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An Unexpected Adventure  by KathyG

Summary: In the spring of 2012, four American children find themselves thrust into an unfamiliar fantasy world and part of an unexpected adventure.  This story is AU, and blends Lord of the Rings book-verse and movie-verse.  This story also contains a lot of spiritual and religious content as a part of the AU elements.  (Co-written by KathyG and Dreamflower.)

Disclaimer: The world of Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien; the three films of The Lord of the Rings belongs to New Line Cinema and to Peter Jackson.  This story is not for profit, but is a gift for the enjoyment of those who read it.

Citations: In most chapters, there will be some quotations directly from both the books and/or the movies.  Quotations from the books are in italics, and quotations from the movies are underlined.  Occasional quotations from other sources as well as silent dialogue, words spoken in emphasis, and passages from the Bible will also be in italics, and those citations will be footnoted at the end of each chapter in which they occur.  We will also footnote research sources and credit the ideas of other people.

Thanks: To our beta, Linda Hoyland, who has been of great help with this story.  Linda is a well-known and respected writer in the LotR fandom, who also posts on this site.

Chapter 4: Strangers Like Me

Nodding, Kevin swung his legs over the side of the bed and began to put his boots back on.  When he had finished tying his bootlaces, he got up and followed the beautiful Elven lady across the hall to fetch his sisters and brother.  Lord Kevin, he thought, amused.  They’re calling my sister Lady Jennifer, and they’re calling me Lord Kevin.  This place really is medieval!

Soon the McClouds were following their hostess down wide and winding hallways; Kaylee lugged Lucy in her arms.  Arwen led them to a large door at the far end of the passage.  She pushed it open.  Elrond, Gandalf, and Glorfindel waited inside.

Ada, I have brought them as you asked,” she said.

“Thank you, Arwen.  Will not all of you be seated?”  Their host gestured to several chairs and couches near the wide-open windows at the far end of the room.  He, Glorfindel, and Gandalf sat down in three armchairs.  Kevin and Joey sat on a carved couch, and after taking hold of Lucy so that Kaylee could sit down unimpeded, Jennifer chose an armchair next to her brothers.  Lady Arwen took one next to Jennifer’s.  Kaylee squeezed onto the end of the couch next to Kevin, positioning herself between her older brother and sister.  Joey sat on Kevin’s other side.

“Children, I want you to tell us again where you come from, and what brought you here.  But first, tell me your names again, and your ages,” Elrond ordered after introducing them to Glorfindel.  He leaned back in his chair as he spoke.

The children exchanged glances.  Jennifer was sitting next to Lady Arwen; Kaylee was seated between Kevin and Jennifer, on the edge of the settee; and Joey was sitting on the other side of Kevin.  Lucy lay curled up on Jennifer’s lap, thumping her tail and licking Jennifer’s fingers.  Elrond, Gandalf, and Glorfindel were all sitting in chairs facing the children and Arwen.

“Well, uh, there’s five of us kids in our family,” Jennifer explained.  “Kevin, Joey, Kaylee, Megan, and me—Megan’s the youngest. She’s only three years old.  She’s back at the campsite with Mom and Dad.”

“That’s right.”  Kevin nodded agreement.  He began by telling his hosts his own full name and age.  He allowed Jennifer and Joey to do the same for themselves.

When it was Kaylee’s turn, she ducked her head shyly.  “I’m Kaylee.  Kaylee Anne McCloud.”  She held up her right hand with all five fingers spread out, to indicate her age.

Jennifer put in, “She just had her birthday last month.”

Elrond nodded sagely.  “Now, then, children, explain to me again where your home is, and tell me who your parents are, and how you arrived in Middle-earth.”

Jennifer scanned her siblings’ faces and then glanced at Arwen, who sat next to her.  “Well, uh, we and our parents live in Portland, Oregon; that’s where we kids were born.  Our aunt and uncle live there, too.  We’ve lived in Portland all our lives.  Portland’s a city, and Oregon’s a state.  It’s part of the United States of America—that’s our country, our nation.  The United States is in North America—that’s our continent.”  Elrond nodded.

Joey grinned.  “Hey, did you know that there are three countries in North America?  The United States, Canada, and Mexico.”

