By Anne Spear <email@example.com>
Submitted: March 2003
Summary: In this Tolkien crossover story, Lois and Clark travel to Ireland, where Superman has an encounter of the extraordinary kind.
This story was inspired by a single quote from a movie. It's amazing how some things stay with you. Many thanks go to my BR (Dawn), my creative consultant (Craig), and my editor (Carol). Please send all questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lois struggled with two full grocery bags while trying to get the front door of the brownstone unlocked. She could have left one or both of the bags in the car until after she'd opened the door, but that would have been easier and Lois was rarely known for doing things the easy way. When her keys slipped out of her fingers and dropped to the cement steps, she lowered both bags to the stoop and bent down to retrieve the keys. The front door suddenly swung inward and Lois looked up to see her husband standing in the doorway.
"Need some help?" Clark asked, grinning.
"I didn't expect you home so soon," Lois stated, rising from the stoop.
Clark bent and lifted both grocery bags in one hand as if they were weightless. "It was actually a false alarm," he explained as he followed Lois through the mudroom, closing both sets of doors behind them. "I just flew in the back door and heard you fumbling out here."
Lois stopped at the desk and dropped her purse on the chair while Clark took the groceries into the kitchen. She noticed that the answering machine showed two new messages, so she pressed the play button.
"Lois, it's Mom. Just calling to see if we're still on for lunch tomorrow. Call me when you get a chance."
While the machine's electronic voice announced, "Wednesday, 8:10 am," Clark emerged from the kitchen.
"Groceries away?" Lois asked.
"At super speed," Clark informed her, as the second message began.
"This message is for Lois Lane-Kent," a female voice with an Irish accent began. "I am calling from the law offices of McGregor, McLaughlin, & McKee. We will call again at a more convenient time. Thank you."
Clark waited for the machine to announce, "Wednesday, 11:07 am," then looked questioningly at Lois.
"Don't look at me. I have no idea what that was about," she confessed.
"We'll just have to wait until they call back. So, what's for dinner?"
Next morning, Clark was in the kitchen placing four slices of bread into the toaster when the telephone rang. He answered it on the second ring.
"This is Alicia from Mr. McKee's office. Is Ms. Lane available?"
"Sure," Clark answered. "Hold on a second." Clark placed the receiver on the kitchen counter and went to the foot of the stairs. "Lois," he called to the second floor, "phone."
"Who is it?" Lois called back.
"The law office that called yesterday."
"Okay, got it."
Clark went back into the kitchen and held the receiver to his ear just long enough to hear Lois say "hello?" before replacing it on the telephone. The toast finished its cycle and popped up out of the toaster. He placed the slices on a plate and was spreading butter on them when Lois entered the kitchen.
"So?" Clark asked, turning toward Lois.
"You're not gonna believe this," Lois started, reaching for a slice of buttered toast. "I've inherited property in Ireland."
"What? From whom?"
"Patrick Sullivan," Lois answered before taking a bite of the toast.
"Patrick? Why would your ex-boyfriend leave you property? And why are they contacting you now, after all these years?" Clark questioned.
Lois finished chewing then explained, "I don't know why Patrick left the property to me, and neither does the lawyer. The reason they waited so long is no one knew what happened to him since he just disappeared."
"Because we didn't know if he was really gone or just teleported elsewhere," Clark pointed out.
"Right," Lois agreed. "But apparently he is really gone, and his sister, Erin just got the courts to declare him legally dead. Anyway, I told Mr. McKee I'd let him know what we wanted to do. I figured we'd just have him sell it and give the money to charity or something."
"What?" Clark asked, shocked. "Don't you want to go see it first?"
"Why would I do that?"
"You may like it," Clark suggested. "Maybe it has a little cottage and a stream and stone wall like in 'The Quiet Man'. I know how much you love that movie."
"I love that movie because Maureen O'Hara stands up for herself against John Wayne and Victor McLaglen. Her character was a strong-willed, out-spoken woman at a time when that was unheard of," Lois explained.
"And you said you liked the cottage," Clark insisted.
"Okay, you win," Lois gave in. "I thought the cottage was cute. Still, why would we want a cottage in Ireland?"
