Disclaimer: I do not own, or claim to own The Lord of the Rings or anything associated with it. It all belongs to Tolkien bows to the genius so don't sue me.
Author's Note: Before we begin, a few notes from the author…
This idea was first conceived sometime in the summer of 2002 and first published on that August. I continued writing it for nearly two years. I had reached thirty-seven chapters when, with the help of some constructive criticism, I realized that there were some things that I wanted and probably needed to fix in this story. So, this is the new and improved REVISED version of The Truth About Elves.
I am a big fan of movie verse for fanfic. I find it considerably easier to write than using the books because it's considerably simpler than the books (and I'd also rather not rewrite the books). However, just because I use movie verse does not mean I haven't read the books and have no appreciation for Tolkien's work. I first read the books at eleven, well before the movies first came out. The reason I use the movie verse is, again, simplicity (and a visual is very helpful).
Regarding reviews…I love reviews. I'm a total review junkie. Who isn't? I appreciate constructive criticism—it helps me grow as a writer. Flames are not appreciated much at all—if you have something to say, I prefer that you express your opinion in an eloquent and civil manner rather than in a string of profane accusations. I will be much more inclined to listen to your opinion if you present it in a courteous manner.
A general warning: This narrative will contain some sarcastic humor, which some find distasteful, so I thought it would be best to include this warning. It's rated PG-13 for some minor language (rating may change as the story progresses). The romance in this story is also very slow in developing, so ye be warned. There will also be some places were it will fail to adhere to Jackson and Tolkien's precise vision. I ask you to be patient with me and wait and see where the story goes. If you're more of a purist when it comes to Tolkien's work, and you find this fic is not for you, there is a lovely little 'back' button on the browser that will return you to the main page and leave you peruse the fics until you find one to your liking.
And finally, an apology to my readers: I admit, I was not very tactful in picking an ideal place in the story to stop and revise and I apologize for that. I looked over some of what I had written and came to the conclusion that I could be doing much better and decided to revise rather than abandon this story. Hopefully, it won't take overly long and we can quickly go on our merry little way.
Now that I've yapped for a solid page or so, I believe it is time to begin the new and (hopefully) improved…
The Truth About Elves
By Blue Kat
The dirt hit the coffin with finality, increasing the acute grief that had been growing within me. The polished black surface was slowly covered with handfuls of dirt dropped in by the mourners. I looked at the rich soil clamped tightly in my hand.
I could not do it.
I could not help bury her.
Her memory was so strong that it was nearly impossible for me to accept her death as factual. I repeatedly pinched my forearm; half expecting to awaken from what I prayed was a nightmare.
But I never woke up, and my nightmare became my reality.
The painful realization that she was truly gone intensified as I watched the coffin slowly disappear beneath the earth. A lone tear rolled down my cheek as I watched the black soil envelope the dark wood, warmly receiving the departed soul, the final destination of all who live.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…
It was, of course, the natural cycle of things—the circle of life, if you will. But all I could see as I stared into that yawning grave was an endless tunnel of misery, stemming directly from the pain within my own heart.
I let the dirt fall from my tight clutch on to the well-kept lawn beside me, a lump forming in my throat. I plucked a white rose from a flower arrangement placed at the head of the grave and held it in my hands, marveling at its delicacy and perfection. I memorized the way the petals folded out from the center, how the thorns gracefully protruded from the stem, the sweet perfume mingling with the harsh scent of the earth, the soft touch of the petals against my cheek. Finally, I let it slip from my fingertips and fall gracefully into the grave, a bit of beauty against the dull grey earth.
Chapter One: Tumbling
"She asked that you have this," the social worker explained, handing me an aged shopping bag. She looked out of place, sitting on the cheerful floral printed couch in her non-descript grey pantsuit. Her dark thin hair was scrupulously combed into a tight bun and held together by an army of bobby pins. Her face was sharp and angular with no signs of make-up. The small lines in her forehead and at the corners of her mouth and the rigid way she carried herself made her seem more like an overworked, overtired businesswoman, hardened by the competition of the office, rather than a kind social worker who decided to dedicate her life to helping children.
I rose from my seat.
"If it's all right…I'd like to be alone when I open it," I said quietly, planning to escape to the freedom of the outdoors. "I'll just be outside. I won't be long."
"Well…" she mused, "I suppose that would be fine…but don't go too far."
