It was starting to get dark when we came upon a small house in the woods. Preferring not to sleep outside, we democratically decided (after we explained what democracy was to Aragorn and Legolas) to go up to the house and ask if we could stay there for the night. I had directed Legolas to put the hood on his cloak up, explaining as politely as I could that people just wouldn’t understand if they saw his pointy ears or anything. Then, to make Legolas feel better, I had Aragorn put his hood up as well.
An elderly woman answered the door a few moments after we knocked. "Can I help you?" She asked, looking over us nervously.
Aragorn stepped forward (having been the one elected for the position of asking to stay despite my and Katy’s better judgement) "We have been wandering through these woods all day and were wondering if you could find generosity enough to let us stay the night, my lady."
The woman looked at him strangely and I added, "We don’t have any money, but if you’d like we could do some chores to earn our stay."
"Who are you?" The woman asked, "Did your car break down or something?"
Aragorn opened his mouth to speak but I cut him off, "I’m Rachel, this is my cousin Katy," I gestured to Katy, "And our uncle… Aaron," I gestured to Aragorn, "And our good friend Levern." I gestured to Legolas. "Yeah, um… Our car… It doesn’t work anymore, I guess, and we’ve been walking through these woods all day like Ara - Uncle Aaron says. So we’d be really appreciative if you could give us a room to stay in tonight or something."
The woman seemed to consider for a moment and then she opened her door wider, "Well, alright, we have a guest room and some of you can sleep in the living room if you’d like."
We all thanked her as we came in and Katy and I quickly went to work trying to remove our boots which took a lot longer to get rid of than the tennis shoes we had always worn in the past. With a look from me Aragorn and Legolas quickly followed our example.
The woman offered us some dinner to which we gratefully accepted and Katy and I washed the dishes for her saying it was the least we could do in return. The woman turned in relatively early and we sat in the living room discussing our current situation.
"Why did you not call us by our proper names?" Aragorn asked.
"No one has names like Aragorn or Legolas around here," I said, "it would give people ideas about us, ideas we’d rather them not have. Besides, if we really are where Katy and I think we are, it would not do at all to give them those names. And Aaron and Levern are all I could think of."
"Rachel and Katy are strange names from where we come from," Aragorn pointed out, "yet you did not feel the need to change your names when you were in our land."
"Yeah but that was different." Katy commented, "In your land people are nice, in our land people aren’t so nice. You saw how that woman was looking at us, she was probably worried we were a bunch of criminals."
"Which is what anyone would think if a group like us showed up on their doorstep. Speaking of which, we need some money so we can get some normal clothes in the next town." I stated, absent-mindedly digging around in my pockets in hopes of finding something.
"Yeah, but first we need to find out where we are," Katy said, "maybe we can ask that woman."
"Tennessee." I stated.
"We’re in Tennessee," I repeated, "that’s what the license plate on her car said, Tennessee."
"We’re in Tennessee?" Katy repeated incredulously, "How are we supposed to get back to Minnesota from here?"
I shrugged, "Ride the bus."
Aragorn and Legolas who had up to this point been watching us converse with little to no understanding decided to interrupt. "Where is Tennessee?" Legolas asked, "And what is the bus?"
"A bus is like a big car," I stated with a sigh, "And Tennessee is like another kingdom in America, hundreds of miles south of our home Minnesota."
"And how will we get back to Middle-earth?" Aragorn asked, "I have only just became king, I can’t leave Gondor with no ruler."
I shrugged, "I’m sure Faramir can handle it till we find a way to get you back there. But first we need to get to Minnesota. Which means we need money."
We agreed and, deciding we all needed some sleep, Katy and I sent Aragorn and Legolas to the guest bedroom - we thought it would be worse for the woman to walk in on Aragorn and Legolas than me and Katy.
The next day the old woman - who’s name, apparently, was Cecil - allowed us to do some chores for her to earn some money. We cut her lawn, washed her car, collected firewood, cleaned her floor, other such odd jobs like that and left before noon with an extra fifty dollars.
We were relieved that we didn’t have to walk too much longer before arriving at a city. It didn’t take us very long to figure out it was Athens, Tennessee, a small city I knew from my travels to be in the southeastern part of the state. We quickly found the nearest Wal-Mart and decided to invest our newly earned fifty bucks in new clothes for each of us.
Aragorn and Legolas were looking almost overwhelmed with the idea of a department store, they found it impossible that anyone would need this much stuff - after my experience in Middle-earth I tended to agree. We brought them over to the men’s clothing section and had them look around until they found something tolerable.
It turned out to cost a little more than fifty dollars - which was fine because I managed to dig up a good ten dollars worth of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in my pockets - to buy us each a pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, some bags for our old stuff and a hat for Legolas much to his chagrin. Now that we looked presentable we went in search of any small jobs we could get paid for.
"Now remember, you’re Aaron and Levern," I reminded Aragorn and Legolas, "we’ll split up, Legolas, you go with Katy, and Aragorn, you can come with me."
"Where should we meet at the end of the day?" Katy asked.
I shrugged, "Let’s just meet back here, we all know where this is so it should be easy enough for us to find." The others nodded in agreement and we prepared to split up.
"Oh, and Legolas," I called as he began following Katy away, "watch where you’re going, chances are Katy’ll get lost."
"Hey!" Katy exclaimed. My comment produced the desired effect, however, as Legolas and Aragorn smiled, relieved of the previous stress of finding yourself in a strange new land.
"I will," Legolas assured me, recalling the times we had gotten lost in Lothlorien and pretty much wherever else we had gone.
"As will I," Aragorn agreed, sharing a smirk with his friend, "you may know more about the ways of this land, Rachel, but you don’t seem to have the gift of navigation."
"Not in all your elvish houses, twisting and turning with no given order," I agreed, "but this is a city, every street has a name and no two are alike. It’s impossible to get lost here! … Unless you’re Katy."
"Hey!" Katy shot me another glare before we all laughed and split up.