"I don't know. Maybe as a vacation home. It's not like we have to pay for plane fare as long as we can fly 'Air Superman'," Clark suggested. Lois didn't answer so he continued. "August is usually a slow news month, Perry's been bugging us to take some time off, and Elizabeth is already in Smallville. I'm sure that my parents would *love* to keep their granddaughter for an extra couple of days."
"Okay, you've convinced me. I guess we should at least look at the place before we decide what to do with it. I'll call Mr. McKee back."
"Great, let's go to the office and let Perry know; then come home and pack," Clark suggested.
"Fine," Lois agreed, "but I'm meeting my mom for lunch today. Maybe I can get her to collect our mail while we're gone."
At the office, Lois asked Perry that she and Clark would be taking a week off, while Clark let Jimmy know. Jimmy offered to drive them to the airport, but Clark declined.
"It's a *really* early flight and I don't want to put you out," he explained. "We'll just call a cab."
"At least let me pick up your mail while you're gone," Jimmy countered.
"Last I heard, Lois was going to ask her mom to do that, but I'll let you know if we need you."
Late the next morning, Superman, carrying Lois and all of their luggage, landed behind a hanger at the Dublin Airport, but it was Clark who emerged with her a few seconds later. They entered the terminal and approached a car rental desk. About an hour and a half later, they entered an office building belonging to the law firm of McGregor, McLaughlin & McKee. After another half an hour, they exited the building with detailed directions to the property, located in County Kerry. Back in the rental car, they headed west and eventually found themselves in a small village called Ballybree, the closest to the property, according to their directions. After they checked into the local inn, called the "Prancing Pony," they decided to order an early dinner in the common room.
"Are ye' just passin' through or are ye' plannin' te stay a spell?" the owner's wife asked them, after taking their order. She was plump with strawberry-blond hair streaked with gray.
"Actually, we're here to inspect some property I've inherited," Lois answered, then asked, "Have you ever heard of a place called 'Aisling Beg'?"
"Oh, that place has been abandoned nigh these forty years. As I recall, it was owned by the Foleys. Their younger daughter married a Sullivan and she moved to Dublin. When her da passed, Katie came and took her mother and sister back to the city and no one's been in that house since."
"So, there *is* a house there," Clark asked, giving Lois an "I-told-you-so-look".
"Aye," the older woman confirmed. "A lovely stone cottage with white shutters and a picket fence."
"Sounds wonderful," Clark commented. "I'm Clark Kent, by the way and this is my wife, Lois."
"Maggie Keegan, at your service," the woman answered. "Have ye ever been ta our fair isle before?"
"I spent time here as an exchange student," Lois supplied, "but I never traveled this far west."
"Well, I hope ye'll be stayin' a while, and if ye need anything, sure give us a shout."
After the older woman had left, Lois turned to Clark. "Colleen's last name was Foley," she commented.
"I remember," Clark confirmed. "I guess she was more than just Patrick's nurse."
"I wonder if Patrick even knew she was really his aunt," Lois mused. "He was only two when his mother died."
Clark shrugged but failed to comment as Mrs. Keegan arrived with their supper.
After they'd finished eating, Clark suggested going to see the property. "The sun should be setting in just under two hours, so we should still have time to take a quick look around tonight."
"Ya' know, now I'm looking forward to seeing it," Lois agreed.
So, after paying for dinner and verifying the directions, they found themselves back in the rental car trying to find their way to 'Aisling Beg'. There were a few wrong turns and back tracking, but they finally made it.
Clark fell in love with the house at first glance. The stone walls had been constructed with real stones, laid one at a time, not the manufactured stone-face so often seen in the city. The shutters and fence had once been white, but were now gray and chipped with age. The front door was green and either the top half or bottom could be opened independently. Clark saw an image of Lois standing there with just the top half open, calling Elizabeth home for supper, just as Martha stood at the back screened door calling for him.
"Let's go look inside," Lois suggested, breaking Clark from his fantasy.
