There was no reasoning with that woman, Kitty angrily thought as she clicked open her laptop. There was hardly anything she could do without getting a comment on it. If she wore black she looked like she was going to a funeral, but if she wore colours, she looked vulgar. If she washed her hair every day she was being ridiculous, but if she didn’t she was unhygienic. If she took a second portion she was getting too fat, if she didn’t she was getting too skinny. If she stayed in her room she should hang out more but if she then hung out with friends whole preaches about drugs and alcohol followed. There was simply no pleasing the woman! And that was on a normal day, when she hadn’t somehow pissed her off. Those days were a rare commodity in themselves...
Living in her family was like walking in a minefield. Kitty cursed something ugly under her breath and opened a fan-fiction site. She wished she could move out, but she couldn’t. She was only 17, and where would she go? Thinking about freedom was useless fantasizing that made her depressed. No, then she preferred some well-written fan-fiction; at least that useless fantasizing cheered her up.
She had just finished the latest chapters of some stories she followed, when her eye fell on a colourful ad on the side of her screen.
“Tired of your surroundings?”
Kitty unconsciously nodded.
“Tired of your family?”
“Tired of your life in general?”
Yeah, that summed it up pretty well.
“Register yourself on FanTasticTravels.Com, and step into the adventure!”
Of course, it was publicity for a travel agency. Kitty almost clicked it away in disappointment, when the rest of the message appeared.
“Hundreds of host families are available to fit your personality! Do the test, find your perfect match, and prepare for an unforgettable travel experience!”
Kitty loved doing those kinds of tests. She knew she shouldn’t click ads in the side of her screen, but if tests were involved, no matter how lame, she just couldn’t resist. So she clicked, and a new window opened. Apparently you did the test, gave your name and email address, and then they sent you travel offers that fit your requirements. Or something like that; Kitty didn’t bother to read all the explanation, scrolling down to the test area immediately. Who cared that she would never travel anywhere if it depended on that autocratic woman she lived with? She just hoped the test would be amusing.
The further she came in the list of questions, the more she became convinced it was a joke site. Some of the questions were simply too weird to be real… Kitty had to admit it looked convincing, you really didn’t catch on until halfway the list. With a big grin she continued filling it in.
“Do you have experience with demanding and authoritarian personalities?”
“Would you describe yourself as a good liar?”
You had to be, to survive in this household…
“Do you have something against interracial family situations?”
The hell? Who in this age said yes to a question like that?
“Do you want to live in a large family?”
Kitty had two sisters and a brother, and no she did not want to live in a large family. It would be lovely to have all the attention for herself for once… Determinedly she clicked the NO button.
“Are you focussed on your own needs and survival mostly?”
Well yes, of course. Thinking of Number One first, and stuff like that. Kitty could hardly deny that she wasn’t the most charitable and altruistic person around.
“Do you believe Good and Evil are relative concepts?”
Sure, why not? The list went on and on, with stranger and more unlikely questions… (Are you afraid of dead people? Do you have issues with wearing armour? Are you vegetarian?) At the end, Kitty found herself in an infinitely better mood. She filled in her name and email-address and checked the Terms of Service box, before submitting her test. This thing was probably going to fill her inbox with spam, but it had cheered her up so she didn’t really care. The test didn’t give a result, but she had expected that, it was a joke thing after all. Kitty closed the page and went back to her fan-fiction. Did she have issues with wearing armour? She chuckled. Who came up with questions like that?
Kitty had completely forgotten about the test, when a week later she found a strange email in her inbox, sent to her by FanTasticTravels.Com…
A suitable host family has been found for you!
The mail went on, but Kitty closed it and threw it away. Spam, spam everywhere… It was downright annoying sometimes. That joke test had been fun, but at the moment she had other things on her mind. Summer holiday was ending, and she had to prepare her things for her senior year. In a week, she was going to make the last big step towards her freedom! One more year of boring high school education, and then she would be off to university. Interesting classes, new friends, her own studio far away from the parental steed… She could hardly wait for it!
When it happened, she didn’t know. One moment she was on the bus to school, the next moment she was sitting in a train to god knows where. The change was so subtle that Kitty didn’t even notice it, until the vehicle stopped and she looked up from her book. Where were the other students? Hadn’t the bus been packed with people? Wait… This wasn’t a bus. How…
“Miss, we have reached our destination, you have to get out.”
Kitty blinked a couple times with her eyes and looked around, but didn’t see anyone.
“Yes young lady, I’m talking to you! Get out of my train!”
This was a dream. She must have fallen asleep on the bus. Kitty pinched herself.
“Pinch yourself as much as you like, after getting out of here! This train has places to go, missy!”
