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A tribute to Mary Sue - The Lyorn's Den

Tue May. 15th, 2007

12:01 am - A tribute to Mary Sue

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or, a slightly enhanced Lyorn (behaving more like a Tiassa, maybe) bampfs into Middle-earth.

This is the wall of Moria, before Alan Lee painted it. The rock face is reaching up into the clouds, and the lake is a dark warm brown with a hint of gold, like the pools in the moors at home. It's hard to get the perspective right on this, and she feels it's trite, anyway, but imaginary landscapes on real, honest-to-god canvas, bulgy bottles of acrylic colour, mixed on a chipped china plate from her mother's kitchen -- that is her guilty pleasure, it's what she does to relax when corporate web pages in several tasteful shades of grey seem to eat up her brain, nine to five. There's too much grey in this wall, she thinks, and wonders if it could be reddish like Caradhras, or maybe a fairer colour, like limestone... Now, what has the Professor himself written? He liked grey, she remembers, and her books are in another room, and she'd have to clean her hands before touching them, and it's a bother. Instead, she thinks about colour. Even if the wall is grey, wouldn't the setting sun give it a reddish hue, or the dusk in a cold, blue shade? I wish I could see it, she thinks, again, while the rain patters on the overhead window and the heating pipes sound as if some ghouls doing percussion on them, I wish I was there. Anywhere in Middle-earth. Anywhere but here.

And the portal opens as if she has spoken the magic word. First silver lines on dark stone, Ithildin in the moonlight, then another line straight down as the door opens, and she wonders who had illuminated Moria, and why the thin shaft of light falling out of the opening door is silvery instead of the red of balrog-fire or orc-torches, and the door opens fully on a wide, hilly landscape under a full moon. That's not Moria, she thinks, and, baffled, I didn't paint that, sand then, I am dreaming, of course, and with the careless deliberation of dreams, she steps forward.

The night is moon-filled and cold, mist is rising from the valleys, and the air smells of early autumn. She stumbles on the uneven ground and bangs her knee against some stone intent to prove its older rights to the place. It hurts, and she sits down as she waits for the pain to pass. This is no dream. And as she looks behind her, there is no portal.

She has read stories about girls falling into Middle-earth, of course. Who hasn't? Touching the TV screen, dreaming themselves inside, being bampfed there by forces unknown, or being visited by a dark, mysterious stranger looking just like Viggo Mortensen, who tells them they are the true and secret heir of the Elven kingdom of Whateveritsname, having been sent to Earth by their parents for safety. She's a regular at deletrius and fanficrants, and on alt.fan.tolkien before that. But she's not a girl, she's not beautiful with a perfect singing voice, she has always meant to learn Elvish but never did, and to make an utterly ridiculous situation worse, she hasn't had time to pack. "Another fine mess you've gotten us into", she says to no one in particular as she rises and takes inventory, still hoping that by some kind of magic someone has sent her camping gear, jewellery, a bag of matches, boots and a good knife along. And, maybe, made her beautiful and younger, and gift her with a singing voice and fluent Westron, while they're at it.

But from the top of her head, where she has twisted up her unruly frizzy brown hair to a knot and keeps it in place with a chopstick, to the worn soles of her comfortable but very old sneakers, there's nothing on her that she wouldn't expect to be there: Jogging pants, woollen socks, an old black T-shirt with holes in it, another less-old black T-shirt with a comic book Death, a woollen sweater with some smudges of paint, and a cotton scarf that was red in a previous incarnation. In her pockets, she finds a reasonably clean handkerchief, two safety pins, and her tiny Swiss army knife, not longer than her middle finger. Now, if she had thirteen dwarves and a wizard waiting for her in the next inn down the road, she'd actually be better off than Bilbo Baggins when he first set out for adventure. However, there's not an inn in sight. Neither is a road, much less a wizard.

OK, she thinks. Don't panic. No situation has ever been improved by panicking. Sit down. Think. A Lyorn thinks best when sitting down. Where are you? You assume you are in Middle-earth. Still, you could be in Drageara, for all you know. No, no Overcast. You could be somewhere in Ireland. Scotland? Sweden? Now, wouldn't that be a relief! You could be in King Arthur's Britain, in which case people should be speaking Latin and you could at least tell them if there was a snake in the garden. You could be in Narnia (does Narnia have a moon?), in which case you only have to find the Streetlight and follow it to the Wardrobe. Probably. Never been to firm in Narnian canon. On the other hand, yes, you could be in Middle-earth. You won't be sure until you get off your arse and go somewhere. Well, but you must at least set out, either North, South, West or East. Which is which?