"I'll just be in the woods. You can call me if you need me."
"All right." She dismissed me with a curt nod.
I slipped out the back door. The sky was bleak and grey, matching my mood, and muting the colors of the surrounding landscape. The small dirt trail off the patio beckoned to me. I followed it onward, through a bit of woods, across a stream, and up a hill to my place. My secret place. It was there that I did my best thinking. It was my shelter when I needed to be alone.
I sat down on the rock, feeling the familiar grooves beneath me. A warm feeling of contentment seeped through me and I felt at peace for the first time since she died.
A bittersweet smile tugged at the corners of my lips as her name echoed through my mind. She was my great-aunt, and only existing relative, as far as I knew. My parents had left me with her when I was two, planning to send for me when they became financially stable.
I never heard from them again.
She was, quite simply, my everything—mother, father, best friend, and confidante. When it became clear that my parents were not going to return for me, she had immediately set about becoming my legal guardian, as I had no other living relatives to take me in. I was really too small to remember it—save for many suit-wearing men and women coming to our house for long meetings that could not hold my short attention span for more than a few minutes. Most of my information about this period of time came from Edna, Aunt Kate's best friend.
"She was on the phone for hours at a time, arguing with lawyers and all kinds of legal authorities," Edna told me many a time, usually over a plate of warm cookies and a glass of cold, creamy milk. It was an old story that I never really tired of hearing. "I once walked in when she was quarreling with her attorney, Mr. Lawson—you remember him, don't you? Rather portly gentleman with large glasses and that ridiculous toupee that Kate says reminds her of road kill. Well, I've never seen her look angrier. 'I'll tell you one thing, Harold,' she was saying as I walked in the door. 'This is my grandniece we're talking about. If you can't get find those papers and get them processed by Monday, then only God Himself will be able to spare you from the tongue-lashing I'll give you.' Then she slammed the phone down so hard she cracked the plastic on the receiver." She would normally shake her head with a sigh at this point, looking at the ceiling with the regret of a parent who failed to teach their child proper manners. "Kate's always argued something terrible with lawyers," she would end, pausing a moment before launching into another story.
We had a unique relationship—I suppose I regarded her more as a dear friend rather than an imposing parental figure. We hardly ever fought, which was unusual to say the least. I found that when parental difficulties were brought up at the lunch table, I had very little to contribute, much to the envy of my peers.
"You have it so easy, Haley," was a common lament often expressed. I would brush it off with a shrug and a smile, not knowing how soon my seemingly perfect life would come to a devastating end.
I arrived home late on a Wednesday afternoon in early March. The snow was just beginning to melt and the sidewalks and roadways were layered with an icy slush, deep enough in some places to submerge one's entire foot, soaking both shoes and socks in a dirty sludge. My backpack was unusually heavy—I had tests in nearly all my classes the next day as well as several projects due at the end of the week. Stress was weighing heavily on my shoulders as I trudged up the front steps, tired, but glad to be home.
The front door creaked ominously open as I stepped over the threshold, wiping my shoes on the rug. The house was unusually cold and dark. I set my backpack down uneasily as I entered the house, slightly wary, every dark shadow more imposing and frightening than normal. I knew Aunt Kate hadn't been planning on running any errands that day, and if she did, she would be certain to leave a light on for me.
"Aunt Kate?" I shouted as I shed my coat, dropping it on the living room chair. My voice echoed oddly before evaporating into nothing, my call going unanswered. I walked apprehensively through the empty house, flipping on lights as I went. I entered the kitchen, searching the refrigerator and table for an explanatory note. I jumped as something crunched under my feet. The shattered remnants of a coffee mug lay on the kitchen floor, the remaining coffee a wet and sticky mess on the linoleum. I swallowed nervously. Something was not right. The number five was flashing repeatedly on the answering machine display. I relaxed slightly, hoping she had left a message explaining her absence.
"You have…five… new messages," the robotic voice intoned choppily when I pressed the 'play' button. "Message…one…"
"Haley, honey?" Edna's sweet voice sounded over the speaker, slightly worried. There were other muted voices in the background, regularly interrupted by a steady, repetitive beeping sound. "It's Edna…you need to come to the hospital. There's been an accident."
I flew out of the kitchen like a bat out of hell, not waiting to hear the end of Edna's message. I snatched the car keys from their place on the key rack, not bothering to grab my jacket as I ran out of the house, the door slamming shut behind me.