Dream or not, the disembodied voice was disturbing. Confused and crept out, Kitty grabbed her backpack and left the train. She felt surprisingly awake, given that it was a dream. Maybe this was one of those lucid dreams she had read about once… Outside, she found herself in something between a station and an airport. The building was rather humongous, with many levels connected by escalators, and crowds bustling about everywhere. Kitty spotted people of all nationalities, and even some people she didn’t think were entirely human… unless horns and hooves were a human characteristic, of course. She shook her head to herself. Her subconscious was a bizarre place, it seemed. Apprehensively, she walked on. After passing a large and chatty family of redheaded beings with large ears and bare feet, she reached the place where people could await the arriving passengers. There were a lot of people holding up cardboard signs, mostly in alphabets Kitty couldn’t read… Suddenly she noticed a tall, blonde female, who was holding a sign that stated,
So, apparently she was being expected. Kitty gathered her courage and approached the woman, hoping that this wasn’t one of those weird dreams that turned into horrific nightmares all of a sudden…
“Are you Katherine Sanders?”
The woman had a beautiful voice. Actually, everything about her was beautiful. She looked like a model, and Kitty immediately felt nervous. Since when did her mind think up people that made her feel inferior simply by being around?
“Err… Yeah, that’s me.”
“Great! I wondered if I had misspelled your name, since you weren’t coming out of the train. I’m IlmarŽ, your personal welcoming committee!”
Exotic name… it somehow sounded familiar, but Kitty couldn’t put a finger on where she had heard it before. IlmarŽ didn’t look a lot older than her, but still she felt as if there couldn’t be any more difference between them. With her long blonde hair, flawlessly symmetrical face, and elegant clothes in a soft shade of light blue, the “welcoming committee” could have stepped straight out of a fashion magazine. She blinked a couple times when the amazingly pretty girl grabbed her by the arm as if they were old friends.
“So, how are you? They say it can be pretty shocking, arriving here. You seem to be taking it quite well, I must say.”
Kitty was shocked. So shocked that she didn’t feel it too well still. This was all a dream, right? It had to be a dream. It had to be! IlmarŽ gave her a worried look.
“You do look a little pale. Are you sure you’re okay? The people from FanTasticTravels say that it’s all part of the experience but I just don’t see how it’s healthy, messing with space and time like that…”
“Did… Did you say FanTasticTravels?”
“Yeah, that’s the site you used to arrange your stay here, no?”
It all just felt too… real, too real to be a simple dream at least. It was that moment that Kitty decided fainting wasn’t such a bad idea…
“Ah, you’re back. Here, have a bit of water.”
Kitty confusedly blinked at the glass of water the girl was holding in front of her nose.
“W-What happened… W-Where am I?”
IlmarŽ smiled and pushed the glass in Kitty’s hands.
“You filled in the forms to get assigned to a host family, and you agreed to being magically transported here. Oh, and you’re currently in my car.”
“I… I n-never agreed to that! The transporting, I mean!”
“When you filled in that test, you agreed with the Terms of Service, no?”
Of course, not that she had read them. Everyone just ticked that box without reading them. The cure for cancer and the secret of immortality could be hidden in there and no one would ever know.
“Well, that’s how you agreed, and now you’re here.”
“W-Where is here?”
“Silmtown.” IlmarŽ smiled. ‘You’ll love it here. It’s an awesome place, full of lovely people, and practically everyone is really nice. And our school is nice too; you’ll be in my year I think. You’re 17, no?”
“So, let’s see who your host family is…”
IlmarŽ grabbed a couple papers from her dashboard, and as she read the address her face fell. Kitty sipped from her water, and watched how the beautiful blonde looked at her, at the papers, and at her again, in disbelief. IlmarŽ shook her head, and Kitty hoped she misheard it when she caught the girl whispering under her breath,
“Is… Is something wrong?”
A lot of things were wrong, Kitty thought to herself. She was either hallucinating big time or she had actually been transported to another dimension, and no option was very appealing. But IlmarŽ had seemed so cheerful and happy at first, and now she was eying her as if she had sprouted an extra head. It was an unpleasant feeling, and she rather knew now than later what was up.
“Well… err… no. Your host family is the Bauglir Family. They… haven’t had a guest before.”
The way she said that sounded unpleasantly foreboding.
“Err… is… is there anything I should know about them?”
IlmarŽ smiled a little nervously and shook her head.
“Oh, nothing special. Mrs Bauglir is a single mother. Most of her children are out of the house already. She has two sons still living there, Sau-I mean Mairon, and Gothmog. They’re very… interesting. If you filled in the test correctly, you’ll sure like them.”