She looks up to the sky and gasps. Even with the light of the full moon blotting out the dimmer stars, the sky is beyond anything she has ever seen. There is no tired orange light reflecting from the cities. The Milky Way is as clear as freshly-spilled milk on ... well, on something so black as she has nothing to compare it with. The sky is peppered with stars. Just looking at them makes her head spin and her eyes roll, until the night sky seems to change like a Magical Eye picture and turn all 3-D on her. She blinks rapidly and tries to find familiar patterns. Bright Orion is the first she can identify. Sirius is below the horizon, so, she thinks, that direction east. She finds Ursa Major and then, finally, the North Star. The moon is in the west: morning cannot be too far away. Which is nice, because she is freezing. Now, where to go? She has no idea and the land around her offers no hints. Find water and follow it downstream, she thinks. She stands up and slowly turns, looking for something, anything that might give her a clue. In the south, a shooting star streaks through the sky. If this is Middle-earth, it is a setting where signs and omens happen. If it isn't, it doesn't matter. She turns south and tries to find her way down the hillside.

Even with the bright moonlight, walking is hard. The shadows are deep, her soles slippery, and the ground uneven. She stumbles and falls more than once, and notices that she has lost her chopstick when her hair falls into her face and complicates matters further. Of course, no ribbon or anything in her pockets. She braids her hair as good or bad as she can and continues vaguely southward, even as she realises that it would be wiser to wait for daylight. But if she stops moving, she'll freeze, and worse, she'll start thinking, and she is very sure that she doesn't want to think about the depth of the shit she is in right now.

The moon is low in the western sky when she finally happens upon a path. Probably only a game trail, she thinks, but as long as it doesn't lead into a bear's cave or a dragon's lair (No, much too narrow for that. Also, no burning), following it won't be worse than trying to track cross-country. Shortly thereafter, the path crosses a brook, and she finds herself at her wit's end. Follow the path. Yet, it might be only a game trail, leading god-knew-where. Follow the water. But it disappears into a foggy valley. And with the moon setting, it is getting very dark indeed, and she is tired, her legs and feet hurt like hell, she hasn't had any supper, she's too old for this crap, and this is the stupidest adventure ever, even worse than the summer she has attempted to pony-trek on half-wild horses, with no saddle, and no riding skill to speak of. Or the trip to Scotland, when she spent nearly all her money in the first week and for the three following weeks had been sleeping in railway stations and living on half a bar of chocolate a day. Maybe this is Scotland. Maybe this is a dream.

She might have dozed off a little, in between shivering from the cold and squirming on the hard ground, but she sure doesn't feel like it when she notices that the dark sky has become a light grey, and deep blue overhead. She is even more tired now than she was earlier, and hungry, and cold, and utterly miserable, and she notices that she is crying. Self-pity-fest, she thinks, disgusted with herself, which, of course, doesn't help at all. She holds her breath to stop the sobbing, presses her eyes shut hard for a second, and then looks around for something to capture her attention. A small spider is busily weaving a web between two strands of heather. She looks at it, studies it, imagines her hands grabbing a pencil, her sketchbook on her knees, trying to capture the filigree beauty of the trap and the delicate industriousness of the predator. Hm. Pretty. Once her thoughts are safely in the here and now, she rises, stretches and looks around again. Maybe in daylight, she will find clue where she is and what is going on.

There is half a shoe print in the mud next to the brook, pointing north. Well, at least there have been people here. At least one. Once upon a time. For what it's worth. She follows the creek uphill for a few minutes to make sure that there are no dead sheep lying in it, then tastes the water carefully. It's very cold, and a little bit peaty, but not too bad, all in all. She washes her hands and her face, drinks, and considers her need to pee, the lack of toilet paper, and the lack of fresh underwear. Yuck. Can't be helped, though. In daylight, the thought of having tumbled into Middle-earth is absurd. The thought that she has been, by forces and for reasons unknown, transported into the middle of a wilderness is hardly more convincing. What does that leave? Abducted by aliens? About as likely as the previous two. LSD-Flashback? I only did that once, she argues with herself. And that was twenty years ago, and it looked and felt quite different. Been camping, walked, slipped, knocked my head? Damn, that's the most likely scenario. Should have thought of that last night instead of going into some Tolkien-inspired fugue. Will I find my way back to camp? Will anyone be looking for me? I haven't the foggiest. Great, just great. She inspects the shoe print again. She'd feel a lot happier if she could read some brand name in it, but she can't be quite sure there is none, either. It is, also, not her own print, which is probably a good thing. Which leaves the question: Back north, where -- hopefully -- her campsite is? South, where -- again, hopefully -- she will find the place where the shoe's owner has come from, plus, maybe, a telephone, or a road? If only she could remember anything useful! She checks her head for bumps or tender spots, but finds nothing. She can move without getting a headache or vertigo, and she is hungry, not sick. That does not feel like any concussion she ever had. Well, she sneers, there's always new shit to get into, and starts up the hill.