Kevin and Jennifer laughed.  “Yes, we do, Joey.  But don’t interrupt Jennifer while she’s talking,” Kevin said.  Elrond, Arwen, Glorfindel, and Gandalf chuckled.

With an amused glance at Joey, Jennifer continued, “Our daddy’s a geologist.  He works for a state agency that oversees conservation.”  

“That’s right,” Kevin agreed.  “His supervisor told him to get some soil samples and take them to his company’s lab—uh, laboratory.”  Elrond, Glorfindel, and Gandalf all exchanged puzzled glances, and Arwen furrowed her eyebrows in bewilderment.  Kevin explained, “A laboratory’s a place where you perform experiments.  You know—study things, to see what they’re made of, and how they work.”

“Ah.”  Elrond exchanged a glance with Gandalf, Arwen, and Glorfindel.  While some of the words were strange to him, he was Noldorin enough to understand the gist of their explanation.  He then gestured toward Kevin and Jennifer.  “And what is your father’s name?”

“Steven.  Steven Jackson McCloud.  Our mother’s name is Gail.”

“I see.”  Elrond nodded.  “Continue.”

Shifting position, Kevin looked at Jennifer and cleared his throat.  “Well, anyway, his supervisor wanted our father to go to Wallowa Lake State Park and get a bunch of samples of different kinds of soil there.  Every state park has its soil checked every few years, to make sure it’s healthy.  Wallowa is clear at the other end of Oregon from Portland. Since spring break was approaching, and since it was going to take him several days to get all the samples the state agency wants, he and Mom talked it over and decided to take us kids on a six-day camping trip during spring break, while he gets the samples.  Our dad’s brother and his wife—our Uncle Ryan and Aunt Janet—they decided to go with us.  School let out for spring break three days ago, on Friday, and we left for the park shortly after lunch, this afternoon.  It was a few hour’s drive, and it was shortly after 4 p.m. when we got there.”

Jennifer nodded.  “Our parents and our aunt and uncle had just started setting up the tents when we left the campsite.  They were going to start supper as soon as both of the tents were up.  It was past 4:30 then.”

Elrond nodded again.  “And what led to you children ending up here in Middle-earth?”

Exchanging a glance with Jennifer, Kevin fidgeted and grimaced.  “Well, uh, after we arrived at the park, our Uncle Ryan told us about this cave he had explored once, when he and Aunt Janet had gone on a camping trip to that very same spot where we’re camping now.  Several years ago,” he explained.  “It’s not far from the campsite, just down a path.  We all wanted to explore it, but Dad insisted on checking it out first.  And he and Uncle Ryan both did, and when they came back, they said it was safe.”

Jennifer nodded.  “So, Mom and Daddy said that Kevin, Joey, and I could go explore the cave.  Mom told us not to be gone long.  We were supposed to help them set up the tents when we got back.  Kaylee wanted to go, too, so our parents let her.”  She gave her little sister an amused look.  “And then Kaylee insisted on bringing Lucy along!”

“Hey, Lucy likes to explore caves, too!” Kaylee defended her decision.

Elrond, Gandalf, Glorfindel, and Arwen all exchanged amused expressions.  It was clear to them that it was Kaylee, not Lucy, who had wanted the puppy to come along.

Kevin laughed.  “Yeah, well, we didn’t argue with her; we let her bring Lucy.  Megan didn’t come, though; she’s only three—three and a half—so she’s too young to be exploring caves.”

Elrond nodded approval, giving the young visitors a meaningful look.  “That was very wise.”  He gazed down at the sleeping puppy on Jennifer’s lap.  “You would have done better to leave the puppy behind, too.”

Fidgeting, Kevin glanced down at Lucy, who had fallen asleep, and grimaced.  “True, but how’d we know we were gonna end up in another world?  There was no portal in that cave to anywhere else when Dad and Uncle Ryan explored it.  I know, because they went clear to the end of the cave before they came back to the campsite; they told us they had.”  Jennifer nodded agreement.  “And they didn’t say anything about entering another world.  So, we had no way of knowing.  Apparently, that portal didn’t even open up till our dad and uncle had left the cave.”  He shook his head.  “We would have never even entered that cave if we’d known there was a portal in it.”  Although after he said that, he wondered if it was true.  He might have wondered where it went to…but then again, he probably wouldn’t have brought his younger sibs with him.

