Sometimes I wish that Middle Earth was real. Sometimes I wish I lived in Hobbiton, with Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin. Other times I wish that I was an elf, wise and beautiful, and that I lived in Rivendell or Lothlorien. When I wish these wishes I imagine that they come true. In my mind’s eye, I create a character, who can speak elvish and do magic. I make her into everything I am not. She is fast, and strong and loves to climb trees. And when I create her in my mind I create another wish. To become her. It is these imaginary things that I create that keep me from going crazy with all the things I have to do at school and at home. She gives me a break from the real world. At night I think of her and of Middle Earth until I fall asleep. She is my escape. I have told no one about her, not even my closest friends. She is my secret and no one must ever know.
I was thirteen when my Dad took me to see the Fellowship of the Ring in the cinema. I’d just finished Year Seven, a year that had left me feeling as sparse and flimsy as a sheet of tissue paper cut into the wrong shape, while giving me no clues as to where I might fit into the grand scheme of high school. I was looking for something to shore up my identity, to fill the gaps while I tried to figure out how to be a person on my own. Some girls I knew had chosen boys as their bolsters, other friends had chosen bands. I knew I’d found my thing as soon as the credits rolled for Fellowship.
For the National Young Writers Festival this year, I was asked to take part in a fanfiction and cosplay reading event. I was fucking nervous about it, I’d never written proper fanfiction before. I’m not funny enough to carry it off ironically, not bold enough to deliver some hardcore Harry/Draco slash fiction; I was on the same event as Hera Lindsay Bird. Eventually, I decided that if I was going to make this work for me, I was going to have to go the other way. I was going to have to reach in deep, to dredge up and lay out my love for these films out in all it’s obsessive, batshit glory. I used to do this as teen with the things that I loved, it’s a defence mechanism I don’t think I’ve quite kicked yet. If I outed myself as the weird LOTR girl before anyone else could, I would be safe.
The character I wrote for this piece isn’t like the character I describe in excerpt from my diary above. The Shadow I wrote when I was fourteen was the unofficial tenth member of the Fellowship, she carried a slingshot, she never wore dresses, she was one of the boys. Looking back now it’s pretty clear that I was neck-deep in what many young women seem to fall into at that age, rejecting everything that marks them as “girl” so they’ll be accepted as one of the guys. And even then, I found it hard to commit these stories to paper. That I could maybe give Shadow a girlfriend, instead of pairing her off with some random soldier of Gondor at the end, never made it out of my head.
But in this piece I take the queerness out of my head and spread it all over the page. I take those complicated feelings I had when I first saw Arwen cross that river in Rivendell, and use them to write some super gay fanfiction set after the War for the Ring has ended, where Shadow gets over her hardcore unrequited crush on Arwen by falling in love with Eowyn instead. This is the best thing about fanfiction, I think. It lets us take the things we love and break them open. It lets us take the pieces we used to paper over our cracks and paste them back into the story, transformed. It let’s us make everything super gay. This is my best attempt at doing all of these things.
You’re not going to believe this. I’ve done something so horrible I’m not even sure that I can write it down. But I’m going to, because this is my diary and I can’t not be honest to my diary.
I stole the Evenstar.
Okay, so technically I didn’t really steal it. I just found it on the ground and put in in my pocket it and I haven’t given it back yet and I’m not sure that I will.
I don’t know why I did it. Actually, that’s not true, I do know why. I took it because I’ve been feeling like absolute shit about Aragorn and Arwen’s wedding. It was awful, everyone was so happy for them and I had to pretend I was so happy for them too when I actually felt like I was being shot in the chest by one hundred tiny arrows. I barely held it together during the wedding ceremony and when they were walking around talking to everyone I just had to get the fuck out of there. What was I supposed to say to her? ‘Hi, I don’t think you remember me all that well, but I remember you, remember when you rode that horse really fast all the way to Rivendell and drowned those Ringwraiths with those sick magic water horses. How cool was that? Also I love you, but hey congratulations on your marriage to the king of all men.’ And it’s not even like she’s marrying just some boring elf guy, she’s literally marrying the king of all men. Seriously, I can’t help but feel like she’s rubbing my nose in it a little bit.
So anyway, I was walking back to my room and I had my head down because if anyone saw me I didn’t want them to see that I was crying, and I caught sight of something sparkly on the floor, and I like sparkly things so I bent down to have look, and it was the fucking Evenstar. I’d seen Aragorn wear it a bunch of times, but I knew it had belonged to Arwen first, so I picked it up. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I don’t know, maybe I just wanted something of hers that he didn’t have? Like she gave him her heart, but maybe this is a sign that I could steal it?
Seriously though, could someone just pitch me into the fires of Mount Doom or something right now, because I am that pathetic. I am so so so so pathetic.
