By San Antonio Rose
A/N: You’ve seen the Sues, almost-Sues, non-Sues, and anti-Sues. You’ve seen the flame wars and reached your own opinion. You may even have seen the PPC and anti-PPC fics. So if you think you’ve seen everything, I proudly present you with this. Be forewarned, though; my aunt nearly choked on her Dr. Pepper when I told her the title, and I hadn’t even started writing it yet. It’s been a while since I saw Greater Tuna, though, so some of the characters might be slightly OOC (but thanks to Dark Ravenette for beta-reading this); I won’t be using any "oilfield language" in their conversations. I’m assuming from the map I saw on the Tuna website that the town is in West Texas, but I could be wrong. Oh, and the POV does switch back and forth, so you get the story from both sides. The Tuna side will probably be written more simply than the Tirion side. (Interesting note: In reading The Lost Road after writing the first chapter of this, I discovered that Tolkien originally called Tirion "Tûna" and Túna "Kôr." So the title isn't such a stretch after all!)
Tuna and its residents are © Greater Tuna Corporation; if you’re not familiar with it, check out http://www.greatertuna.com. Tirion-upon-Túna and its residents are © the Tolkien Estate and Tolkien Enterprises; descriptions of certain visitors and memories are also © Three Foot Six and New Line Cinema. The button is mine, as are the events it causes. I apologize if purists disapprove of such a well-worn plot device, but it was a choice between that, Q, and a "naturally occurring" wormhole or vortex; since I use the latter two rather extensively in other works, this seemed to be the best way to go at the time. (Besides, adding Q to the equation would have made this a Star Trek crossover as well, which would really be strange.) I also own Laureglin and any other elves with non-canon names. Flames will be packaged and sold at Didi’s Used Weapons as Molotov cocktails; really nasty flames will be sold as genuine orc-fire (see "The Faithful Stone" in Unfinished Tales).
And for the record, I love small-town life… but I moved to a small town after getting burned out on the big city, so I do understand that it’s not for everyone. I also understand kids from small towns wanting to get away and experience the world. You just have to be careful when you do….
It started out like any other summer day in Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas. Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis reported what news was relevant to Tuna on radio station OKKK; Didi Snavely hawked her used weapons; Petey Fisk embarked on a new endeavor to save the animals; and Charlene and Bertha Bumiller sat on their front porch, sharing iced tea and gossip with Aunt Pearl Burras and Vera Carp. This last scene was slightly unusual, for Charlene seldom socialized with the older women of the town; but Bertha had insisted that her daughter come outside and visit, fearing that Charlene was spending too much time hiding in her room and brooding over not making the cheerleading squad. So Charlene sat gloomily beside her mother, drinking tea and not making any pretense of paying attention.
Vera and Aunt Pearl were expounding on the latest Smut Snatchers meeting when R. R. Snavely wandered by, carrying what looked like a small black box.
"Charlene!" R. R. beamed, making his way up onto the porch. "I jest found this out behind the store. I think it musta come offa that UFO I saw last night. Anyway, I thought of you when I saw it, so I come by to give it to you." With that, he pressed the box into her hand and moseyed away.
Ordinarily, Charlene would never have accepted anything from R. R. Snavely. He was odd, even for a Tuna native ("an’ that’s sayin’ somethin’," a cousin from San Marcos had once pointed out), and his obsession with UFOs made any sort of "extraterrestrial" gift from him highly suspicious. He had once given Charlene’s brother Stanley a strangely shaped metal cone, which Stanley had played with until Sheriff Givens recognized it as a WWII-vintage German grenade that had probably come from Didi’s store; knowing the Snavelys and Stanley, the erstwhile lawman promptly confiscated the bomb before Stanley could accidentally set it off when trying to play a prank on someone. This time, however, curiosity seemed to get the better of Charlene’s reason, and she studied the box carefully. She turned it over and over until she discovered a button on one face. This button was small and round and roughly resembled a doorbell aside from the fact that it was a brilliant royal blue. Beneath the button were engraved instructions:
For those who crave adventure
Press and hold the button, and what you seek will come to you
Charlene read this aloud and pondered the meaning of the words, disregarding the chatter around her. No clear explanation was forthcoming. Yet although she considered life outside Tuna bizarre, she did crave adventure. Growing up in a small town was hardly exciting, and she had an even less exciting life than most girls her age in Tuna. She was neither beautiful nor graceful, and she had failed in her long-term goal of becoming a cheerleader for Tuna High School. Granted, having a hoodlum like Stanley for a brother did make life interesting at times, but that wasn’t what she really wanted in an adventure. Romance, exotic places, high adventure… these were what she sought. The question was, could this little box truly give her that?