“Yeah,” Joey agreed, and Kaylee nodded.

“That’s right,” Jennifer added.  “We were just gonna explore the cave, see what was in it, and then go right back to the campsite.  We were supposed to help set up the tents as soon as we got back, and then our mom and Aunt Janet were gonna start supper.  We sure didn’t expect this to happen!”  She gazed around at the surrounding room with its subtly alien look and then out the window at the foreign landscape as she spoke that last sentence.  

“No, I am sure you did not,” Arwen told her.

“No,” Elrond agreed.  He looked at the children.  “Continue, children,” he ordered.  “Tell us the rest.”  With the help of his siblings, Kevin described the short but meandering path through the woods that they had taken, from the campsite to the cave, and the cave tunnel with the level entrance that they had entered just several minutes after they had left the camp.

Wiggling, Kaylee smiled broadly.  “Hey, look what I found!”  She stuck her hand into her jeans pocket and removed her flat pebble, holding it up.  “I found this on that path!  Isn’t it pretty?”

The others smiled, and Elrond leaned forward to examine the pebble.  “Very pretty, indeed,” he told the little girl, his eyes twinkling.  “You had better take good care of it, Miss Kaylee, so that you will not lose it.”  Smiling again and nodding, Kaylee stuck it back inside her pocket.

Chuckling at his little sister and ruffling her hair, Kevin explained what had happened once he and his brother and sisters had entered the cave: their short exploration, the sudden blackout and earthquake that they had all experienced after they had gone just past the cave tunnel’s curve; how the tunnel had looked different afterward; how the now-unfamiliar cave entrance had consisted of a steep incline that consisted of a huge boulder, instead of being level with the cave floor as well as with the ground outside; and how the country outside of the cave had appeared to consist of a prairie instead of a woods, with huge boulders jutting out of the ground here and there, and clusters of trees scattered in every direction, but not enough of them to form a forest.  Kevin then told Elrond about the frightening, ferocious growl that they had heard from outside the entrance, and how close it had sounded.

“We couldn’t tell what animal it was,” he explained.  “It sounded like…”  He paused, furrowing his eyebrows.  “Uh, I don’t know.  Not really.”

Jennifer took over.  “Kind of like a—uh, like a cross between a wolf and a bear.  Or maybe a cougar—uh, mountain lion.” She paused.  “Something like that.  We really couldn’t tell what.  Well, anyway, as soon as we heard that growl, we slid back down and ran in the other direction.  Towards here.  Next thing we knew, we were in this valley.”

Elrond, Glorfindel, and Gandalf exchanged a grave look.  The description of the growls sounded like a warg to them, possibly a warg scout.  I will have to send some warriors out to the West Road, to hunt for Wargs and very likely Orcs, too, Elrond thought.  That is much too close to our borders for my comfort.  We need to send a patrol to check that out.  He looked at Glorfindel, his expression making his wishes clear, and Glorfindel nodded his agreement.

“First, we got a drink of water at that waterfall.”  Joey smiled at the memory of the cold, refreshing water, and then grimaced.  “Then we got lost in that forest.”

Elrond nodded.  “For visitors who have never been here before, that is very easy to do if they enter through the tunnel.”

“Is that tunnel the only entrance to Rivendell?” Kevin asked.

Elrond shook his head.  “No, there are a few others.  But unless you know exactly where you are going, they are very hard to find, and all too easy to miss.”  Gandalf nodded agreement.

“I was scared,” Kaylee whimpered.

Jennifer put an arm around her little sister.  “We all were, Kaylee.  But we’re safe now.  That wolf—or bear, cougar, whatever it was—didn’t get us.”

“No, it did not, Miss Kaylee,” Elrond told her.  “And you will be safe from wild animals as long as you are in Rivendell.  Evil things do not come into this valley.

Kaylee puckered her lips, and tears glistened in her eyes.  “I wanna go home.  I want my mommy.  I want my daddy.”  She inserted her thumb into her mouth.

Arwen extended her arms, and Kaylee climbed down from her seat, approached Arwen, and climbed into the Elven maiden’s lap.  “I know you do, Miss Kaylee,” Arwen said kindly, wrapping her arms around Kaylee.  “We all know that, and we all want that for you.  My father and Mithrandir will do everything in their power to find a way to help you children get home.”  Her voice was soothing and melodious, and Kevin and Jennifer both saw their little sister noticeably relax in Arwen’s grasp.

