This fic has been through a massive edit, so apologies those here looking for the original. But this version, in my opinion, is loads better than the one I first wrote. I still have to finish it, but I plan on doing that as well. I hope you all enjoy.

The Xylophone of Gondor,

The adventures and mishaps of Elizabeth Sparrow,

By QueenSword.

"They'll say, We stared into the wind that tore away our breath,
we left behind a message that cannot be claimed by death.
A hero lives forever, for the ones that carry on,
What will they say about you, when I'm gone?
- Heather Dale, Hero.

Chapter One: Of Panties and Pepper Spray.

"...Wonderland, Wonderland, nobody knows the way, but if you find it in your dreams,
you can find it at your day job, somewhere south of Hell.

Take the path to left or right with just your gut to guide you,
the story is not for anyone else to tell."
- S. J. Tucker, Cheshire Kitten (We're All Mad Here).

"Lizzie, your knickers are all over the garden, again." Called Grandma Sparrow from her spot on the sofa. She seemed completely accepting of this, as if it was a regular occurrence for one to have knickers all over the garden.

Elizabeth swore under her breath before rushing down the stairs, almost tripping on the last two in her haste. The neighbour boy had been nothing but trouble since they moved here. He was a mere thirteen, far too young to consider real humiliating methods of torment, yet he was just persistent enough to be a deep annoyance. This particular incident was a supposed 'punishment' for accidentally stepping on his chalk drawing on the pavement.

She just made it over the threshold of the front door when a breeze picked up, strong enough to make her panties float away. They flocked together like exotic birds free from a cage, tangling on the letterbox and fence. He had done this once before, except she had friends round. They had never stopped teasing her about it. Elizabeth imagined killing the boy a thousand ways but instead of putting any of them into practice, she ran all over the garden picking the garments up, ignoring the titters coming from the houses adjacent. At least it wasn't her granny pants.

"Mark my words, he will pay..." She growled, snatching a particularly nice pair. She had no idea how he had got a hold of them or who he had bribed, but she suspected he had stolen them when they were on the washing line. It was hardly an Indiana Jones calibre mystery.

I suppose you want to know what our dashing heroine looks like. That is, after all, how dozens of stories before this have started. Elizabeth was an average sort of girl. The kind that keeps pepper spray in her handbag. The kind that dyes her hair a pleasant shade of gold. The kind that watches Lord of the Rings about seven times and was, of course, an undercover book geek.

The panties had all been gathered into her arms, her cheeks flushing vivid crimson with embarrassment, hoping that nobody had seen the lace thong that uncle Ted got her last Christmas. The terrible thing was she liked it and wore it often. She stormed back into the house, slamming the door and muttering a string of profanities under her breath. She dumped her knickers on the nearest surface available (the kitchen counter) and stormed melodramatically into the living and proceeded to fling herself onto a slight, pink arm chair.

The chair used to belong to her mother, who had left Elizabeth in the care of Grandma Sparrow about twenty years ago. Elizabeth had inherited so many things from her mother-dearest; the chair, because she didn't want to take it with her, and, according to Grandma Sparrow, a fierce sense of pride and independence. She liked the chair better, at least it was practical. Pride had gotten her into trouble before. From Grandma Sparrow she had received thickly-lashed eyes, a temper and a fair complexion. She hated getting sun-burned in the summer.

"Lizzie, why don't I put the kettle on?" She glanced up, noticing her grandma's attempt to soothe the annoyance that was buzzing under her skin. She considered the prospect of a cup of tea and decided it wouldn't be a complete waste of time.

"Okay," She replied, then as an after thought, "If you don't mind." The moment Grandma Sparrow's back was turned, she started planning her revenge. He would pay. The neighbour boy would pay.