After several minutes of contemplation, she decided it was worth the risk.
Meanwhile, her mother and their guests had busily discussed what the box really was. After Charlene read the inscription, each of the older ladies offered an opinion. Each opinion was then quickly and vigorously debated. Finally, the trio came to the conclusion, offered by Vera, that Didi had stashed some dynamite somewhere and that this box was a remote control detonator that her husband had somehow found and wandered off with. Considering the grenade incident, it was a likely solution. All three ladies therefore took it upon themselves to get the box away from Charlene as soon as possible.
Three hands touched the box just as Charlene’s thumb pressed the button.
Tuna disappeared in a blinding flash of light, and the quartet found themselves four feet off the ground and falling fast. They cried out in shock and tried to brace for a landing and recover their sight simultaneously, and a second later they hit the ground with a thud. Aunt Pearl moaned about what the impact had done to her back; Bertha complained about landing in the dirt and getting her pantsuit dirty; Vera launched into a high-pitched stream of vitriol aimed at Charlene for doing this to them; and Charlene just blinked hard and shook her head, trying to get rid of the spots from the flash so she could see where they were.
Bertha stood and brushed herself off, then looked at her hand. Her eyesight had recovered enough that she could see that much, and what she saw startled her. "Why, this ain’t no dirt! We landed in glitter!" she exclaimed.
"What are you talkin’ ’bout, Bertha?" Aunt Pearl demanded, holding out a hand in hope that someone would help her to her feet.
"Look!" Bertha replied, holding out her own hand for Aunt Pearl to see. It was covered in a fine glistening powder.
Aunt Pearl stared, then looked at her own hand and made the same discovery. "Well, I’ll be…."
"But how in tarnation did we end up in a pile o’ glitter?" Vera screeched, slowly making her way to a standing position. "An’ when did this cold front hit?"
"Now that you mention it, it is nice an’ cool," Bertha frowned, helping Aunt Pearl stand up. "I wonder why."
Charlene stood up and slowly looked around. From what she could tell, they were in the middle of a street that sparkled in the sun, and there seemed to be white stone houses on either side. The fabulous carved decorations on the buildings were unlike anything she had ever seen before. She also noticed that they were beginning to attract a crowd and that the people who surrounded them were tall, slender, and so beautiful that she felt more awkward and homely than ever. Everyone wore long, flowing gowns made of rich material and covered in gorgeous embroidery and fantastic gems, and although she could barely hear them when they talked to each other and certainly couldn’t understand what they were saying, their voices were almost musical in tone.
"Mama," Charlene told Bertha, "I don’t think we’re in Tuna no more."
Like any city, Tirion-upon-Túna was abuzz with activity. Unlike most cities, however, the activities were undertaken out of pleasure and not necessity. Tirion was one of the three cities in Aman, and its inhabitants were primarily Noldorin Elves. Thus one was more likely to hear laughter and music there than anywhere in Middle-earth, and even the sounds of labor were more joyful because the products were certain to possess surpassing beauty.
What made this day unique from the outset was that certain heroes of Middle-earth were being given the grand tour of the city. Legolas Greenleaf and Gimli son of Glóin had recently arrived in the Blessed Realm after the death of King Elessar of Gondor, and Lady Galadriel of the House of Finwë had invited them, along with Lord Elrond Halfelven, Celebrían, and the other surviving members of the Fellowship of the Ring, to visit the city of her birth.* So it was that four elves, two hobbits, one half-elf, one dwarf, and one Maia wound their way through the busy diamond-dust streets of Tirion, laughing and talking of old memories and new prospects.