“Yes, we will,” Elrond told the little girl.  “Meanwhile, you and your brothers and sister will be safe and well cared for while you are here.”

“Lucy, too?”  Kaylee looked at the now-awake puppy, still curled up on Jennifer’s lap.

Elrond, Gandalf, Glorfindel, and Arwen all laughed.  “Yes, Miss Kaylee.  Lucy, too,” Arwen said, her eyes crinkled in amusement.

Suppressing his own amusement, Elrond turned back to the older children.  “All right, children, one more question.  Explain to me this ‘spring break’,” he ordered.

Kevin and Jennifer exchanged puzzled glances.  “Well, uh, it’s just a week-long vacation from school,” Kevin explained.  “We have it once a year, every spring.  We have other school vacations, too; the longest one is summer vacation, at the end of the school year.”

“It lasts a few months,” Jennifer added.

“And is it spring as of now, where you come from?”

“Well, yeah.”  Kevin stared at Elrond.  “Isn’t it, here?”

Elrond, Glorfindel, Gandalf, and Arwen exchanged glances.  Elrond shook his head.  “No, it is not, Lord Kevin,” the elf lord explained.  “Here, it is mid-autumn.”  The children exchanged stunned glances.

“But—but Easter’s next Sunday,” Kaylee complained, as she fidgeted on Arwen’s lap.

Jennifer reached over and laid her hand on her little sister’s shoulder.  “Not here, it’s not,” she said gently.  “It’s the wrong time of year for Easter here, Kaylee.”

“Easter?”  Master Elrond looked at the girls quizzically.

“Uh, yeah.”  Dropping her hand, Jennifer straightened her back.  “It’s a holiday where we come from.  In the spring.  Easter Sunday.”

“Oh.”  Elrond nodded.

“We were gonna hunt Easter eggs,” Kaylee complained, pouting.  “The Easter bunny was gonna bring me some candy and toys.”

“Yeah, and I was gonna get some candy and toys, too,” Joey added.  “You know—in an Easter basket.  Stuffed animals and everything.”

“And we were gonna go to the Easter pageant and services at church,” Jennifer reminded Joey and Kaylee.

Elrond looked over at Gandalf and the wizard nodded.  The two of them were quickly realizing that the young ones were using several words that were not familiar.  However, it was fairly easy to understand roughly what most of them meant, and some words were clearly unimportant to the story of how the children had arrived.  The youngest one, especially, tended to ramble on, and from her older brother and sister’s attempts to continue, her interruptions were not especially important, or if they were, it could be spoken of later.

Kevin shook his head.  “Well, anyway, it was afternoon where we came from, and morning here.  It’s spring back home, and fall—uh, autumn—here.”  He shook his head again, bewildered.  “This is so weird!  All of it!”

“No kidding!” Jennifer agreed.  “I mean, this is crazy; people just don’t go to other worlds!  Not in real life, anyway.  That only happens in fantasy stories and science fiction.”  She shook her head.  “It’s like we’re actually living a fantasy story, and that just doesn’t happen.”

Just then, all could hear the musical sound of a bell.  “Ah,” said Arwen, “that is the signal for the time to get ready for the feast.”

Elrond nodded.  “We will see you later, children.”  They all rose to their feet, and the children followed Arwen inside and toward their guest bedrooms.  Glorfindel left with them.  He’d lead the patrol himself, to check for the presence of wargs or orcs near their boundaries.

-oo000oo-

As the children and Glorfindel followed Arwen from the room, Mithrandir turned to Elrond.

“Well, old friend, what think you of the children’s tale?”

“To be quite honest,” Elrond replied, “I could not understand even half of what they were telling us.  But it gives me the feeling that the place that they come from is a far, far different place, and much further from Rivendell than any explanation that I can think of would account for.  It is difficult to fathom what we need to know about their home and what is unimportant.”

The wizard nodded.  “Let us be frank.  It is more than likely that they do not come from Middle-earth at all.  There can only be two explanations for their presence here at so critical a time.  The first is that they were taken from their place by enchantment, either by someone in their world or ours…”  He paused, as if hesitating to go on.