Okay, so something weird happened today. I was maybe scoping out ways I could potentially get out of this stupid city without anyone knowing, because people are looking for the Evenstar and I can’t bring myself to tell anyone that I have it because then they will know about my crush and if anyone finds out I will literally keel over and die. Anyway, I may have found my way down into this secret passageway, and I might have accidentally stumbled on this really cool room full of these really old looking weapons. There were swords and spears and heaps of long bows and full suits of armour, and a few other cool things that I don’t even know the names of and I was kind of freaking out, because I’m a total weapons nerd, but then I actually freaked out because there was this woman sitting on a stool in front a pile of breastplates looking really sad.
And I was like ‘Oh, hi, sorry, didn’t mean to bother you!’
And she was like ‘It’s okay,’ And she looked so familiar, but at first I couldn’t figure out why.
‘It’s nice down here,’ she continued, probably a bit creeped out because I think I was just kind of standing there and staring trying to figure out who she was. ‘No one really knows about it, or at least it’s not a place they think to come look for me.’
‘Are you hiding from someone?’ I asked.
‘No no,’ she said, ‘I’m just tired of people asking me how I am all the time. I needed some space for a bit.’
‘Oh,’ I asked, ‘Are you sick?’
‘Wounded,’ she said, ‘I’m okay now though.’ And that’s when the penny finally dropped, and I was like ‘Oh shit! Oh shit! You’re the one who killed the Witch-King right? The one who couldn’t be killed by any man, but you were like sucked in I’m not a man at all and then stabbed him right in his face?’
She laughed and said ‘Yeah, something like that.’
‘That is so cool! You’re a real … uh … inspiration you know,’ I said, which is like the most awkward thing I could have said (Did I mention that she’s also really pretty?). Anyway, I think it was awkward for her too because she just smiled at me and then changed the subject. ‘How did you end up down here?’ she asked and I was like, ‘Oh you know, just exploring. This city is really nice but I’m getting a bit tired of it, there’s not a lot for me to do, you know?’
‘Yeah,’ she said, ‘I know that feeling.’ She smiled her cute smile again but she still looked a bit sad so I changed the subject.
‘How cool are these weapons! I’ve never seen so many long bows in one place before! How old do you think they are?’
‘I was trying to figure that out actually. They’re pretty dusty, so I’m going too say old enough not to be used by soldiers anymore, but not old enough to be treated like ancient relics. They’re kind of stuck in between.’ I think I get what she was trying to say now, but of course I just kept blabbing on about swords.
‘Like, look at this one!’ I said, and picked up one of the long swords and swung it around a bit. ‘I wish I knew how to use one of these properly.’
‘You know, I could teach you, if you wanted,’ she said.
‘To sword fight. Properly. Like more than just stabbing. If you wanted to learn.’
‘That might me cool,’ I said, trying my best to seem chill but on the inside I was freaking out because she literally killed the King of the Nazgul and she wants to teach me how to sword fight.
‘Yeah, I mean, you’re bored, I’m bored, it’ll give us something to do.
‘Okay, sure! If you’re, you know, not too busy.’
‘Should we start tomorrow? I probably shouldn’t stay down here much longer, my brother is probably already looking for me.’
‘Okay, sure. See you here, same time tomorrow.’
So yeah, now I’m going to be learning how to sword fight properly with Eowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan tomorrow. No big deal.
It’s actually a huge deal.
Sorry I haven’t been writing much, I’ve really busy with my training. Eowyn’s a really good teacher actually, and it’s nice to learn combat from another woman, she doesn’t slow down for me or treat me like I’m fragile, but I also don’t worry about not showing any weakness in case someone chalks it up to me being a girl. Like when I was learning archery back home, I was learning mostly with boys, and I never, ever wanted to show them that I was tired or that I couldn’t do anything, even when it felt like my muscles were on fire, and that I would rather tear off all my skin than shoot another arrow. But this feels different. We work hard, but I’m not ashamed to ask her questions or for time out, and she doesn’t give me shit for it. It’s nice. It’s fun.
We’ve been talking a lot after we fight too, which is also nice. Like today, she was telling me about how she became so good with a sword.
‘In Rohan we have shield-maidens, we get trained up alongside the men, but we don’t get to join their armies. Our training is to defend the cities mostly, not to ride out into battle.’
‘Is that why you had to dress up as a guy to fight of the fields of Pelennor?’ I asked.
‘Yep!’ she said.
‘That’s bullshit! If they train you up same as the men, you should be able to fight alongside them, otherwise what’s the point?’
‘My thoughts exactly,’ she said. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be doing a spring-clean of all the old traditions when we get back to Edoras, whether my brother likes it or not.’
I told her that I’m worried about what’ll happen to me when I leave here, that I’ll have to go back to working at the Prancing Pony like none of this ever happened. I told her I thought I might like to learn how to make weapons or armour or something. ‘It’d be nice to learn how to make something, you know? There’s so much history and symbolism in all of these arms, I’d like to put my own into a sword, or a shield, or something. Something I could hold, and carry with me, and be proud of, you know?’