The front door was unlocked and it swung in with a loud creak. The inside was deeply shadowed, due to the dirt- caked windows not allowing in much sunlight. Realizing they'd forgotten to bring a flashlight or lantern, they decided to go back to Ballybree and return in the morning better equipped to explore.
On their way back to the car, Clark thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye. He stopped and turned his head to get a better look, but whatever it was ducked behind a tree. He started walking toward the tree when Lois noticed he wasn't at the car with her.
"What is it?" she asked, thinking he'd heard a cry for help.
"I thought I saw something, but I'm not sure what," he called back. "I just want to check it out."
As he approached the tree with Lois closing the distance behind him, a calico cat trotted out from behind the tree and rubbed up against Clark's shins.
"See," Lois said, "nothing sinister. Just a cat."
"No," he argued. "What I saw was bigger."
"As big as a person?"
"More like a child," he clarified.
Lois squatted down and steadied herself with one hand on the ground. While rubbing her fingers and thumb together on her free hand, she called, "Here, kitty, kitty," trying to get the cat to come to her. The calico stopped to scrutinize Lois through almond-shaped eyes, tilted its head to one side, then continued its original path around Clark's other leg. Clark bent to give the cat a quick pet, then helped Lois to stand back up.
"I guess it was just a shadow," Clark conceded as they walked back to the car. However, the belief that he *had* seen something nagged him the entire drive back to town. When they arrived in their room at the inn, he announced, "I think I should go out as Superman for a little while. You don't mind, do you?"
"Still think you saw something at the cottage, huh?"
"You know me so well." He smiled before kissing her and flying out the window.
Back at 'Aisling Beg', Superman decided to get a good look around from a bird's eye view. Past the cottage, he flew over fields of various crops. In the low light, it was difficult to make out all of them, but he definitely recognized rye and barley. In the center of the crops, hidden from the roads, was a grassy, hilly area. For some reason, Superman decided this area deserved further investigation.
Landing in the center of the open area, Superman discovered he was in a — the only words to describe it was town square — but there were no buildings to suggest a town, only grass-covered mounds surrounded by flower gardens and picket fences. Superman couldn't imagine what the mounds were until he noticed a round door on the side of one. The door was wooden, about five and a half feet in diameter and painted green so it seemed to blend in with the grass. Now that full darkness had fallen, he could see firelight coming from windows previously unnoticed. As he stood trying to process everything, Superman started to hear whispers in the darkness all around him, then the sound of a throat being cleared behind his back. He turned to see a small, white-haired man, about mid-sixties and only four and a half feet tall, holding a flaming torch. He was dressed in a linen shirt, green vest and brown pants that stopped mid-shin. His feet were bare, hairy and disproportionately large.
"Friend or foe?" the little mad asked.
"Excuse me?" Superman was confused by the question.
"Are you friend or foe?"
"Friend, I guess, but who are you?" Superman asked.
"I am Ponto Frumblefoot, mayor of our humble village," the man answered, bowing slightly.
"And what village is this?"
"It is commonly known as 'The Shire' or "Hobbittown' to some. Are all men as tall as you?" Mayor Frumblefoot asked.
"Um, no," Superman answered, hesitantly. "Some are even taller."
The mayor's eyes widened with shock. "Truly?"
"Yes," Superman confirmed. "So, you're a hobbit?"
"Indeed," the mayor answered proudly. "Are there more men coming with you?"
"No," Superman assured him. "I came alone."
The mayor turned away from Superman and called out to the rest of the village. "It is safe. Come and meet our guest."
Superman watched as hobbits crawled out from under bushes and behind rocks all around him, reminding him of the scene in "The Wizard of Oz" when Glinda insisted that all the Munchkins come out of hiding. It amazed him that all these people lived here, hidden from the rest of the world. They were all similarly dressed, the women wearing full skirts instead of pants, and all were barefoot. None were taller than five feet. Most were too shy to approach the stranger, but a few of the younger men dared to get close enough to get a good look, and one even sneaked up behind him to touch his cape before running back to the safety of a bush. "It's alright," he reassured them, chuckling. "I won't hurt you."
"Are you a wizard?" one hobbit asked him.
"Can all men fly?" a woman asked.
"Do you know Gandalf?" another wanted to know.