She reaches the summit just when the sun is breaking through the morning mist, and holds her breath again as her eyes start to water. The land is incredibly beautiful. Hills roll to the horizon, green and round to the west, dun-coloured and rougher to the east. Southwest a large forest lies like a dark blanket on the countryside, and standing stones grace round hills. Closer is a thin brownish line that might be a river bank, or maybe a dirt track. East and a little south she sees blue smoke rising from some valley, but apart from that, there is no sign of human habitation. No telegraph or overland line, no smell of oil or coal burning, the sky free of airplane exhaust clouds. The silence is broken only by the rustling of the wind in the heather and a few melancholy crows, and everything seems shiny and new as if reflecting the light of a younger sun. Far, far to the east something white hangs against the sky, clouds, maybe, or snow-covered mountain tops. And suddenly she knows that the brown line is a road, and that she won't find her campsite if she goes north, and that she won't find a telephone anywhere around here. Because she knows this landscape. She knows the map, having copied it, painstakingly, when she was thirteen, to hang it over her bed, and, six years later, had copied it again and coloured it and added strange beasties and calligraphed "here be Hobbits" and "beware of the spiders" in Feanorean script in the appropriate places. This is Middle-earth, over there is the Great North Road, with the Barrow-downs and the Old Forest south of it. The Misty Mountains far in the distance, and that lonely peak that seems very close in the clear morning air is surely Amon Sûl. The smoke comes from a wood-fire in the Bree area, in fact, the very next hill is probably the Bree hill, and how all that could be possible is utterly, totally, completely insignificant. She very much wishes for her sketchbook. And some breakfast. And a bath. And language lessons, world peace, and a pony. And for the whole thing to be a drug flashback. And to last a little longer.

Bree next, she thinks, but she can't tear herself away from the hilltop, and the vista. It is like the first time in her life she saw mountains, when she laughed and cried and howled with delight and wonder, and her parents had thought her to be afraid and physically dragged her indoors, where she had thrown a tantrum of mythical proportions. The sun is halfway up in the sky when she finally turns and starts to limp downhill. Her sneakers might have been quite comfortable when worn in the house, but they are not made for trekking over hill and over dale, they are wet, her socks are drenched, and she feels a couple of nasty blisters developing. She thinks longingly of the perfectly good pair of heavy walking boots in her hall wardrobe. And of the perfectly good, if slightly stale sandwich in her fridge that has been left over from yesterday's lunch. Not to mention the Elvish phrase book... which is probably all wrong, anyway, and if she remembers correctly, the only people in Bree who speak any Elvish at all are Rangers passing through. And, her phrase book being Quenya, even they would have a hard time understanding her -- if she had the phrasebook, that is. Still, she remembers a few words of Sindarin, and if her pronunciation sucks, she can always write down what she wants to say. It had worked in Poland... except for the time when she mistakenly boarded that train to Belarus, believing it bound for Prague. There is nothing to be done about her clothing, unfortunately. The re-enactors she has played with used to consider jogging pants less offensive than blue jeans, she can only hope that the folks around here share that sentiment.

Finally, she finds her way down the hill. She keeps to the edge of the fields, where low stone walls mark the border between civilisation and wilderness. People make her nervous at the best of times, and her clothing, not to mention its state, is embarrassing. She has no money, and no language to beg, barter or negotiate in. She notices people working on a field -- digging up potatoes, from the look of it -- and ducks behind a wall. Damn. She has to find help, and she has to find help here, because the next settlements she knows of are in the Shire, where she will be even more conspicuous and less welcome, and everything else is much too far away to reach in her sneakers and with no food. Plus, there are probably trolls lurking in the hills, and, depending on the year, Black Riders, bandits, malevolent ghosts, Isengard spies and who knows what else. OK, she thinks, do something. You need to do something. Unless, of course, this is a drug flashback, or a dream, or you are lying drugged up to your gills in some mental hospital somewhere, in which case you can just keep sitting here and wait for it to pass. However, if you are hallucinating then nothing you do will make a difference, and if you are not, you can't sit here and wait for the grass to grow all over you. Still, she can't get herself to leave her hiding-place just yet. What would Mary Sue do, she wonders. Of course, Mary Sue would know the language, and be picked up by Legolas who would be smitten with her beautiful and unconventional wardrobe, not to forget her shiny hair, jewel eyes and perfect singing voice, and give her all the pretty dresses she might want. And then the PPC would come and kill her. She sighs, and rises to face the inevitable.

Author's Notes: I wanted to see what I could do with the well-known premise, and got this far before lack of useful plot stopped me. Unless the plot fairy comes to visit in the night, I do not think this will ever get continued, much less finished. Still, it was fun while it lasted. Needless to say, this has not been beta'd.

In case you want to read a good story on the same premise, I recommend boz4pm's Don't Panic!.

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