Half an hour later, Elizabeth had drunk her tea and she could feel the caffeine swirling about in her veins, making the plan she had formulated appear a much better idea than it was. A delightfully wicked smile came over her face, remembering all the times he had got one over on her; When she built a snowman for her little cousin, Pippa, he melted it with a heater, then left a suicide note where it had been standing. Broke 3 year old Pippa's heart. When he'd left a dirty message on her answering machine. Who knew he had such an extensive vocabulary. And now the panties, oh God, The panties. Twice he pulled this one. If she didn't get him in the next few days he would probably pull down her washing whenever humanly possible. What was odd was that she wasn't wholly sure what she had done in the first place to deserve such an intense hatred from this thirteen year old.

She stood from the pink chair, smoothing down her shirt and stretching her arms behind her head until she heard a satisfying crack. She shouldered her handbag, not even bothering to check the contents, and told Grandma where she'd be (The nearest Tesco) and if she wanted anything (She didn't). She yelled a brief goodbye over her shoulder and was out of the door before she was asked to go out of her way for plant fertiliser or toffees.

She practically skipped to her car, grinning at the house next to hers, picturing the look of horror and mortification on the neighbour boy's face. She clambered onto the seat of the worn red Land Rover and chucked her handbag onto the passenger seat, fine-tuning her plan of merciless revenge.

Elizabeth Sparrow lived with her grandmother in the regrettably dreary countryside of Yorkshire. Her little village contained only a corner shop, a post office, a bus stop and a pub. Said pub was named 'The Black Bull' and she visited it on numerous occasions to drink pints of cheap beer and write bad poetry in hopes of becoming a renowned writer. This little village was miles away from any decent chain shops that sold all the sugary confectionery that she consumed on a daily basis. These huge shops held what she needed: The weapons of revenge warfare. So it wasn't surprising that when she was making her way home, eyelids drooping and limbs lethargic, the sun was tilting lazily towards the horizon. What did shock her was the number of thick, black, ominous looking clouds being blown in the general direction of her house.

She winced, brow crumpling and mouth turning downwards. She hated storms, always had. In days gone past, when she was very little, she used hide under the bed, worried that it was Thor coming to smash her with his hammer. However, now she was in her mid-twenties, she realised that such foolishness was not at all dignified. When the thunder scared her in the present, she huddled under a blanket with a cricket bat. It was much more elegant. Even if she didn't know how a cricket bat was going to protect her from one billion volts of electricity.

She was starting to prepare for the worst when huge splatters of rain began to fall heavily on the windscreen. The water fell heavier and heavier and she turned the windscreen wipers on full power. If I hear even the tiniest clap of thunder, I'm pulling over. She inspected the narrow country lane she was driving down. It was a stereotypical Yorkshire road with drystone walling and green fields on either side, with a small forest coming up ahead.

The last time there was a big storm, Grandma made a game out of it. She was nineteen but felt and acted fifteen. They pitched a tent in the living room and she read Elizabeth stories of myth and legend, of magic jewellery and talking flowers, and soothed away any sort of fear. No matter how many times she told herself that it was stupid and immature to be scared of something that only affects 1 in 7000,000 people a year and that ill-fated soul probably wouldn't be her, she had heard many a horror story from friends to back her up in the fact that her fear was completely rational.

She jumped, in a manner that she never would have allowed in the presence of others, when a bolt of lightning licked across the twilight sky. Her heart hammered in her chest and she squinted and saw the forest up ahead and the idea of stopping didn't seem like a bad one. She drove carefully for another few minutes, acutely aware of the slippery road and pulled into a grassy alcove on the outskirts of the woods, sheltered by tall pine trees. A tremendous clap of thunder echoed in her ears and she started.

Bloody weird time to have a storm if you ask me, she thought. She rooted around in her bag and was relieved to discover that her past self had thought ahead and taken her phone. She dialled her home number, but all she got in answer was a frantic beeping informing her that there was no signal. She swore openly, cursing for all she was worth and threw the phone back onto the seat beside her. She glared at the offending piece of technology.

Well, Grandma will know that I'll have stopped to wait for the air to clear. I hope. She grabbed the old blanket from the back seat and curled up with it, smoothing the soft edge of it against her cheek, trying to block out the crashes of thunder and pounding of the rain.