"No, to all three questions," Superman answered.
Superman felt a tug on his cape and looked down to see a little girl with big gray eyes. "What is your name?" she asked.
Superman smiled and knelt down next to her. "You can call me Clark," he said softly.
More of the hobbits were starting to come closer and ask questions. "Why are you here?" a gray-haired woman standing next to the mayor asked, sternly.
"Rose!" the mayor scolded her. To Superman he said, "This is my wife, Bramblerose."
"It's alright," Superman told him, then looked at the mayor's wife, who was standing defiantly with her arms crossed. "I came here by accident. My wife and I were at the cottage about a mile from here earlier today, and I thought I saw someone. I decided to find out who and here I am." Out of the corner of his eye, Superman saw two young boys getting scolded by their mother and figured they must have been the ones he saw. "Have men been here before?" he asked.
One extremely old hobbit hobbled forward, leaning heavily on a gnarled staff. "I am Nob Loamsdown," he introduced himself. "I was but four-years-old when a boy and girl wandered into our village while playing. They stayed for the day, then left at sundown and did not return."
"I still can't believe you've been here all this time and no one knows," Superman commented.
"And that is what we prefer," Mayor Frumblefoot explained. "Hence we must ask that you tell no one of our village."
"Of course," Superman quickly reassured him. "I wouldn't dream of telling anyone about you. Except, I would like to tell my wife, but believe me, she's very good at keeping secrets."
"Well, I…" The mayor started to object until he was halted by an elbow in the ribs from Bramblerose.
"A man should not keep things from his wife," she scolded her husband.
Superman chuckled at their by-play, mostly because she reminded him of Lois. "In fact, with your permission, I'd like to bring her here to meet you tomorrow," he requested. "I don't think she'll believe me otherwise."
The mayor looked around and saw most of the townsfolk smiling and a few nodding their heads. "I suppose," he agreed, "if you are sure she'll keep our secret."
"Positive," Superman insisted. "But now, it's getting late. I'd better go." With that, he bent his knees and pushed off the ground with one arm extended and one held close to his chest. As he rose into the air, he could see the hobbits waving to him and hear them calling their farewells.
Just outside of Ballybree, Superman landed behind a large rock and Clark sauntered into town, humming off-key. He entered through the front door of the inn and went directly to the room he'd rented with Lois. Inside, he found her asleep in a chair with her feet curled up beneath her and a book lying open across her lap. She'd already changed into a nightshirt and looked like she was ready for bed. Clark closed the book and placed it on a table before gently lifting Lois from the chair and carrying her to bed.
"They're in the closet," Lois mumbled as Clark laid her on the bed.
"What are, sweetie?" he asked softly.
"Lucy's shoes," she answered and turned over with a sigh.
Clark chuckled when he realized she was still sleeping while carrying on a conversation. He undressed quietly and slipped into bed from the other side to cuddle in close behind his wife.
The next morning, Clark woke up when he felt Lois leaving the bed. He opened his eyes in time to see her rush into the bathroom, then heard her being sick. He threw on a robe and waited until he heard her brushing her teeth before going to see how she was.
Lois looked up from the sink as Clark approached. "I guess I ate something that disagreed with me," she commented.
"Do you want me to get you some tea or something?" Clark asked, rubbing her arms.
Lois shook her head. "I feel better already. What time did you get in?" she asked, quickly changing the subject.
"And it was nothing, right?"
"Actually, I found the most amazing village," and he proceeded to recount the previous night's meeting. By the time he'd finished, they were both dressed and on their way down to the common room for breakfast.
"Hobbits?" she asked as they sat at a table. "What's a hobbit?"
"Didn't you ever read Tolkien?" he asked her.
"No," she admitted.
"How could I have married someone who hasn't read 'The Lord of the Rings'?" he teased her.
"Sorry. I guess I had more important things to do."
"What could be more important than Middle Earth?"
They stopped their discussion when Mrs. Keegan came to take their breakfast order.
"Wait a minute," Lois continued. "Is that the cartoon where the guy finds a ring that makes him invisible and he has that whole riddle game with that creature thingy?"
