Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and J. R. R. Tolkien characters are the property of their original owners.
The instant both Slayers appeared into their new environment, Buffy and Chao-Ahn simultaneously spun around to put themselves back-to-back with each other. They narrowly eyed the vicinity for any possible supernatural threats which might be about to attack the young women. However, unless the trees around the duo were in some way a masterful disguise for the local demon population, this didn’t seem at all likely. Relaxing slightly, the warrior ladies still continued to warily examine their latest surroundings, which were a great deal different from the castle conference room where they’d been just a few seconds ago.
Buffy and Chao-Ahn were in some sort of small forest glade, completely encircled by ancient, thick-trunked trees rising high to the sky and turning the day into dimness under the concealing leaves of a massive canopy of interlocked branches overhead. Drawing in deep breaths of ultra-pure fresh air, the pair of puzzled Slayers saw no roads of any kind leading to or from the clearing, merely several narrow game trails among the bushes throughout the glade. Even with their heightened hearing, neither could make out any nearby sounds except for a steady breeze rustling the leaves, distant birdcalls, and the occasional falling acorn.
“Buffy,” whispered Chao-Ahn, causing that named woman to turn her head and see out of the corner of her eye the other female gazing around in total confusion. The Asian Slayer quietly continued, “This doesn’t look like any place I know. How about you?”
A Los Angeles native shrugged in her own bafflement, commenting in a matching low tone, “Beats me. It’s not anywhere near the castle, that’s for sure.”
Trying to peer past the closely-packed trees ahead further into the woods, Buffy’s view was blocked by Chao-Ahn coming around to stand face-to-face with the other Slayer. Both women prudently kept on watching over the their companion’s shoulder during the next few moments, until Chao-Ahn prompted Buffy, “What about the book you’ve go, that Willow said would give us instructions on what to do?”
“Oh!” blinked Buffy. She glanced down at her right hand still firmly clutching this item, to then smile sheepishly at her scavenger hunt partner. “Forgot about it! I just opened it, without looking inside, so we got sent here right away!”
Lifting the small tome to face level, Buffy pulled the book’s covers apart, while Chao-Ahn stepped forward in a half-circle which ended with her at Buffy’s side. Both could now read at the same time what was presently displayed on the book’s pages in the Red Witch’s distinctive handwriting:There’s some minor differences which you’ll see right away if you’ve read the book, but you’re now inside the closest dimension I could find where J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit actually happened. It’s just after when the story’s characters encountered the trolls, who got changed into stone. Your task is to find and sneak up onto Gandalf, the dwarves, and Bilbo Baggins without them detecting you. Then, when they’ve left, you need to dig up the treasure they found and buried from the trolls’ loot, and take a few souvenirs to prove you did this.
An astonished giggle burst from Buffy’s lips, soon followed by even more laughter. This was quickly joined by her partner’s own delighted hilarity. Abruptly cutting off their mirth, both now looked at each other in wonder, with Buffy unthinkingly asking, “What, you’ve read him?”
It wasn’t until Chao-Ahn’s amused gaze made Buffy realize that last question might have been a little rude. She quickly blushed, which only deepened further at the other Slayer chuckling, “Tolkien’s been translated into Chinese, Buffy, and I’ve read him in English, too. I’m more than familiar with his books, but I never thought I’d land in them!”
Smiling at someone who clearly wasn’t offended, but instead rather happy at the latest turn of events, Buffy snickered, “Wils has been a busy little bee, I bet! Wonder what else she cooked up for the others?”
Chao-Ahn looked thoughtful for a few moments, before gracefully shrugging, pointing out, “It doesn’t matter in our case. Though, she did say we have to keep track of time. So, do we try to do this, or skip to the next task?”
“Ummm…,” mused Buffy, now that she’d been reminded of this. She went on thinking aloud, “Don’t see why not. If we’re careful, sneaking up on them’s doable, what with us being Slayer quiet. I’ve done it before on vamps. From what I remember of the story, Gandalf wasn’t -- isn’t -- all wizardy-powerful like he got in the Lord of the Rings books later on. Yeah, there’s a chance of him not noticing us. Dunno about how well the dwarves or a hobbit are aware of what’s going on around them, but, hey, we might as well as see for ourselves!”
At those last words, Buffy grinned at a worried Chao-Ahn, who at this moment wasn’t sharing the thrilled mood of the other Slayer. Instead, the Oriental woman then brought her team partner back down to earth right away by doubtfully mentioning, “Buffy, how do we even find
them in the first place?” A suddenly-glum Asian waved a despairing hand at the looming forest around the pair, which showed absolutely no indication of anyone else but themselves currently in the dense woods.