My foot pressed heavily on the accelerator as I drove, going at least thirty miles over the posted speed limit. I blinked furiously, trying to hold back the frightened tears that were threatening to spill down my cheeks.
The drive seemed to take ages, the minutes seeming to span into hours. I finally arrived at the hospital and slid into the first available parking space. I tore out of the car and ran into the building, tears and anxiety nearly choking me.
I arrived at the front desk, in tears and nearing hysteria, and scaring the poor receptionist half to death. When I finally managed to blubber out my aunt's name, she had a nurse escort me to the emergency room.
I found Edna sitting nervously in the waiting room, twisting her handkerchief tightly in her hands. She relaxed slightly when she caught sight of me, though her brow crinkled in slight worry when she took notice of the tears on my cheeks. She sat me down on the chair next to her and held me while I cried, rubbing my back gently. It wasn't anything to get this upset about, she explained—Aunt Kate had just had a bit of heart trouble and gave everyone quite a scare, that's all. I wept on her shoulder, still too frightened to find relief in her words.
It was several hours before they allowed either of us to enter the room. Edna had to negotiate quite a bit for them to allow her entrance—she was, after all, practically family, she told the young red-haired doctor who tried to impede her progress. I don't know whether he was new to the practice and easily intimidated or simply tried to avoid arguing with women old enough to be his grandmother, but he relented after a moment of badgering from Edna, warning the both of us to keep it quiet.
The anxiety and fear of Aunt Kate's unknown ailment was nothing compared to the intense emotions that assaulted me as I entered the room. She lay limply upon the hospital bed, her nearly lifeless limbs reminiscent of a rag doll. Fluids and medicines were being administered via the various plastic tubes and IV's inserted in her arms. The heart monitor beeped shrilly in the background, a constant reminder that each beat could very well be her last.
My hand flew to my mouth in order to suppress the tears I knew were coming. Her eyelids were shut, her eyes flickering back and forth beneath the lids, lost to some dreamland. Her lips were parted slightly, her shoulders rising with every shallow breath. Lines that had not dared to grace her countenance that morning gathered near her hairline and at the corners of her mouth and eyes. Her cheeks were devoid of color, making her look even more sallow and sickly. Her hair, usually sleek and neatly brushed back in a bun, was frizzy and coming slightly undone in the back. A bittersweet smile briefly graced my lips. She was so proud of her hair, which had very few streaks of grey and remained very thick and glossy, despite her age.
"When you get to be an old dinosaur like me," she often recited as she pinned up her hair in front of the mirror, "having some natural color other than grey or white left in your roots is enough cause for celebration. And celebrate I will." She would end this monologue with one final elaborate sweep of the brush before marching off to complete whatever was next on her agenda.
I gulped and tried to swallow my sobs as Edna patted my back gently.
"Now hush," she whispered kindly, but firmly. "The worst of it is over now. She'll be just fine. What she doesn't need to see is her grandniece worrying herself half to death, because that will just agitate her condition and you don't want that, do you?" I shook my head and wiped at my eyes with the back of my hand. Edna had a way of being compassionate and logical at the same time, a combination which never failed to either straighten me up or calm me down. "There, now," the petite woman murmured reassuringly, "nice calming breaths. That's what they taught me at my yoga class, you know. Find your center." She shut her eyes and inhaled dramatically, more for my entertainment than anything. I cracked a smile and wiped the remaining tears from my eyes.
"Edna, what kind of nonsense are you feeding my grandniece now?" a weak, but blessedly familiar voice demanded from the hospital bed. Aunt Kate was in the process of propping herself up. "Oh hell's bells," she muttered, throwing an irritated glance at the various machines, tubes, and wires around her bed.
"Now, Kate, don't overexert yourself," Edna chastised, going over to assist my aunt. "This is for your own good, you know."
"More trouble than it's worth," she replied, settling into a sitting position. "I'm as healthy as a horse; no need to make a fuss over a little heart palpitation." Edna rolled her eyes and set her purse down in the seat near the bed. "How was school, sweetheart?"