"Golem and that was 'The Hobbit'," he corrected her. "'The Lord of the Rings' is where the fellowship of nine — four hobbits, two men, one dwarf, one elf and one wizard — have to take that same ring to Mount Doom to be destroyed."
"Okay," she started, lowering her voice, "but these are just books, right? Works of fiction? Now you're telling me that there is an actual village of hobbits living in Ireland?"
"I realize it sounds fantastic," he admitted, "but I know what I saw."
"And you're sure it wasn't a dream?"
"Positive. Could I make up a name like Ponto Frumblefoot?"
Before Lois had a chance to comment, a thin, shifty-looking man approached their table and asked if they were the Kents.
"Yes," Lois answered warily.
"And is it true that you inherited the Foley property?" he asked, looking directly at Lois.
"It is," she answered. "And you are?"
"Please pardon my rudeness," he apologized in crisp, proper English. "My name is Alfred Bloodworth and I represent a party interested in purchasing the entire five acre parcel from you."
"Five acres?" Lois exclaimed in disbelief. "But it's just one small cottage."
"Surely you were aware that the surrounding farm land was Foley property as well."
Lois looked at Clark. "No, we weren't aware of that. So, who's been planting all those crops," she asked, looking back at Mr. Bloodworth.
"That is something we've not yet discovered," the smaller man admitted. "But rest assured, my employer has the means to deal with such squatters."
Clark didn't like the sound of that last comment, especially since he was sure that the Hobbits were using the farmland. But he certainly wasn't going to discuss that, here in front of this Giles wannabe. Instead he asked, "What does you employer plan to do with the land?"
Bloodworth, annoyed by the interruption, looked down his nose at Clark. "If you must know, he intends to build a shopping mall."
Clark couldn't help but snicker. "You're kidding."
"Who's going to come to a mall out here in the middle of nowhere?"
"Progress cannot be stopped, Mr. Kent," Bloodworth replied haughtily. "The time is right for Ireland to join the 21st Century." Clark raised his eyebrows in surprise at the outburst but decided it would be best not to comment further. Bloodworth cleared his throat before turning back to Lois. "As I was saying, my employer is prepared to make this most generous offer." He handed Lois a small folded slip of paper and waited for her reaction. He was not disappointed when he saw her eyes open wider. "This is, of course, in American dollars."
"Well, this *is* a generous offer," she agreed, looking at Clark, who sat silently glaring at her as if he couldn't believe she'd even consider selling. She looked back up at Mr. Bloodworth and gave him her sweetest smile. "We'd really like to think about it," she told him.
Bloodworth was amazed. "I assure you the offer is at least twice, possibly three times what the property is worth," he insisted.
"I realize that," Lois assured him, "but I refuse to make any decision on the spur of the moment, especially on an empty stomach," she added, seeing Mrs. Keegan approach with two plates.
"In that case, I shall be renting a room here and will await your response." Bloodworth turned abruptly and narrowly missed colliding with Mrs. Keegan before storming off in the direction of the front desk.
"Well, he's a pleasant lad, he is," Mrs. Keegan commented as she placed one plate in front of Lois and the other before Clark.
"Hopefully we won't be having any more dealings with him," Clark responded while looking pointedly at Lois.
"What does 'Aisling Beg' mean exactly?" Lois asked the older woman, trying to change the subject.
"Small vision," Mrs. Keegan supplied.
"Really?" Clark asked casually. "Is there any reason for that name, maybe reported sightings of small people?"
"You mean leprechauns? Oh no. Those little people are only seen by those slightly crazy or very drunk," Mrs. Keegan insisted. "But, since ye mentioned it and I did hear part o' yer conversation when ye first came in, my grandmother, bless her soul, used ta tell the story o' how she and her wee friend, Ronald, found a village o' small people, but I remember her calling them Hobbits. I learned years later that Ronald was none other than Mr. Tolkien himself, who was here visiting friends with his mother for the summer."
"Wow. Your grandmother actually met J.R.R. Tolkien?" Clark asked, genuinely impressed.
"Aye," Mrs. Keegan verified. "She said they spent a week playin' together before he returned home. I suppose she was seven years old and he was eight."