A hollow “Oh,” came from Buffy, over this clear-cut mention of a serious obstacle to their plans. Trying to come up with something, Buffy re-read Willow’s instructions. However, these only hinted at their potential objective being nearby, but otherwise failed to give them any actual directions. An abrupt drawn-in breath then caught Buffy’s attention, causing her to shove the book into her jeans pocket while she looked up at Chao-Ahn staring fixedly at one extra-large tree in particular at the edge of the glade.
Following her gaze, Buffy couldn’t see what was so fascinating about the tree, until Chao-Ahn excitedly said, “That’s the tallest one here! Let’s climb it, and see if we can find them from the top of that!”
“Yeah!” enthusiastically agreed Buffy, who broke into a quick trot towards the indicated tree. An eager Chao-Ahn easily matched the blonde’s strides. Stopping an arm’s length in front of the massive trunk, Buffy performed a Slayer leap which carried her straight up a good fifteen feet high into the air. Grabbing onto the nearest horizontal limb with her hands, another smooth surge of feminine muscles sent Buffy soaring upwards to the next branch, with again Chao-Ahn copying everything.
Like a pair of oversized squirrels, the two Slayers soon found themselves on opposite sides of the highest level of the tree where they could safety stand on the branches there. In her perch, Chao-Ahn quickly scanned the entire horizon before her, only to find a green, uninterrupted landscape of even more trees as far as she could see. A quick hiss of her name then from the other side of the tree caused the Asian woman to climb over there, where Buffy was proudly pointing a finger. Following where her partner directed, Chao-Ahn saw several kilometers straight ahead a break in the tree line, signifying the possibility of a much larger clearing there. Grinning at each other, the warrior sisters began to descend.
Several minutes later, Buffy was moving silently through the woods, her superhuman senses working at their highest level. Right now, she could occasionally hear faint voices beyond, though they weren’t yet comprehensible. Glancing over at where Chao-Ahn a few yards away was advancing just as quietly, Buffy saw a gleeful flash of her teammate’s teeth, showing the raven-haired woman was genuinely having fun.
It was certainly different from their days together in Sunnydale years ago, when a bewildered Chinese girl totally unable to understand anybody speaking to her still tried to live among all too many people in an overcrowded California house during the war with the First Evil. Buffy had a great many regrets over that whole horrible time, but one of her most remorseful memories had been how she’d paid far too little attention to somebody undergoing what surely had to be the most stressful period of a young woman’s life. Much later, Buffy profusely apologized to Chao-Ahn after spending several weeks undergoing virtually the same situation, when the Senior Slayer had lived at the Shanghai Slayers House during a possible apocalypse. This hadn’t occurred, yet Buffy was still forced to depend upon everyone there to find an English translator for the blonde, live with being functionally illiterate, and miserably subsist upon strange food, which even if it’d been quite edible, this was completely unfamiliar to her.
A smirking Chao-Ahn had thoroughly enjoyed this abject request for forgiveness, but in her accented English which she’d quickly learned after Sunnydale, the Head of the House graciously provided this. The Asian woman was then pleased by Buffy’s vow to be more considerate of her people, and they’d been on good terms ever since, though their responsibilities on separate continents meant the women had rarely interacted ever since. Which was why Buffy had been really glad over whom she’d gotten as a game partner. Unlike Faith and Andrew, with it being even odds as to whether the quick-tempered brunette from Boston had already slaughtered the dork--
As if choreographed, both Buffy and Chao-Ahn slipped without the slightest sound through the underbrush, to then lie down next to each other on the ground, cautiously peeking past the concealing shrubbery to look at what was before themselves. Sure enough, there was a bare, steep, rocky hillside next to a large clearing, with an extinguished campfire in the center of this. Around the ashes and unconsumed logs of the fire stood three large and very ugly stone statues of some sort of monstrous fiends. All of these immobile creatures currently had various expressions of anger, shock, and fear upon their unlovely features now forever carved in solid rock.
