A Shire Romance – Part Twelve

Missed the start? All installments can be found here.

Or go back to part eleven.

This was first posted on Silk Screen Views.

PART TWELVE – RADAGAST’S EXPLANATION

The next morning Tamsyn woke on her own, without anyone tugging at her or waiting outside her door. She selected a blue dress to wear, plaited her hair into one thick braid down her back, and went to the kitchen. It was empty but for Perry, who was reading from the Red Book of Westmarch with his feet on the table. He looked up as she came in, and all he said was, “Radagast is awake.”

Ten minutes later they were sat on the bed in the wizard’s room, both Tamsyn and Radagast eating a big bowl of hot porridge which Esme had left simmering on the stove for them.

“You have some explaining to do,” Tamsyn said, in between spoonfuls of porridge. “And in such a way that Perry understands it too.”

Radagast sighed and began. “Right, you are both aware of this world of Middle-Earth; The Shire, Gondor, Rohan, the far lands to the east and south. All of these lands are reachable from here, though it may take many weeks to do so.

“But there is another world, Perry, similar to Middle-Earth, yet different in many, many ways. It has countries, seas, continents, mountains… The people living in it are infinitely more populous than here. They have made… innovations, technological advances. Their villages have become towns and their towns have become cities. Also, the only race living in this world are humans. This is where Tamsyn comes from. I presume you deduced that she is human?”

Perry nodded once, and Radagast continued. “The two worlds exist alongside each other, on top of each other. Tamsyn, in your world I think the term ‘parallel universe’ tends to get used.”

“What, so you mean Middle-Earth exists in another dimension?” Tamsyn asked.

Radagast nodded, and Perry coughed. “Wasn’t I supposed to be able to understand this?” he asked. He tried to smile as he said it, but his voice was small, and Tamsyn could see that he was already confused.

“It is very hard, Perry,” Radagast said. “The concept is just too alien to hobbits, as are the terms we’re using. All you really need to know is that there are two worlds which exist alongside each other while at the same time knowing nothing of each other.

“However, they are linked together by one location, one portal. A doorway, if you will, where you can move from one world to the other. It is magical, and only a magic-user can go through unhindered. I have been travelling between there and here for many years now.”

He paused for a moment, and in that silence Tamsyn asked, “Was it you then, who gave the Red Book to John Tolkien?” To Perry she clarified, “He was the man who published… distributed it in my world,” and Perry gave her a grateful nod.

“Yes, I did,” Radagast replied. “I spoke to him on many occasions, though it took me a long, long time to convince him that I wasn’t crazy and that the book I gave him was a history, not a work of fiction.”

“Couldn’t you have done that with me?” Tamsyn asked.

He shook his head. “There was… There is no time, Tamsyn. Matters are too urgent for me to spend time convincing you the long and arduous way. The portal I mentioned… Over here in Middle-Earth it is located on the lands belonging to the Thain and his family. On your side, in England, it resides on your building site.”

Tamsyn frowned. “But you said the portal is magical, and only magic users can go through. There are none in my world.”

“The problem is not people moving through. I fear that if something is built on the very spot where the portal is, it could destroy it. And if the portal is destroyed, so is the world behind it.”

Tamsyn’s eyes widened in shock. “What, all of Middle-Earth?”

Radagast nodded, and Perry looked between him and Tamsyn. “Wait, wait,” he said, holding up a hand. “Are you saying that Tamsyn owns the place where the portal is in her world, and if she builds a house on it then my world, the Shire and all of Middle-Earth will be destroyed?”

“In essence, yes,” Radagast confirmed, and Perry turned stricken eyes to Tamsyn, who shook her head at him in consternation.

“Radagast, I don’t own that site,” she said, sounding pained.

“What?” he said, sitting up straight.

“I don’t own the site,” she repeated. “I own a company that builds… well, anything anyone wants us to build. Houses, villas, mansions, big, small, simple, complicated… you name it, we build it. People hire me to build what they want on the site that they own. On this particular site they want a luxury resort for stressed-out yuppies to calm down so they can go back to the rat-race. I can refuse to build it, but all that’ll happen is that they will sue me for breach of contract and hire someone else.”

“Tam, you’re talking gibberish!” Perry exclaimed, sounding close to panic, and she scooted over to him and took him in her arms, her own turmoil temporarily forgotten.

“Hush, I’m sorry,” she soothed him. “Think of me as… an overseer. If a big house is built by many people, then I’m the one who makes sure that they all do what they’re supposed to do, that they have the materials they need. What they want me to build on that site is a… an inn for people to relax, and if I don’t build it, someone else will.”

He nodded, took a few deep breaths and looked at her with sad eyes. “You must think I’m stupid.”

“Never,” she said, hugging him tightly. “This is simply too far outside your experience. Bear in mind that I know about your world, while you know nothing of mine.” She rubbed her cheek against his and added, “There will probably be more things I say that don’t make sense to you. I promise that I will explain them to you all later, okay?”

He sniffed and nodded, and she let go of him, though she remained where she was, close to him. When she turned back to Radagast she found he was smiling at them sadly.