"What about the Hobbits?" Lois asked. "Did she ever see them again?"
"Nay. When they tried to return the next day, they couldn't seem to remember the path. Now eat up afore it gets cold." The older woman bustled away to take someone else's order.
Taking the innkeeper's advice, the couple ate their sausage and eggs in silence, each lost thought. Lois broke Clark from his reverie when she asked him, "Are you going to finish your sausage?"
"Hm? No, you can have it." Clark looked at Lois' empty plate, then up at her. "Wow. You usually don't eat anything other than toast in the morning," he commented.
"I know," she agreed between bites of sausage. "I guess all the clean air is giving me an appetite." She finished eating then added, "Let's drive to the cottage so we can talk."
Once they were in the car, Lois began the conversation. "Okay, we only agreed to *look* at the property before deciding what to do with it. We never agreed to keep it, and I don't appreciate your hostility just because I think it's worth considering an *incredibly* generous offer for a house that I never wanted in the first place."
"I am not hostile."
"Oh? What would you call your attitude back there?"
"Okay, maybe I went a little overboard, but it's only because I can't believe you'd be willing to sell to anyone, especially that little creep."
"Why would we want to keep it, considering it came from Patrick? Do you really think I *want* to think of him every time I see that house?" As if to reiterate her point, Lois pulled up in front of the cottage and stomped angrily on the brakes. She threw the gearshift into park, got out of the car and slammed the door behind her. She stood with her arms crossed waiting for Clark to get out of the car. Clark got out and leaned on the hood of the car.
"I didn't realize you hated Patrick this much," he commented calmly.
"Hello! He tried to kill me," she replied sarcastically.
"Hello! So have a lot of others. Do you freak out every time you see a red phone because it reminds you of Smiley? Or how about magicians? Two different ones have had it in for you. Does that mean they're all evil?"
"No, it's just…"
"Then why would this wonderful little cottage, that Patrick probably never even saw, cause so much anger?"
"Because Patrick was personal. All those other death threats and attempts were because of my job; because I got in someone's way or was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Patrick claimed to love me and that's why he came after me personally. I trusted him and he betrayed me, just like every other man in my life other than you. And now, you're the one who's pushing to keep this house." She sighed, and then she uncrossed her arms and relaxed before continuing. "Why do you want to keep it so badly anyway? Is it because you grew up on a farm?"
"Not entirely. I just know that if they clear this land, the Shire will be discovered. The last thing they asked me last night was that we keep their secret."
Lois threw her hands in the air in frustration. "Again with the fictional village. Clark, I realize dreams can sometimes be very vivid, but there's no way a nonexistent village can be discovered."
"It's not nonexistent, it's not a figment of my imagination, and it was not a dream," he insisted, rising from the hood. "I guess the only way to convince you will be taking you there." He spun into the suit and held his arms open toward Lois.
"I don't know." she started hesitantly.
"If it's all in my head, what better way to prove it?"
"Fine," she gave in and wrapped her arms around his neck as they lifted off the ground.
Some distance away, Alfred Bloodworth sat in his car holding a pair of binoculars. After acquiring a room at the Prancing Pony, he'd decided to see what was so special about this property that caused a husband and wife to argue over its disposition. He'd decided to park about a half mile away from the cottage and was glad he did when he saw another car approach. With the binoculars he always kept in the glove compartment, he could tell that the Kents were already in a heated argument when they arrived. He watched as Mr. Kent remained calm while the missus became increasingly agitated. He nearly dropped his binoculars however when Mr. Kent began to spin and actually changed into Superman! What luck! As usual, spying had given him the perfect leverage to get exactly what he wanted. In this case, he would insist that the Kents give him this property and he would then collect the generous payment from his employer, in the Kents' name, of course. He sat for a few minutes after he'd watched them fly away to make sure they were really gone, then went to the back of the car and opened the boot. He rummaged about until he found his small video camera, then hiked up to the cottage and found a suitable hiding place and settled in to wait.
As they flew over fields of crops, Lois tried to spot this village, but all she saw were hills and more crops. When Superman landed in an open area, she did see picket fences and flower gardens, but still no village. "Okay, where is it?" she asked impatiently.
