out of the doorway. Cold air immediately rushed into the house and Eamonn quickly stepped outside and shut the door behind him before his housemates could complain. Hurrying down the steps he went out into the electrically-lit night, ignoring (or trying to ignore) the noise emanating from the rec house in the middle of the WRF. His determination sank a little when he compared partying to the prospects of typing all night, but somehow he managed to drag himself across the road to the main campus.
As he headed towards the library the usual sounds of student nightlife grew ever more distant and faint with every step. His footfalls fell in an even rhythm, crunching against the rough asphalt, which looked darker than usual beneath his feet. The campus always looked weird and different at night. For some odd reason, he suddenly felt that maybe he should've just stayed back at the house with the others. The very uncomfortable feeling that something might happen while most of the security guards were on holiday with the rest of the students lurked at the back of his mind.
Eamonn's breathing quickened as he walked and his heart began to pound as he headed closer to the library. He was sure that he had heard something, or seen something springing from the shadows. He found himself breaking into a jog.
Oh, stop it, he told himself crossly. You're being stupid and you know it. He willed himself to slow down into an even walk. Just as he was slowing his breathing, a dark shape emerged from the shadows near the doorway at the top of the stairs. Eamonn jumped.
"Wha' was that for?" demanded a familiar voice. "'Tis only me, ye fool!"
He found himself releasing a breath that he didn't even know that he was holding, once the face of the security guard came into view. "Hey, Billy." What the hell is wrong with me today?
"Eamonn! What're ye doin' up at this hour, eh?" Billy's broad Scottish accent and booming voice silenced Eamonn's irrational fears almost instantly. He grinned at his own stupidity.
"Oh, doin' a bit o' work, are we?" asked Billy before Eamonn could answer.
"Yeah. I've got a massive assignment due tomorrow and it's not finished yet."
"So ye're gonna stay till it is."
"That's pretty much it."
Billy's brow furrowed in concern. "Eamonn, ye're tired, lad. An all-nighter won't do nae good. Just ask 'em for an extension."
Eamonn bit back the urge to retort. The hell? Everyone seemed to be trying to stop him from doing a bit of work! Though maybe a few moments ago he might've hastily agreed with the Scot and run back to the WRF. Since when was he so afraid of the dark? He ran a hand back through his hair. "Well. . .I'm kinda failing sociology and the dude's letting me re-do my assignment. It'd be pretty stupid if I didn't hand it in for tomorrow." He smiled ruefully.
Billy shook his head. "Alright, Eamonn, fair enough. But next time maybe ye shouldn't procrastinate. Doin' this sorta stuff—" He waved his arm at Eamonn for emphasis. "It's not good for ye. Ye'll end up all tired and 'urtin' yeself, this late at night."
Eamonn chuckled, remembering the book that had been lying on the table. "What, I'll go to walk outta here and get attacked by one of them Orc things?"
"Very funny, lad. In ye go. And good luck with yer essay or whatever."
Whistling a random Lady Gaga tune to himself, he headed off down the wide corridors with their monochromatic grey carpet and dark blue doors till he reached the library. Orcs or no, he was determined to finish his report and finally pass the semester.
A few hours later
Tapping out the last concluding words to his report, Eamonn grinned in satisfaction and leaned back in his chair with a wide yawn at the ceiling. Maybe he wouldn't have to stay up for the entire night after all. Though he would have to tell Eryn that he had at last resorted about an hour ago to that terribly sugary energy drink. He drained the last few drops and sat back with a soft belch.
An inhuman shriek abruptly pierced the cold silence, making Eamonn sit bolt upright with a jerk, wide-eyed and heart racing madly. He froze in shock, unable to move for several moments before he quickly yanked his memory stick out of the USB drive and hoisted his bag onto his back, ready to bolt for his life. But something out in the hallway stopped him: the sound of panicked footsteps and erratic breathing as whoever it was sprinted past. Something was not right. His instincts warned him of sudden danger and straight away he dimmed the lights.
Where do I go? he thought in a panic, darting this way and that in the dim light. He dashed behind the shadows of the wide architraves in the postmodern architectural-inspired entrance to the library. The racing footfalls died away. His heart thudded rapidly in his ears.