‘Yeah I get that,’ she said, and when I looked up from my sword she was looking at me in this way that made me blush so hard I had to change the subject.
We even talked about our crushes, which was not as embarrassing as I thought it would be, because it turns out, she’s just as tragic as I am.
‘Look at us, two extremely capable, very lovely women mooning over the King and Queen of this boring, ancient city,’ I said, ‘You know, for a while there I even thought maybe they would fizzle out, like once all the drama and the passion of being doomed had kind of faded away, that maybe they’d realise they don’t have anything in common.’
‘I wouldn’t bet on it,’ she said, and there was a bit of that sadness in her voice again, like the sound of the broken parts I’d heard on that first day I’d met her. So I asked her, ‘Do you still love him?”’
And she asked me, ‘Do you still love her?’ But it was pretty clear that neither of us really wanted to give the other an answer, so we just left it. For a second I thought she might say it out loud, I saw her open her mouth to speak, but the words caught in her throat and then she just started talking about something else.
And then, and this was my favourite part, we started talking about the weapons, and I was like ‘What do you think these spirally bits on these swords and scabbards are. I know yours has horses, because duh, you’re horse people, but this doesn’t look like anything much.’
‘It’s Minas Tirith,’ she said, ‘Each spiral represents each tier of the city. Seven spirals, seven tiers. Hey, don’t look at me like that. I like swords, okay.’ But I wasn’t looking at her like anything, except maybe with giant heart-eyes. Okay, I need to stop this though because if I have to deal with two unrequited crushes I think I am literally going to explode. This is going to sound really fucked up, but I feel like my life was a lot less complicated when I all I had to worry about was the flaming tower eye and trying my best not to get shot or stabbed. Now I feel like I’m being stabbed all the time, right between my ribs, where my heart is. It doesn’t matter anyway, we’ll both be heading home in eight days. But is it weird that I’m wanting less and less to leave?
What the fuck is happening. Okay, so I was down in the secret armour room, training with Eowyn, and afterwards we were talking about swords, and I said, ‘I’m going to have to figure out how to get one of these, so I can keep on training after I leave here.’ And Eowyn was like ‘Just take one of these ones. They’re never going to notice that just one is missing.’ And I said, because I’m an idiot, and also because I don’t even bother putting a guard up when I’m around her anymore, ‘Nah, I’ve stolen enough from this place already.’
‘What do you mean?’ she asked, and then I was like ‘Oh, uh nothing, nevermind,’ but she was looking at me and said ‘It was you who took the Evenstar!’
‘What? No way? How could you even think that?’ I said, but I saw pretty quickly she was never going to believe me.
‘Are you going to turn me in?’ I asked.
‘No,’ she said. ‘But I think you should give it back.’
‘I can’t give it back.,’ I said.
‘Because it’s too late to give it back now, you know how it’ll look! He’ll hate me forever, and then everyone will know that I was in love with his girlfriend, and they’ll all think I’m a pathetic loser and I won’t be able to bear it.’
‘They’re married, she’s his wife now. And wait, you were in love with her? Or are?’
‘Look, I don’t know, it’s complicated, okay?’ I said, but she wouldn’t let it go.
‘Were or are?’
‘Why is that important?’
‘It’s important to me!’
‘Eowyn, you’re not helping!’
‘Sorry. Look, it’ll be okay. Even if he does get mad, and even if everyone does find out, it’s okay!’
‘You don’t know! You don’t get it!’, I said which made Eowyn give me this look like “are you fucking kidding me?” and then I remembered the stuff she told me about Aragorn, and then I felt like an idiot.
‘Trust me,’ she said, ‘I get it, alright. Getting rejected sucks. I got rejected too, and I also thought it was the end of the world, even when we were literally being faced with it possibly being the end of the world. But you know what?’
‘The world didn’t end. Sauron lost, and I got over my crush.’
‘But how, how did you get over it? How could you possibly get over it?’
‘Well, I cried a lot. Then I disguised myself as a guy and went and killed a Nazgul. That felt pretty good. And then I met someone else.’
‘Oh. That Faramir guy?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘I mean, he’s nice, but no. Someone else.’
‘You.’ And of course I didn’t know what to say to that, but I didn’t have to say anything because that’s when she kissed me.
Like properly kissed me. Like leaned forward, grabbed my face and kissed me. Like eyes closed and hands all in my hair kissed me. Like tongue kissed me.
And I totally kissed her back.
And it was kind of amazing.
And now I think I’m kind of in love with her.
Tegan Webb is a writer and zine maker. Her work has appeared in various publications including Scum Mag, Moss Piglet Journal, and Concrete Queers. She writes mostly about strange creatures who have a lot of feelings and tweets sometimes @toriholic23