“Pray go on, Mithrandir, for I would know if your mind is the same as mine in this matter.”

“I have a deep feeling that their presence is meant, and not by any enchanter or sorcerer of this world, or any world within Eä.”

Elrond nodded solemnly.  “Sent by the One who is beyond the Circles of the World.”

“Events will prove us right or wrong in this matter, but yes, I do feel it is so.  If we are right, then Eru has sent them here for a reason that will soon become clear to us.”  Gandalf looked thoughtful.  “In the meantime, we likely do not really want an explanation of every strange word they use.”  Elrond laughed and agreed.

-oo000oo-

“I wish Mom and Daddy were here!” Joey complained.

Kevin put an arm around his little brother’s shoulders.  “I do, too, Joey,” he said softly.  “We all do.”

“Yeah, really,” Jennifer said, with a sigh.  “I mean, if they were here, even if they couldn’t get us back to our world, at least they’d pray that God would.  And God would hear them.”  She paused, biting her lower lip.  “And they’d be here to take care of us.”

“Yeah,” Kaylee complained.

“Yeah, they would, and yes, God would,” Kevin agreed.  He took a deep breath.  “But since they’re not here, we’ll just have to pray to God ourselves.”  He paused.  “We’re all Christians, same as our parents, including Kaylee here; we’ve all asked Jesus to come into our hearts, and He has.  And we try to live the way Jesus wants us to.  So, surely, God will hear us if we ask.”

“Why don’t you ask Him, Kevin?” Jennifer suggested.  “You’re the oldest.” 

Kevin nodded.  “All right, but if any of you also want to talk to Him, feel free to do so.”

The four children reached out, clasped one another’s hands, and lowered their heads.  “God…”  Kevin swallowed.  “…we’re in a real predicament, and we need Your help.  We’re in a situation we never expected to find ourselves in.  We’re in a strange world with all sorts of creatures that don’t even exist back home.  How can it even be real?”  He cleared his throat.  “Our folks must be really worried!  Please show us a way to get back home to our family!”

He paused, and Jennifer spoke next.  “Please, God,” she prayed, “we don’t know what’s happening, or why.   Please get us all safely back home!”

“Please, God, get us back home,” Joey added.

“Please, God, get us back to Mommy and Daddy!” Kaylee begged, raising her head toward the ceiling, and then turning to look at Lucy, who was curled up on the bed.  She gazed down at her own feet.

“In Jesus’ name, amen,” Kevin finished.

Silence descended upon the children for a moment.  Peace settled on their hearts as they kept their heads bowed.  “This is not an accident,” Jennifer found herself mumbling, after a moment.

“What?”  Kevin lifted his head to look at his sister.

Jennifer raised her head and looked at Kevin.  “This is not an accident, is it?” she said more clearly.

Letting go of Joey’s and Kaylee’s hands, Kevin leaned back in thought, his face pensive.  “Are you saying that God sent us here?”  His sister’s words seemed to feel right.  Yet he wasn’t quite convinced yet.  Still he wanted to believe it; otherwise nothing would make any sense.  But he was responsible for his sisters and brother in their parents’ absence.  How could he be sure?  Well, he wasn’t, really, but he knew that it would be good to follow Jennifer’s lead.  Even if God had not actually sent them here, he knew that the Lord still was with them.

“But why?” Joey complained, pouting.

Jennifer looked at her little brother, amused.  “Why did God send Abraham to live in Canaan?” she asked.  “Why did God send Paul to Macedonia and Corinth and Rome and all those other places?  And what about Jonah?  Why did God send him to Nineveh?”

“That’s right,” Kevin agreed.   “He sent them to those places because He had a job for them to do there.  If He’s sent us here…”  He swallowed again.  “…that means—that means He has a job for us to do here!  And don’t forget that He’s still watching over us, even if He didn’t actually cause us to be here in the first place.”

“But what?”  Jennifer shook her head.  “What does God want us to do?  And why us?  We’re just kids, all of us.”  She bit her lower lip.  “And who besides God could have sent us here?  No one else has that kind of power, I know.  Not even the angels.”