There was silence.
Releasing a shaky breath, Eamonn tilted his head back against the heavy trolley stacked with books. Relax. Breathe. It was just. . .someone running. . .
The sudden sound of footsteps treading heavily somewhere outside in the hall made him tense up. Chills unaccountably ran down his spine. It was not the same person as before. What the hell was going on? There had to be a crazy axe murderer running around. That was the only plausible explanation for that horrible yell he had heard just moments ago. He'd certainly yell if there was someone after him with an axe.
The footsteps were slow and measured, and seemed to be coming closer. Eamonn realised that it was not only the dull thud of heavy boots that he could hear, but the tinny sound of metal clanking together. It was an odd noise, and not one that he was accustomed to hearing.
He was desperately trying to control his breathing but it sounded ragged and loud in the silence. If I get hacked to pieces, I'll never pass sociology, he thought, then wondered why such random and somewhat morbidly amusing thoughts were popping into his head. And at this time!
His shoulders stiffened when the sudden noise of snuffling and snorting came to his ears. It suddenly occurred to him that whoever it was had to be quite close now. With a sudden crash, a heavily metal-shod foot slammed down just outside the library entrance and mere feet away from where Eamonn was pressed against the doorway. He didn't dare move or breathe—not least because of the foul stench that seemed to accompany the man. What on earth was that horrible smell? It smelt like. . .like blood. Or compost. Or. . .rotting flesh. Bile rose at the back of his throat and it took a concentrated effort not to vomit.
The man—at least, Eamonn thought it was a man—suddenly turned away and the whirring of one of the automatic doors not too far away told him that the danger had left the immediate vicinity. For now. With a shaky, rasping sigh of relief he tried to pull himself to his feet. His legs were shaking uncontrollably.
Shit. How am I gonna get out of here with that thing running around? The prospects of trying to get back to the WRF without getting killed by some sadistic metal-clad psychopath were not looking particularly pleasant.
If he went out the main entrance of the building, anyone who attacked him would clearly be spotted by the security guards in the harsh light of the electric lamps. That is, if there were any security guards at this time. . .
Trust this to be the only time when most of the guards weren't there. Well, it was the end of semester.
With a combination of daring courage and utter foolishness Eamonn picked up his bag and headed towards the exit where the intruder had left. Once again it whirred open and he winced at the noise it made. Keeping to the wall and the shadow protection it afforded him, he began to nervously head down the path. He could see little but the crunching of footsteps on gravel told him that his quarry was not far ahead.
The dude's heading towards the trees. Whoa, what the hell? Why would he go down to Hazel's Wood?
Amid the rapid beatings of his heart his confused thoughts kept whirling around, trying to make sense of themselves. He rounded the corner but quickly pulled back when he saw. . .
What was he doing out here? And. . .and. . .sprawled on the grass as if dead?
The answer to all these puzzling questions emerged in all its grotesque, metal-clad repulsiveness into the faint half-light of the moon.
This was no man. No man, not even an axe murderer, could possibly look this hideous.
Eamonn nearly choked.
The creature was easily his height or more, and Eamonn was a tall young man of six foot. But the resemblance to him, or to any human creature—because he was sure it wasn't human—ended there. Its shoulders were broad, as was its ugly, deformed face. Long, thin black hair clung to its odd clothing, which looked like some sort of weird armour from a fantasy movie. Mostly, the armour looked like a lot of metal and leather strung up together in some sort of order, but it was all stained and rusted and dented as if it had seen a lot of wear. Which, judging by its wearer's bloodstained appearance, was all too possible.
Never had he seen anything so frightening.
His horror could only increase when the horrible creature picked up the prostrate Professor and slung him over his shoulder as if he were a bag. Or something to eat for later. He wouldn't put it past that creature to be a cannibal. It adjusted its load with a grunt and made off with it, plodding towards the forest. A few shadows of around the creature's build and stature emerged from the trees, and after exchanging a few snarls and growls they disappeared.
Eamonn sank against the wall towards the ground, eyes wide and blank, and sat there for a long while.
If Lord of the Rings wasn't fictional, he could've sworn that what he had just seen was an Orc.