The morning had dawned clear and any traces of the previous nights storm had vanished. Elizabeth was in a rather uncomfortable position that came from accidentally falling asleep while curled up like a kitten in the drivers seat. She was irritated that she had fallen asleep in the first place, she was determined to get back and finish her plan. She busied herself with rubbing her eyes and lifting her head and trying to recall where she had parked the car.

The trees look different, she thought, groggily and raised the whole of her body upright, shivering from the lack of blanket. Her jeans stuck a little painfully to the inside of her knee. She narrowed her eyes and peered at the surrounding area. Wait a cotton-picking minute. Her car was still in the place where she left it; in a little crevice just out of the forest. And she was still in the car, so someone couldn't have moved the entire vehicle without driving. But she'd locked the doors.

So, the question is, where the fuck am I? Instead of the towering pines that had loomed over her car the evening before, there now stood proud oak trees rich in acorns. There was no sound of the occasional car passing by like there usually was. The oak trees cast intricate patterns on the bonnet of the car. Upon looking up, the sun appeared to just be fully risen. How long have I been asleep? She pondered. Elizabeth was now fully awake, vigorously rubbing her eyes that were a little swollen and wondering if she was having a lucid dream.

When she chanced a glance in the opposite direction, she felt like she had been doused in icy water. The alcove was not an alcove at all. She was utterly surrounded by trees with no sign of any track or country lane. This can't be happening. Shaking her head, she adjusted herself in the drivers seat and took the keys off the spot beside her. Right, so I'll get the car going and phone grandma, no harm done- The keys she had placed in the ignition refused to turn; something was jamming it. Frustration melted in the pit of the stomach, simmering up to a boil. She hit the steering wheel with the flat of her hand. Mistake. Pain blossomed on her hand, which only fuelled the deep vexation and the feeling of uselessness.

In a moment of extreme determination and inexplicable energy, she leaped from the car entirely, ignoring how chilly the air was compared to the warmth of the car, and stormed round to inspect the inner mechanics of the car. She didn't know anything about cars, save for changing tires, but at that precise moment she didn't really care. The air outside was fragrant, smelling of tree sap and growth. The forest she stood in was vast and not one path was in sight. Once she stared at the intricate workings of her car for a few moments, she decided it was probably a bit out of her league. She slammed the bonnet back down.

She looked around desperately for a source of inspiration that would tell her the correct way to go about attracting some help. She chewed her lip, thinking for a second, then opened the passenger door and seized her phone. The 'no network' message blinked at her in red letters, mocking her. She snatched her bag and slammed the door, locking it for good measure. She whispered a sorrowful goodbye to the car, promising to retrieve it as soon as humanly possible. She breathed deeply, preparing herself for whatever this unknown wood had to offer. She was totally ignorant of which way was north and as no paths magically presented themselves, she picked a direction at random.

How did I end up here? She was bewildered. She had led a pretty normal life until now and she had assumed it would stay that way. The terrain was highly difficult to walk over, as she found out. She had been on walks when she was younger, but this was ridiculous. Rocks and tree roots seemed to trip her up on purpose and branches looked like they went out of their way to smack her upside the head. A small pebble managed to find its' way into her shoe. I wish I had something to defend myself, like a cricket bat, but then again, what do I need defence from? The trees? The flowers? Squirrels? Even so, she wished for something to ease the discomfort of the ever-waning silence. It certainly didn't feel like a friendly silence.

She trekked for what felt like hours. It had only been fifteen minutes, but it was through inhospitable woodland and she had many scratches on her face and arms from walking into branches and brambles. Curses for this shirt! Why didn't I take a jacket?

She stopped abruptly, having the intense feeling that she was being watched. Something behind her rustled. Something that certainly wasn't the local wildlife or a particularly lively flower. I might have a stalker! He'll have lured me out of my vehicle and into the forest, just so he could get me alone to do God knows what to me! Okay, stay calm, stay calm. He could be a nice stalker, the kind that gives you tea and cake before-

She didn't have much time to finish her thoughts of entertaining a stalker because, before she knew it, a massive weight tackled her, sending her and the attacker sprawling across the forest floor. Her heartbeat increased and adrenaline flooded her system. A large hand was over her mouth when she opened it to cry out. She closed her eyes and fought to be free of the body on top of her, trying to claw the assailant off her.