*Yeah, they could be Olaf’s dumber troll brothers,* inwardly derided Buffy, remembering her own experience with Anya’s former husband, who’d had the idiocy to cheat on a Norse woman willing to do anything for vengeance upon her straying spouse. A motion seen from the corner of her eye diverted the blonde, as Buffy glanced over to note that Chao-Ahn had taken Willow’s video camera from her pants pocket, and she was busy filming what else was presently taking place in the clearing. A wide grin splitting her pretty face, Buffy just managed to hold back her laughter at how everyone back at the castle would react over seeing what both of the Slayers were now witnessing. Hey, she
was right here, and she couldn’t believe it herself!
At the far right of the clearing, by the tree line, a bunch of, well, persons were gathered together. There was a tall guy dressed in a grey robe (who didn’t look all that much like Ian McKellen, come to think of it), a whole mess of much shorter people best described as ‘wide and hairy’, and one really dinky fellow uncomfortably dressed in oversized clothing clearly scavenged from the rest of the height-challenged group. Buffy squinted, since she wanted to be absolutely sure…but, yep, Bilbo Baggins’ bare feet indeed resembled a really shaggy pair of mohair socks.
Feeling distinctly charmed about it all, Buffy continued to observe in her utter delight. Two iron-bound wooden chests were carefully laid by the dwarves into the pit recently dug for these, with the hole then being covered up again with blocks of turf previously cut free and laid to the side. Once the dwarves had finished fussing around in smoothing and tamping down the spot, Gandalf the Grey stepped forward and touched the tip of his staff against the trunk of the gnarled tree several yards or so beyond the covered hole. The staff moved in a complex gesture, unmistakably drawing something there. Buffy blinked at seeing how the treasure location now looked absolutely identical to the rest of the untouched ground of the clearing.
Feeling very thankful at succeeding in staying unnoticed by Mr. Wizard, given how he’d just shown off his mojo-ness with that glamour spell, Buffy propped her chin atop her crossed arms, and she kept watching. It didn’t take all that long for everybody there to collect their stuff and then take off, with the entire group swiftly vanishing down a narrow trail on the far left of the clearing, probably created in the past by the trolls. Chao-Ahn filmed a few more seconds of the deserted clearing before turning off the camera and putting this back into her pants pocket. She now looked at Buffy, and without a word, the Chinese Slayer held up her right hand and she opened and closed together all her fingers three times, lifting an inquiring eyebrow.
Keeping her own mouth shut, Buffy nodded in acceptance. Fifteen more minutes of waiting seemed okay. If those guys came back for something they’d forgotten, it’d probably be during then. In the meantime, Buffy closed her eyes and she decided to take a quick nap.
Some time later, a gagging Buffy scampered out of the trolls’ odiferous cave in the hillside, carrying in one hand the closest thing to a shovel she’d hastily grabbed out of this lair. It was some kind of wooden scoop, which was all she cared about, what with the fingers of her other hand pinching shut her nose. This barely kept out the smell of a place where three trolls with no idea whatsoever of hygiene had been living for a while. Glancing up from where she was kneeling on the ground while pulling free and laying aside turf blocks, Chao-Ahn snickered at the fuming look Buffy was giving her.
Plopping down on the grass besides the other young woman, Buffy stabbed the scoop into the loose dirt revealed there, all while grumbling, “I still can’t believe the Chinese invented rock-paper-scissors!”
Chao-Ahn simply maintained her smug air over earlier winning their quick shoushiling match to see who’d do which chore, as she watched Buffy irritably dig into the ground with the scoop. Fortunately, since they already knew where to search, the glamour spell laid several minutes ago by a wizard upon the tree marking the spot wasn’t affecting either of the Slayers. Though, Chao-Ahn idly wondered if this enchantment would still function once--
A hollow thunk!
sound came from the ground at the same instant Buffy’s excavating arm jarred to a halt. Soon after, the job was completely finished when both Slayers had gotten a good grip on the revealed chests, yanked these out of their pit, and carried the heavy strongboxes several steps away, to next deposit them again on the grass. Squatting down in unison before these, Buffy and Chao-Ahn were happy to see neither treasure chest was locked. Only a pair of primitive latches held tight the lids, making it easy enough for these to be pried open and lifted back.
“Oooooo,” drifted through the air of the clearing, while both Slayers lovingly crooned in perfect chorus at seeing all manner of shiny gold objects, precious jewels, and other valuables jumbled up together inside the chests. And it was now totally theirs.