"Here," Superman answered letting her feet slide to the ground. "We're right in the middle of it."
Lois looked around again. "But where are the houses?"
"They live inside these hills," he explained. Realizing that she was still confused, he took her shoulders and turned her to face the same way he was. "See that round yellow door?" he asked, pointing over her shoulder.
"That's a door?" she asked. Superman, still holding her shoulders, nodded. "But it's so tiny!"
"Wait until you see the occupants."
As if on cue, the door they'd been looking at swung in and a head popped out. Lois watched as a crowd of small people timidly surrounded them. Most of the Hobbits greeted Superman warmly, as if they were old friends, while a few hung back and eyed Lois warily.
"This is my wife, Lois," Superman introduced her to the village.
"I'm, um, pleased to meet you all," Lois greeted them.
An older Hobbit stepped forward and bowed. "Welcome to the Shire," he returned her greeting, then introduced himself. "I am Mayor Frumblefoot, at your service."
Lois smiled. She should have known better than to doubt Clark. Everything and everyone was exactly as he'd described it. "It's all so amazing," she said, turning toward Superman.
"See?" he said, grinning. "I told you it wasn't a dream." He turned to the mayor. "We don't want to keep you from your usual business. I just wanted Lois to meet you." He stopped when he saw an old woman standing in front of Lois with one hand hovering about an inch from Lois' abdomen. Lois seemed to be looking to Superman for instructions.
Another Hobbit approached and tried to pull the older one away from Lois. "Don't mind old Pansy Sandybanks," the young man told the visitors. "She's completely harmless."
Pansy looked up at Lois and smiled. "That little one will be strong, like his father," she predicted.
"Little one?" Superman asked, looking at Lois. "Honey, are you?"
"I'm not sure," Lois admitted, shrugging. "I wanted to be positive before I said anything."
Superman lifted Lois in a big bear hug, but she swatted him playfully. "Just don't get your hopes up until we know it's definitely true."
"Oh, it is true," Pansy insisted, "and he shall be blessed with the magic of the First Age."
"First Age?" Lois asked Superman.
"Elvish legends," he supplied. "It's all very complicated. I'll tell you later."
Pansy looked up at Superman and continued. "I sense royalty in you. Please accept this gift." She pulled a pouch out of her skirt and handed it to Superman. Inside, he found a few dozen long, dull green leaves that had a sweet and pungent smell.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Athelas," Pansy answered.
"King's foil? I didn't think it really existed."
"You know of our herbs. Then you must know that in the hands of a true king, its power is without limit."
"Thank you," Superman said sincerely, before tucking the pouch behind his belt. "There's just one thing I'm curious about before we go," he continued, turning back to the mayor. "Is the Red Book of Westmarch real?"
"Of course," Mayor Frumblefoot answered, beaming. "Would you like to see it?"
Superman's eyes opened wide in surprise. "Honestly?" The mayor nodded. "I would *love* to see it."
The mayor motioned for Lois and Superman to follow him and led them to the largest hill in the village. "This is our meeting hall," he explained as he entered. Both Lois and Clark had to duck in order to follow him. Inside, they found a red leather-bound book set upon a pedestal.
Superman stood before the book and looked at the mayor. "May I?" he asked, his hand poised above the tome. When the mayor nodded, Superman opened the book and turned the pages reverently, amazed to find the entire book was written and illustrated by hand. Superman could read and write in over 300 languages, but this was one he'd never even *seen* before.
Lois stood back and watched Superman handle the book as if it were the Gutenberg Bible. She realized there was so much about him she still didn't know. She placed her hand on his elbow. "Clark?"
Superman turned when he heard Lois. "When I was growing up, I knew I was different," he told her. "I never really felt like I fit in. Then I read 'The Hobbit' and I discovered this wonderful world full of magic and heroes. Whenever I felt alone, I would reread that book or 'The Lord of the Rings' and it was as if I'd found a place where I'd be welcomed and accepted, no matter how different I was. This book," he continued, indicating the pedestal, "is the actual book that Bilbo wrote after he fought the dragon and stole the dwarves' treasure back. The Hobbits must have told the story to Tolkien and he wrote it later from memory. Do you realize how big this is?"