"Don't scream for both our sakes, little one." Said a gruff voice. She stopped fighting for a moment to spare a glance. The man was covered in a layer of grime and dressed in clothes dirtied by time and circumstance. He was very tall and had shaggy dark hair, flecked with grey that looked like it had gone unwashed for several weeks. His eyes were grey and his face was unforgiving. She bit him as hard as she could and he let out a yelp of surprise but held on determinedly. She continued to thrash and struggle like a fish out of water until her muscles were aching with protest and the adrenaline started to leave her bloodstream. "If you can be more agreeable, then I will release you." His eyes glared as she nodded her consent. The hand over her mouth was taken away.

Elizabeth coughed, her throat raw from shouts that weren't heard. "Who are you? Robin Hood? Where are your tights?"

"You aren't in a position to be asking questions. Your breathing is loud enough to be assaulted in pitch darkness." He rose from the ground, dusting himself off and she followed suit.

She sniffed. "I wasn't breathing loudly and, anyway, I am in a position to ask questions because I have pepper spray. So don't you try anything."

"What is 'pepper spray'?"

She stared at him, mystification evident on her face. "It's, um, a man-repelling device that I got off eBay." She quickly whipped it from her bag and tried to look menacing.

"You mustn't tease me, little one."

"Stop calling me, 'little one'. There is nothing little about me." Clearly, she had meant her temper and confidence, but she realized her grave mistake when the stranger raised an eyebrow. Her cheeks reddened slightly and she shook her head. "That may have come out badly. But the point is, I am not little, I have pepper spray and it would please me greatly if you pissed off." She gave him a dirty look and she was suddenly all too aware of how alone she was in the seemingly never ending forest.

"There are creatures in this forest whom would not say no too a girl in their stomachs. If you swear to be quieter, I will happily be on my way." He must be one of those renaissance hobos I have heard so much about.

"Fine." She said, very much questioning the existence of girl-eating monsters. "I solemnly swear not to breath loudly to attract unwanted attention. From girl-eating squirrels."

A ghost of a smile graced his lips. "Then I shall take my leave." The man turned his back.

"Wait!" She called at his retreating form, struck by that elusive inspiration. "Do you know the way back to the road?"

Still turned away, he said, "There is no road until you get near enough to Bree."

"Bree?" Um, what? This guy is off his rocker. He looked at her as if she'd announced herself to be a unicorn because she'd stuck an ice cream cone on her forehead, which she had done several times but that's hardly the point.

"You must be lost indeed."

She thought for a moment before coming to the conclusion that, yes, she was very lost. "Yes." She announced. "Um, would you mind awfully if you showed me to the the road or nearest sign of civilization. I would be very, very grateful." She twiddled her thumbs.

The man considered her. How could she possibly have travelled any sort of distance with those clothes? She had an accent unknown to him and he didn't know of any land where the women dressed as she did. Most peculiar. "I will take you to Bree, it is near and is where I am intending to go."

She frowned. "Who are you?" She repeated.

"A ranger."

She administered him a once-over. "You don't look much like a power ranger to me. Or a park ranger. Or an army ranger. What kind of ranger are you, exactly?"

"One who will lead you to the nearest town."

"Touché." Options: Stay in unidentified forest, maybe dying a tragic death because I don't know the first thing about survival. Or, go with the 'friendly' ranger-person and don't die. Besides, if he tries anything, I can pepper spray him. "Okay, I trust you for now. Just know that if you try anything, you'll get pepper sprayed."

He nodded, keeping his eye on the small metal canister she clutched and wondering if it actually did anything at all. "As you wish. What might I call you?"

"Eli- Um, Sandy." He walked carefully back in the direction he came, hardly making a sound. She followed, hoping that there would be tea and cake anyway, regardless of him not being a stalker.

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