Now Kitty, confused as she was, hadn’t put all the puzzle pieces together yet. But when IlmarŽ mentioned those names, something of an alarm started ringing in her head. She knew those names… but from what? The shock of the sudden transportation had messed with her memory it seemed… The blonde stopped the car in front of a freestanding family house, the thirteen-in-a-dozen model you often see in the suburbs. It was made of darkly coloured bricks, with a black front door, a black garage, and dark roof tiles. In combination with the stylish but barren rock garden in front of it, the whole made a very sombre and somewhat frightening impression…
“There we are then. 42 Utumno Drive. Do you have your things?”
Kitty didn’t know how her backpack full of schoolbooks was going to help her survive this, but she nodded anyway.
“Well then, off you go! We’ll meet at school for sure; I’m in the Newbie Orientation Committee too! Bye!”
IlmarŽ was apparently the kind of person who was in every kind of charitable commission and committee she could gain a seat in… Kitty nodded again and got out of the car. Feeling a little lost she watched how the light blue car drove out of the street… then she turned towards the house. It seemed even more sinister from close by… She swallowed thickly and rung the dark iron bell. Almost immediately the dark door opened.
“Mom, the guest has arrived!”
A tall and very handsome young man with long black hair, golden eyes and a boyish grin stood in the door opening, looking her over with the same slightly disbelieving expression that IlmarŽ had had. Kitty felt uncomfortably scrutinized.
“You Are our guest, no? Katherine Sanders?”
Kitty felt as if she had had to affirm her identity way too often already. What had they expected? The boy smiled charmingly.
“Well, come in then. I’m Mairon. My brother is out but mom’s home, she’s in the kitchen I think.”
The inside of the house was as dark as the outside… It was all very clean and very ordinary, apart from the fact that virtually everything was black. Kitty felt incredibly out of place wearing her colourful clothes… although that didn’t say much; she felt incredibly out of place in general. Was everyone extremely attractive and tall here in… what had IlmarŽ called it, Silmtown? Kitty hadn’t thought that long hair on men could look hot, but that was obviously before she had met Mairon…
In the kitchen, she got the shock of her life. Behind the stove stood a very tall… person? In one moment Kitty’s memory got refreshed, and suddenly she knew what all the names made her think of. She almost fainted again right away. The tall figure was wearing some kind of black armour and a spiky crown that seemingly lit up the whole kitchen, and Kitty knew now that there was no doubt. Standing in front of her was Morgoth Bauglir, the Dark Enemy of the World, the depraved villain from Tolkien’s the Silmarillion. It wasn’t possible, but magical transportation wasn’t possible either and it had happened anyway. She almost didn’t dare to breathe…
“Ah, the guest. Katherine, isn’t it?”
Morgoth sounded surprisingly female, and also surprisingly pleasant. When the supposed Dark Lord (Lady?) turned to face Kitty, the frightened girl got to see the infamous fallen Vala in a red striped apron, holding a large wooden spoon. If she hadn’t been scared out of her mind she would have laughed. He had a rather androgynous face, and Kitty could have easily mistaken him for a woman if she hadn’t been so sure that he was male in the book. But wait… hadn’t Mairon called him “Mom”?
“Yeah, t-t-that’s me.”
Morgoth raised an eyebrow.
“Do you have a stuttering problem?”
The dark Vala shook his head, and smiled.
“My name is Melkor, but since you’ll be living here for a year you can call me Mom. I got you all your books and picked the courses you’ll be following in school. You don’t have to worry about them; Mairon will explain everything. I’m sure you’ll get used to it all very soon.” Kitty was stunned. “Dinner is in two hours, and after that we’ll have a family meeting. Now, out of my kitchen, you two!”
Morgoth playfully waved the wooden spoon at them, and Kitty allowed Mairon to drag her out of the kitchen. In the hallway, she tried to get her tongue to obey her.
“S-S-She… I… Err… H-How…” She shook her head in disbelief. Maybe it was all a dream after all… “Your mom is Morgoth?”
“If she ever catches you call her that, there’ll be hell to pay. Everyone calls her that, but to her face we pretend that we don’t. You can really better call her Mom.”
Kitty blinked a couple times. Now her memory was refreshed, she realized that Mairon was the birth name of the villain Sauron, only slightly less evil than his master Morgoth. It wasn’t that she remembered everything from the book, but she had a knack of memorizing the evil characters.
“I… this is all a bit…”
“Frightening and confusing? Trust me, I know. She’s my mom and even I think that living with her is frightening and confusing.”
That was not very reassuring. Mairon smiled charmingly.
“You’re not exactly what we expected when we heard we would receive a guest… But I’m sure you have your own hidden qualities. Anyway, let me show you around a bit.”
Kitty wasn’t sure if he had insulted her or made her a compliment…