Speaking of this… A thoughtful Buffy took out of her jeans Willow’s magical book. A further calculating glance at this small volume ended with the blonde dreamily suggesting, “Wanna see if we can get every bit of that in here? Wils did say this little thing was a pocket dimension, which means there won’t be any problem with stuffing--”
Despite her own genuine avarice, Chao-Ahn had to regretfully point out to her companion, “Buffy, the book ends with Bilbo and Gandalf coming back to this place and collecting the treasure, even if it‘s not exactly like the chests here. From what I remember, Tolkien wrote about the dwarves hiding elsewhere pots of gold they found in the trolls‘ plunder. The wizard says he’ll find this useful, and I don’t know exactly what’ll happen then in the story, or afterwards, if the treasure’s gone. So, it’s not a good idea to interfere too much. We’ve got to put it back.”
Buffy’s lower lip was now protruding in a truly dangerous pout, with this annoyed woman then snappishly reminding Chao-Ahn, “Willow told
us to take a few souvenirs! I want to keep something for myself, and maybe a few little birthday gifts for the others back home!”
“I didn’t say all
of it had to stay,” soothed the Chinese Slayer. Eyeing with growing lust a magnificent emerald brooch resting on top of the loot in the treasure chest before her, she went on to state, “Nobody will miss one or two--”
“Ten, each!” quickly interjected Buffy, her irritated mood beginning to evaporate now that the negotiations were starting.
Thinking this over, Chao-Ahn soon shook her head. “Too much; it might be noticed. I suggest three or four, if they’re small enough.”
Buffy’s eyes gleamed at the prospect of this, but she still stubbornly held out further: “Six or seven sounds better to me!”
Chao-Ahn stared at Buffy defiantly looking back, before she said in her sternest tone as the adult in this discussion, “Five, and we have to agree on each other’s choices!”
“Deal,” nodded a very happy Buffy, and they smiled at each other. Settling themselves comfortably in a sitting position before their separate chests, the pair of Slayers began going thoroughly through their latest loot, soon starting to gleefully show off to their game partners the more impressive prizes.
A couple of leagues down the forest trail leading back to the clearing, the small band of travelers once more on their way to steal a dragon’s hoard were in the main cheerfully chattering with their companions as they bustled along. Of the dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield and his older escorts were treading in the middle of the trail, and the younger members of his clan were trekking around the sides and at the front, calling back and forth their congratulations over getting out of such an uncomfortable situation as a troll’s potential meal. Bilbo scurrying after, at the back of the crowd, had to inwardly agree with the others, but he was more preoccupied by his empty stomach. Wondering when they’d stop at the place where they’d left the ponies for a meal of the palatable food taken from the trolls’ cave, the hobbit decided to wait just a few more minutes before proposing hopefully a quick break for a bite. In all this, no one was paying any attention to the last of their company, who was maintaining his usual somber quietude.
At the rearmost position, Gandalf the Grey walked with long strides, his staff coming down on the ground in time with his steps. After every dozen or so instances of this, the wizard would give a wary glance to either side into the forest, and then over his shoulder to uneasily regard the empty trail behind. At the moment, this mature man was rather troubled, but he’d previously decided to not tell the others of what had been bothering him ever since they’d left the clearing where three trolls had been changed into stone after being caught outside at sunrise. After all, it would’ve been most unkind to tell the dwarves and the hobbit that for the last part of their presence back there, they’d all been under scrutiny by something holding itself concealed deeper inside the treeline across the clearing.
The primary reason for keeping to himself this worrisome detail was that Gandalf hadn’t mystically sensed any hostility whatsoever from their hidden watcher. However, this might’ve changed if the others had learned about this from him, with the distinct possibility of someone acting rashly in such a way to make matters worse. They’d already been luckier than they deserved with the trolls, so if remaining reticent about their unseen observer would keep the peace, Gandalf was more than willing to do so. In any event, his decision had turned out to be correct, with their small group having departed the clearing while remaining unmolested. Plus, so far, he hadn’t felt the presence of anything following their company while still staying out of sight. As long as this happy state of affairs continued, perhaps for the next few hours, he’d refrain from giving his companions any cause for alarm, and indeed never mention it at all to them, if things further went well.
While continuing to follow his charges, Gandalf couldn’t help but to wonder exactly what
had been watching them. He’d been unable to using his wizarding powers to identify this in particular, but it’d decidedly been something the robed man had never encountered before in his long life. Oh, well, there was always in Middle-Earth the chance of unexpectedly coming across a most strange creature out in the wilderness. It was a pity, really. One way or the other, it’d have made a rather decent story.
Author's Note: I still think this should go into a separate section as 'The Hobbit' story, rather than being bundled up into 'The Lord of The Rings' stories.