The group had just turned onto the main street to head toward Mindon Eldaliéva when a shout from behind them made them stop and turn. A young elf was running toward them, calling to Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel. Farther down the street they could see a crowd gathering.
"What is it, Laureglin?" Celeborn called to the runner as the group began walking back toward the commotion.
"We know not, lord," came the reply. "Four mortals suddenly appeared in the street after a bright flash of light. No one knows where they came from or why they are here, and they are strangely clad and speak no tongue we can comprehend."
"Mortals? Edain, you mean?"
"We know not. I have never seen the Edain, but those who have say that these are unlike any of the Edain that they ever knew."
"I didn’t think Big People were allowed here," frowned Samwise Gamgee.
"Mortals aren’t as a rule," agreed Frodo Baggins. "We’re exceptions."
"Decidedly odd," sighed Gandalf. "Let us investigate."
Because of the urgency of the matter, the taller folk took longer strides than usual when in the company of their shorter friends, and Frodo, Sam, and Gimli found themselves having to jog to keep up. Fortunately, they were less than a tenth of a mile from the site, so the hobbits and dwarf did not have far to run.
As they made their way through the crowd of whispering elves, the hobbits tried to find openings to see what was happening. They could hear one harsh female voice apparently complaining about something, but Laureglin was right; the words being spoken, although seemingly part of a language, were unintelligible.
"What are they like?" Sam finally asked Legolas, who was directly in front of him.
"I cannot say," Legolas replied, his voice reflecting a mixture of amusement and confusion. "They seem to be women of the Edain, but they do not look at all like the women of Gondor or Rohan. Come, see for yourselves." He stepped aside to let the hobbits and the dwarf through to the inner edge of the circle.
Sam and Frodo found themselves looking at four rather indescribable figures—indescribable in that their demeanor and overall appearance were so unlike anything that they had ever seen that they could scarcely find words to describe them. The youngest had her blonde hair pulled up on either side of her head in a manner that resembled a horse’s tail; she and another of the women wore dresses of a design that was unlike anything worn by hobbit, elf, or human, and the other women were clad in a manner that seemed more appropriate for men. The two dark-haired women looked suspiciously alike, as did the two blonde women. All of them seemed to be completely lost, and the two dark-haired women were inspecting the diamond dust on their hands with bewilderment.
"Edain my axe," murmured Gimli. "Atani, yes. Edain, no."†
"What are those things on their faces?" a nearby elf asked.
"I think they’re spectacles," Frodo replied. "Old Will Whitfoot used to wear them for reading, if I remember right. But those were quite different from the ones these folk are wearing."
The youngest stranger suddenly made a comment that contained two intelligible words: "Mama" and "Túna." Yet even those were said with such a heavy accent that they were hard to understand.
"I thought they didn’t know where they were," Sam said in astonishment.
"But Túna is only the name of the hill," Elrond reminded him with a puzzled frown. "If they knew their location, she should have said ‘Tirion’ instead."
"This is true," Celebrían agreed.
"It seems to me that they came from a place called Túna," Gandalf observed. "Judging from her facial expression, she appears to have told her mother that they were no longer where they once were."
"Yet there is no other Túna in Arda, unless it is in the East where our knowledge does not go," Galadriel pointed out.
"These are no Easterlings," Legolas answered with a shake of his head. "Those peoples have dark or sallow skin. These women are fair of skin, like the Gondorrim and the Rohirrim."
"That leaves only one solution," Celeborn sighed. "They are not from Arda."
"But if they’re not from Arda, where are they from?" Frodo objected.
"That, my good hobbit, is what we must discover," Gandalf shrugged.
"She’s right!" Aunt Pearl exclaimed, looking at the carvings on a nearby building. "Look at that! Looks just like those Irish knot things they sell in the catalogs."
"Ain’t never seen no Irish folk with long hair," Vera replied with obvious distaste, glancing at the figures surrounding them.
"’Tain’t a hippy look. Too clean. An’ they ain’t wearin’ tie-dye. Lawks, would you look at them duds? We musta stepped into the middle o’ a costume ball."