"I think I can guess just from the look on your face," she answered, enfolding him in her arms.
Superman returned her embrace, burying his face in her shoulder. After a moment, he broke away and turned to Mayor Frumblefoot. "Thank you for showing me this."
"I could arrange a tour of the rest of the village," the mayor offered.
"No," Superman declined. "We should go." He smiled at Lois and reached for her hand. "We have a lot to talk about."
Once they were in the air, Lois apologized. "I never should have doubted you."
"I knew you wouldn't believe me unless you saw for yourself."
"Well, we can't ever sell this place, that's for sure," she admitted as they landed near the cottage. Superman placed her on her feet and spun back into Clark. "Why don't we drive to the inn and find Mr. Bloodworth. We should tell him 'no' as soon as possible."
"I'm afraid I will not accept 'no' as an answer," Bloodworth announced, emerging from his hiding place. "You see, I have decided that you should sign this property over to me, for considerably less than the original offer."
"And if we don't?" Clark asked, although he suspected he already knew the answer.
"Oh come now, Mr. Kent. I doubt you want the world to learn your little secret, do you?" Bloodworth answered, indicating the video camera.
As the lawyer held the camera up, Clark lowered his glasses and stared at it intently. Soon the camera started to smoke then erupted with a loud *pop* and a shower of sparks, causing Bloodworth to drop it with a squeak. Lois couldn't help but compare him to a rat.
"There," she stated triumphantly, folding her arms across her chest. "Now you have no proof."
Bloodworth refused to be intimidated. "I still know the truth," he insisted. "I will hire a brigade of private investigators. You'll never know where they'll be. Every time you walk the streets; every time you turn a corner, you'll wonder if that man with a camera is really just a tourist or if that vehicle is really just a delivery van. You'll have to watch what you do every minute, but eventually I will have the proof I need to get this property and so much more."
As Bloodworth ranted, Clark took out the small pouch given to him by Pansy and removed three of the leaves. By hiding his actions behind Lois, he was able to dry them with his heat vision and crush them into a small handful of dust. As soon as the weaselly lawyer finished his pledge, Clark stepped out from behind Lois and blew the dust into Bloodworth's face. "Forget," he muttered quietly and waited. The smaller man released a small sneeze then looked up at Clark. "Bless you," Clark offered politely.
"Now, what was I saying?" Bloodworth asked.
"We were just telling you that we've decided not to sell the farmhouse," Clark told him.
"And you're sure there's nothing I can offer you to change you're mind, Mrs. Kent?"
"We're positive," Lois assured him taking Clark's hand.
Bloodworth sighed deeply. "Well, then, I thank you for your time and will not waste any more of it." He looked around then back at Lois and Clark. "Do you have any idea where I left my car?"
"I think you came from that direction," Clark answered, pointing toward a car he saw half a mile away.
"Yes, of course. Good day."
Lois and Clark watched as the older man walked in the indicated direction. Once they were sure he was far enough away, Lois turned to her husband. "Wow, that was close. How did you know it would work?"
"I didn't," Clark admitted. "I figured we really didn't have much left to lose so I decided to take the chance."
"Well, we'd better make sure that stuff is handy the next time someone stumbles onto our secret," she insisted. "Meanwhile, what about the cottage?"
"We could fix it up and use it for a vacation home," he suggested. "I know it makes you think of Patrick, but it's such a perfect spot for getting away from everything."
"I guess I did overreact a little this morning," she admitted grudgingly. "I suppose since we'll be keeping the property, we might as well use the house." She turned to look at the cottage. "It is kinda cute, in a rustic sort of way."
"Yes!" Clark lifted Lois in a bear hug and swung her around. "Let's go back to the inn and check out. I have this sudden urge to see Elizabeth and tell my parents our good news — all of our good news."
"Life in the wide world goes on much as it has this past age, full of its own comings and goings, scarcely aware the existence of hobbits, for which I am very thankful."
— Gandalf to Frodo, "The Fellowship of the Ring"