“I’m sorry for this,” he said, indicating the two of them. “I did not realise matters would be further complicated in this way. Although I suppose it aids my purpose for you to have a vested interest in saving this world.”

Tamsyn made a dismissive gesture. “I would have an interest in saving this world even if it didn’t have Perry in it. But I suppose you couldn’t have known that.”

“But it has been in vain, it seems,” Radagast said, sounding wearier than ever. “When you told me you were the person in charge I assumed that it meant you were the owner of the site.”

“I doubt that the owner has even seen the site,” Tamsyn snorted. “It’ll be just another real estate developer, like I’m just another building company.”

“Then I don’t know what to do next,” Radagast said. He seemed to have shrunk, and suddenly he actually showed his many millennia of age.

“Is there nothing at all you can do?” Perry asked with a plea in his eyes.

She pondered, tapping a finger on her lips thoughtfully. “I could try and buy the site,” she offered.

Radagast opened his eyes. “You could?”

Tamsyn nodded. “It’s a large site, and it won’t be cheap, but I’m rich… Richer than I know what to do with. But I don’t know whether that will solve the problem.”

“How so?”

“It will solve the problem in the short term, but what will happen when I’m gone? You may be immortal, but I am not. We need to somehow try and make that site untouchable forever.”

“Is that possible?” Perry asked.

“I don’t know,” Tamsyn replied with a helpless shrug. “I’d need to do some research, and I’ll need to think about it… And I cannot do it from here.” She stared fixedly at the blanket as she said it, but when Perry gave a strangled sob she grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly.

“I understand,” Radagast said, “but I cannot take you back yet. I’m still too tired. I’ll need another few days to recover, and I expect that I’ll spend most of those days asleep.”

Tamsyn felt such a profound sense of relief that her legs would have given way, had she been standing up. She wasn’t going home yet; she would get several more days with Perry. He squeezed her hand, but she could not look at him yet.

“Okay, some other questions then,” she said, looking at Radagast. “You didn’t take me through the portal, did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” he confirmed. “As I said, only a magic-user can pass through unhindered. I had to use a transportation spell to get you here.”

“But that would simply have taken me here. Why turn me into a hobbit?”

“Ah, for varied, interlinking reasons… You are aware that King Elessar – Aragorn – forbade humans to enter the Shire after the War of the Ring?” When Tamsyn nodded he continued, “I am an exception to that rule on the technicality of not actually being human, even if I look like one. However, you would have been arrested by the shirriffs and despatched to Bree without too much ceremony. They might have hurt you too, in the process. Most hobbits have never seen a human and would probably have feared you, and fear makes people careless.”

“But you would have been there as well,” Tamsyn pointed out.

“I am not known to many hobbits, Tamsyn. The Thain’s family is an exception, since they are the unwitting guardians of the portal, but I rarely show myself to anyone else in the Shire, and I still spend most of my time at my home in Rhosgobel. However, the more pertinent reason is that I knew how much this spell would weary me. Transportation from one world to another is difficult beyond belief, especially for one such as I, who has not used significant magic since before Saruman’s fall. I did not know how long I would need to recuperate, but I knew it would take days, so I thought that by turning you into a hobbit, you could at least hide among the populace until I had recovered. Judging by what I see here, I have been proven correct.”

He sagged back into the pillows, then added, “You were lucky to have been found by the son of the Thain. He is a hobbit of uncommon ability.”

Tamsyn looked at Perry, who looked at Radagast as if he had sprouted another head. “Uncommon ability? Me?”

“Yes, you,” Tamsyn answered in the wizard’s stead. “I have told you this already. If you will not believe it from me, will you believe it from him?” When he transferred his incredulous gaze to her, she smiled and kissed him on the forehead. “Stop thinking of yourself as a troublesome freak, Perry. You are a gem among pebbles. Not better, not more useful, just… unique, and to be treasured.”

Perry stared at her wordlessly, then moved as if to kiss her, but at that point Radagast coughed politely. “I will need to sleep again,” he said, sounding like he was halfway there already. “If you have no further questions?”

“Just one,” Tamsyn said. “Don’t hobbits speak Westron? How is it possible that I speak it too?”

“You do and you don’t,” Radagast said cryptically. “It is part of the transmogrification. Perry, would you please read out a passage from the book you have there?”

“What passage?” Perry asked, opening the book.

“Any.”

Perry gave him a bemused look, but complied, beginning at a passage regaling the Fellowship’s journey through Moria.

“Now, Tamsyn, concentrate closely on what he says,” Radagast instructed her. “What he really says. Close your eyes if it helps.”

She did, and after a few sentences she realised that what she was hearing as English came out of Perry’s mouth as a completely different language, though the sounds and phonemes were similar to those in English. It was the aural equivalent of eye-watering, and she clenched her teeth.

“If it becomes too confusing, just stop thinking about it,” Radagast said, and just like that everything sounded normal again.

“Now I would sleep,” the wizard said, and once again he was asleep so quickly that neither Tamsyn nor Perry could say anything more.

What will happen next? Find out in part twelve!

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