"Like that Renaissance festival they have down there at Plantersville?"
"Maybe. Could account fer it."
"But why do they keep mutterin’ ’bout Tuna like they never heard the word before?"
"My land!" Bertha cried, spotting a small figure at the edge of the ring. "That boy there looks just like Elijah Wood!"
"Where?" Aunt Pearl and Vera demanded.
"Mercy, so he does!" Aunt Pearl agreed.
"Wonder if he’s a relative."
"Cain’t be his son," Vera declared. "’Lijah Wood ain’t married."
"Wait… wait…" Charlene interrupted, wide-eyed and clearly thinking very hard.
"What is it, Charlene?" Bertha asked.
"I’ve GOT IT!"
"That there’s Frodo Baggins!"
"Who?" asked all three older ladies at the same time, ignoring the exclamations of astonishment around them.
"Mama, ’member when we went into Andrews to the movies an’ saw that Lord o’ the Rings movie? An’ ’Lijah Wood played that… that… hobbit thing?"
Bertha thought for a moment. "Why, yes! I’d forgotten that!"
"An’ his name was Frodo Baggins. I ’member ’cause the wizard fella called ’im that. Oh! Look! There he is, that… Gandalf!"
"An’ Sam… an’ G-Gimli… an’ Agent Smith—I mean Elrond… an’ Galadriel an’ Cel… Cel… the other guy, an’…." Charlene stopped dead, making eye contact with the one character from the film on whom she had developed a crush.
"Who, honey?" Bertha prompted.
"Legolas," Charlene squeaked.
He smiled at her, and she tried to simper… return the smile… say something, anything. She failed completely. Instead, she simply fainted.
"… Frodo Baggins!" the youngest woman, whose name seemed to be Charlene, suddenly exclaimed.
"What?" Frodo gasped. "How do you know me?"
But Charlene turned to talk to her companions rather than trying to answer his question.
"I don’t think she understood you," Gimli frowned.
"And I don’t understand any of this," Sam groaned.
"Nay, it does not make sense," Celebrían agreed. "Atani who are not from Arda and speak neither Westron nor any Elven tongue yet know the name of the Ring-bearer?"
"… Gandalf!" cried the young blonde again, pointing at the Istar.
Gandalf blinked. "Do they know yet more of us?"
She continued pointing out familiar faces. "Sam… Gimli… Elrond… Galadriel… Cel… Cel…"
"Celeborn," volunteered the former Lord of Lothlórien.
The young woman waved the problem aside. Then her gaze fell on Legolas, and she froze. So did Legolas, unsure of how to proceed.
"Legolas," she said in a strained voice.
"Smile," Elrond whispered. "She may fear you, though I have no idea why."
Legolas did so. Charlene’s mouth worked as if she were trying to say something, but nothing came out, and she fainted.
The elves looked at each other in surprise and amusement.
"That was the same look Éowyn used to give Aragorn when they first met," Legolas sighed.
"Ah, you noticed that?" Gimli chuckled.
"Come," Gandalf laughed. "Let us remove her to a place where she can recover in peace."
"Our house is close at hand," Laureglin offered.
"Thank you," Celeborn smiled.
Legolas eased past the elder strangers and gallantly and gingerly lifted Charlene from the ground, and Laureglin led the group of friends through the crowd and into the house; the other women followed close behind them, protesting loudly.
"Well, this is certainly turning out to be an interesting day," Frodo twinkled at Sam, who was shaking his head and chuckling softly.
To be continued...
* I’m assuming that Frodo and Sam had been living in Lórien, Elrond and Celebrían somewhere near the tower where Ëarendil and Elwing live, Gandalf in Valimar, and Celeborn and Galadriel in Tirion. I’m not sure where Legolas and Gimli would settle, but it makes sense that they’d go to Valinor proper to be with the hobbits rather than staying in Tol Eressëa. Bilbo was probably gone by then; although the Valar could grant long life, they could not revoke the gift of death that Eru gave to mortals.
† I.e., they’re certainly human, but definitely not descended from the Three Houses of the Elf-friends (Bëor, Hador, and Haleth) who eventually moved to Númenor.