I sat down in a chair and began talking, informing her of the minor happenings that had occurred during the day; Caitlin broke up with Brett during fifth period; Sara got a really cute haircut, but she absolutely hates it and wore a hat for half the day; Mrs. Hennessy assigned an impossible project that she wants by the end of next week and half the class failed the essay test; Louis' behavior had once again earned him the familiar epithet of "The Pervert"; and Brittany dropped her tray in the lunch line and got ketchup all over Margaret's shoes. She smiled and laughed at the appropriate times and inquired as to how I did on my French quiz ("C minus. Madame hates me") and whether or not I had any plans for the weekend. It was almost impossible to believe that we were sitting in a hospital rather than at home discussing all this over a cup of hot cocoa.
"Excuse me," the red haired doctor said, sticking his head in the room, "Ms. Logan needs to rest. I'm going to have to ask you to sit in the waiting room." Aunt Kate rolled her eyes and gave a derisive snort.
"Oh for heaven's sake, I feel as though I could run a marathon. I don't need to rest. What I need to do is go home, finish cleaning the bathroom, and get this girl some dinner," she informed the doctor, shaking her index finger for emphasis.
"Doctor's orders, Ms. Logan," he replied, slightly bemused by my aunt's rebellious and snappy attitude. "We're going to keep you under observation for a couple more hours and see how you do. But right now, you need to rest. You can visit with your family in a few hours."
"Well girls, the Doctor Has Spoken," she said, sweeping her arm dramatically. The doctor smiled good-naturedly and shut the door behind him, giving us a private moment to wrap things up. "Haley, darling, come here for a moment," she beckoned, waving me over to the side of the bed. "Don't you worry about me," she said softly and reassuringly. "I'll be just fine. If I could survive those terrible brownies of yours, then I can survive anything." I smiled, momentarily reflecting on the baking disaster that had nearly destroyed the mixer. "One more thing," she said, grasping my hand gently, "do you remember your favorite bedtime story?" My forehead wrinkled slightly at the peculiar question.
"Of course," I replied, reflecting for a moment on the elaborate tales she fashioned for my entertainment. How could I forget such wonderful stories? I was the protagonist, a somewhat supernatural denizen of a magical world, constantly embarking on perilous fairytale adventures that always involved copious amounts of magic and enchantment. Hearing those mystical stories was perhaps the highlight of my day and one of my favorite childhood memories.
"Good." She squeezed my hand gently. "I was thinking about them this morning. I…" She faltered for a moment, seeming to search for the right words. "Just…don't forget them." I nodded, puzzled by her odd request.
"I won't," I promised, squeezing her hand in return. She smiled softly.
"Now, you two better get out of here before the Warden returns," she continued, her old, quirky humor returning. Edna raised her eyebrows reprovingly and retrieved her purse from the seat beside her.
"Like I said, Kate, it's all for your own good," she replied, patting her shoulder gently. Aunt Kate sighed and made a face.
"Nonsense, that's what I think it is," she countered. I smiled at their humorous banter and opened the door.
"Take care of yourself and get some rest. And listen to the doctor," I said in parting. I didn't catch her response, but I think it was something along the lines of "Oh heavens, Haley, don't you start with this nonsense too."
Edna and I situated ourselves in the pink upholstered waiting room chairs and took advantage of the numerous back issues of People. I fell asleep after an hour of reading up on the Bennifer breakup, my head resting gently on Edna's shoulder.
Aunt Kate suffered a massive heart attack around eight o'clock that night, while I slept on unsuspectingly in the waiting room. Edna didn't wake me until it was too late.
I never got a chance to say goodbye.
The sorrow and confusion that followed her passing was nearly unbearable. While Edna had been designated as my legal guardian, a complicated legal process was still involved. It was a mirror image of the past—only now it was Edna arguing over the phone with lawyers and abusing the receiver, while I sat quietly in the corner, watching my life unravel around me.
I had nothing. No home. No parents.
And my eighteenth birthday was barely a month away.
The wind brushed gently against my damp cheeks and I realized that I had inadvertently stumbled into a dreamlike reverie. I wiped at my eyes with the sleeve of my jacket, trying to calm the intense grief that was rising once again in my heart. The shopping bag at my feet rustled softly as the breeze whipped against its fragile paper sides, seeming to demand my attention. I reached cautiously inside the bag and withdrew a small white envelope.
'Haley,' it read in that familiar looped script. I smiled softly and broke the seal, removing a small, folded piece of paper. I unfolded it, smiling at the familiar floral printed stationery she used for almost everything. The printed date in the corner was thirteen months prior to her death.