Kevin shrugged.  “Now that, I have no idea of, Jen.  All we can do is pray and hope to be guided like the people in the Bible were.  If He sent us here, somehow He will let us know.”  He paused.  “As for who could have sent us here, I agree; only God has that kind of power.  I don’t know who else could have, either.  But…”  His voice trailed off.

Jennifer bit her lip.  She could tell that Kevin was not one-hundred percent sure, even though he was trying to be.  But she also knew that if they both kept praying, they would find out sooner or later what was wanted from them.

“But God knows our parents’ll worry,” Joey said, frowning.  “They must be worrying now!  They must be real worried!  Uncle Ryan and Aunt Janet, too!  Surely God wouldn’t send us somewhere and make them worry!”

With a sigh, Kevin put an arm around his little brother’s shoulders.  “We’ll just have to trust that God’s got that covered somehow, Joey.”  He paused, scanning his siblings’ faces.  “God will tell us what He’s sent us here for, when He’s ready.  In the meantime, we’ll just have to trust Him to take care of our parents and Megan.  And our aunt and uncle.”  He paused.  “And us.”

“And we need to listen for when He answers us,” Jennifer added.  With so many strange things around us, how will we hear that still, small voice? she wondered.  What if this was some kind of test from the Lord?  Please, God, don’t let us fail, she prayed silently.

“I want my mommy and daddy,” Kaylee complained, as she moved her thumb toward her mouth.

Reaching toward Kaylee’s hand, Jennifer gently drew it away from the little girl’s mouth.  “We all do, Kaylee,” she said softly, as she put an arm around her little sister’s shoulders.  “It’s going to be all right.   We’ll be back with them when God is ready.  In the meantime, He hasn’t forgotten us.”

The certainty Jennifer had had a few moments ago was fading, but she kept her voice confident.  She and Kevin were the oldest, and they had to be sure that Joey and Kaylee weren’t scared too much.

“No,” Kevin agreed.  “God’ll take care of us, Kaylee.  We’re in His hands.”  He paused.  “Our mom and dad aren’t here to take care of us, but God is.”  Crouching in front of Kaylee, he smiled encouragingly at his little sister, and thought of something to distract her from her fearful questions.  “And you know, Kaylee, we’re in a fairy country!  A real-life fairy-tale country!  With wizards and elves and hobbits and probably other fairy-tale creatures!  Just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.  She was separated from her family, too, don’t forget, until she found a way to get back home.  She was all alone in the Land of Oz, except for her dog, Toto.  She didn’t have anyone else to look after her.”

“That’s right,” Jennifer agreed.  “You’re better off than Dorothy was, Kaylee, because we’re here with you.  We’re all in this together; none of us is alone.  And Kaylee, we’re having an adventure just like her!  We’re actually living a fantasy story.”  Kaylee smiled at the thought, and Jennifer hugged the little girl.

“Talking animals, too?” Kaylee asked hopefully.  “Talking scarecrows?  Talking trees?”

Kevin and Jennifer laughed.  “We don’t know, Kaylee.  Maybe.”  Kevin grinned.  “And, hey, maybe a talking tin man or two.  We’ll just have to wait and see.”  Kaylee giggled, and he rose to his feet and ruffled her hair.

“As long as there are no winged monkeys!”  Joey made a face at the thought.

Or wicked witches!” Jennifer agreed.  She glanced at her wristwatch, which was stubbornly telling her that it was still four forty-four, the time it had been when they had entered the cave.  “Wish I knew what time it was,” she muttered.  Out loud, she said, “Come on, you three, it’s time for our baths, and then we need to change our clothes.”

“That is right.”  Eledhwen entered Joey and Kaylee’s bedroom, followed by Mairen.  “Come with us, and we will help you get ready.”  They escorted the children out of the room.

Below the younger children’s open window, Gandalf blew out a smoke ring shaped like an Eagle.  He had been eavesdropping on the children ever since they had first entered Joey and Kaylee’s bedroom.  Manwë was much on his mind at the moment.  Of the Ainur who had come to Ëa, only the Lord of the Air still spoke directly unto Eru.  Yet from what he could tell, these young ones were familiar with Ilúvatar in a way that he could scarcely comprehend.  Quietly, he sat and sent his mind in search of faded memories of Aman, wondering what, if anything, he should say to these children.





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