Haley, my dear,
Please know that I love you dearly and will always be with you in spirit. You have brought so much joy to me and I am so blessed to have you in my life.
The information contained in this letter is of an extremely important nature. It was supposed to be disclosed to you upon the event of your eighteenth birthday. However, should anything happen to me prior to that date, I have instructed my lawyer to give this to you.
The bedtime stories I told you had a partial truth to them. The Elven lineage disappeared from this earth many years ago; though there are some who believe it simply lay dormant. I have reason to believe that it has surfaced in you. I know this must sound absolutely ridiculous, but you must believe me. You must return to your home.
All my love,
I stared blankly at the letter, my lips parted in shock. I reread it several times in succession, wondering if my eyes had been playing tricks on me, if I had perhaps missed a crucial sentence. The letters and meaning remained the same, each reading leaving me more confused than the last.
The most unnerving part about the entire letter was that I had no reason to doubt her. She had always been a dreamer, but she was well aware of the line between fantasy and reality. There had never been an instance where she acted odd enough to suggest imbalance—even on her deathbed she had remained perfectly down to earth and well aware of her surroundings. My hands trembled slightly. She was trying to tell me something important, but I did not have the slightest idea as to what she was aiming at.
I peered into the bag and removed a shoebox that had been tucked neatly within the bag's embrace, coughing slightly as the musty smell of the attic wafted through the cardboard. I removed the lid and folded back the tissue paper inside to find three green leather-bound books, their titles embossed in gold print. I wrapped my fingers around the fat stack and removed them from the sea of tissue, dropping the box back into the bag. I peered at the first book inquisitively.
'Tolkien,' the bold capitalized letters stared blankly back at me. It was a name very familiar in our house—one of Aunt Kate's most favorite writers. She often praised and quoted his works and called him a literary genius. I myself had very little to say about the man. At her insistence, I had tried to read his most well-known works The Lord of the Rings. I got to the third chapter of the first book and simply wasn't able to continue, not finding much interest in furry-footed hobbits and the like. Aunt Kate had simply shook her head and said I'd appreciate it when I was older.
The same books I had attempted to plow through nearly five years earlier now sat in my lap, the gold titles winking up at me. I thumbed through each book in turn, searching for an inscription that would help make sense of the mysterious letter. I found only the words Tolkien had written and absolutely nothing from my aunt.
I bent down to retrieve the note from where it had fallen from my lap, thinking that maybe another reading would help sort things out. As my fingers barely graced the page, the wind swept it off the grass and into the air. I tucked the books under my arm and chased after the flimsy paper skating mockingly on the breeze. I made a swipe with my right hand, crumpling the paper in my grasp. I allowed myself a small smirk of victory.
Unfortunately, my success was only momentary, as a piece of uneven turf caught my by surprise, causing me to trip and fall. Propelled by the momentum, I began my quick descent down the south side of the hill, the entire scene rather reminiscent of Buttercup's fall in The Princess Bride.
However, Buttercup was substantially more tolerant of her fall than I was. The entire woodland echoed with curse after curse, as various and unlucky sticks and stones dug painfully into my body.
A decrease in slope eventually allowed me to slow down and I was able to roll to a stop. I rested on my back for a moment, scratched, bruised, and rather winded, staring up at the cold grey sky. After a while, I found the strength and motivation to right myself. Pulling myself up to an upright position, I set about examining the books and letter. The letter was rather wrinkled and slightly dirty as result of the abuse it had endured, but intact. Satisfied, I tucked it into my jacket pocket and turned my attention to the books. My breath caught in my throat and I examined the pages with a mounting panic.
They were completely blank.
Ruling out a bizarre reality show as a possible explanation, I struggled to my feet, attempting to brush off the forest debris with my hand. Deciding that the washing machine would be the more effective option, I readjusted the books in my arms and prepared to climb back up the hill and return home; thinking a nap and a shower might produce some answers.
It was at that point that I realized that my surroundings had changed completely. The forest would have normally stopped twenty feet from where I was standing, revealing Mrs. Jacobson's backyard. Instead, the forest extended in all directions, with no end in sight. Even the hill behind me was unfamiliar, strewn with boulders and large trees that had not been there before.
However disturbing these changes were, they produced nothing like the fear I felt when I realized that there were two strangely clad men standing directly in front of me, their arrows aimed at my throat.