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An Unexpected Adventure  by KathyG

Summary: In the spring of 2012, four American children find themselves thrust into an unfamiliar 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.

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 Ringsbelongs 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.

Can you guess the origin of the title chapter? HINT: It follows the pattern of previous titles, also 1989.

Chapter 7: Part of Your World

The next morning, Joey was awakened by the loud chirping of birds.  He sat up and looked around his unfamiliar surroundings.  So, it wasn't a dream.  He sighed and glanced over at the other bed, where Kaylee was still soundly sleeping.  Through the open door to the side of the room, he could see the foot of Jennifer's bed in the small room that connected to theirs.  At least he wasn’t alone here in Middle-earth; Kevin and Jennifer and Kaylee were also here.  And so was Lucy, who was curled up asleep in a little dog bed on the floor against the wall.  She twitched her right back leg and her nose; apparently, she was dreaming.

Joey wondered if he could slip out before his sisters woke, to make his way to what the Elves called the "water closet".  Miss Eledhwen had shown him the fancy bowl under the bed that she called a "chamber pot", but it would be just too embarrassing to use that thing.  What if Kaylee woke up and saw him?  He turned beet-red at the very thought of it!

Very carefully, Joey tiptoed out and made his way to the room in question, proud of himself for dealing with the matter all by himself.  After he finished, he quickly scurried back to his and Kaylee’s guest room, hoping that he wouldn't see anyone.  This long white shirt they'd given him to sleep in seemed altogether too much like a dress for his taste; he wished he had his Star Wars or Spider-Man pajamas.  Except that he had left his Spider-Man pajamas at home, along with his Spider-Man backpack, and he had left his Star Wars pajamas back at the campsite.  Oh, well, he wasn't going to see either movie again anytime soon, anyhow!  He shrugged.

Joey had almost made it back to the bedroom when he saw his brother coming down the hall in the direction he had been coming from.  Kevin still looked half-asleep, and did not even spot him as he shuffled past.  Joey bit his lower lip and smirked.  He was right.  A nightshirt really did look like a dress, and it looked even weirder on his big brother.

Joey re-entered his and Kaylee’s guest bedroom.  He looked at his bed and groaned.  Now I gotta make my stupid bed!

It took him several minutes to finish the job, but at last, his bed was made.  By then, Lucy was also up, and was pattering around on the floor, sniffing.  “Hey, Lucy,” Joey said softly, rubbing her head, and then he straightened his back and scanned the room.  Well, I guess it’s time to get dressed, he thought, but what shall I wear?

Before he had time to think about it, one of the lady elves from the day before entered the bedroom, carrying an armload of clothes.  “Good morning, Master Joey,” she said cheerfully.  “You wake up your little sister while I wake up Lady Jennifer and Lord Kevin.  Lady Arwen has asked me to bring some new clothes for you and your brother and sisters.”  Nodding, Joey approached Kaylee’s bed, then turned toward the elf.

“Uh, sorry, I forget your name,” he said.

“My name is Eledhwen,” she said.

Slowly, Joey repeated it three times; Eledhwen corrected his pronunciation until, on the third try, he got it correct.  “Sorry, that’s a hard name to pronounce,” he said.  “But I never was all that good with foreign names.”  Eledhwen laughed.

Joey turned back to his little sister as the elf watched.  “Wake up, Kaylee,” he said, shaking her shoulder.

“Go ‘way,” the little girl muttered grumpily, her eyes still closed.

“Wake up, Kaylee.  It’s morning!”  Joey paused, and then imitated their mother: “Rise and shine!”

Groaning, Kaylee sat up and rubbed her eyes, pouting.  “I want my mommy,” she mumbled.  Joey bit his lower lip again.  So did he.

Just then, Jennifer, who was still in her nightgown, entered the room.  “Good morning, you two,” she said, and then saw the elf.  “Oh.  Morning.”

“Good morning, Lady Jennifer.”  The elf smiled at her.  “Lady Arwen has asked me to wake you children and bring you some more clothes.”  She laid the stack on Joey’s bed.

Jennifer nodded.  ‘Well, I’m already awake.  In fact, it looks as if we all are.” She yawned and stretched her arms above her head.  “I just got out of the bathroom—uh, water closet.  Kevin’s still in there.  He went in when I came out. He’ll be back in a moment.”

Joey nodded.  “I used the bathroom, too.”

Jennifer looked at Kaylee.  “Guess I’d better take Kaylee there, then.” She approached her little sister.  “Come on, Kaylee.  Time to go potty, and then we need to get dressed.”  She took Kaylee out of the room.

-oo000oo-

After the children had prepared to go down to breakfast, they made their way through the passage.  Eledhwen had helped them dress, this time in clothing somewhat similar to the night before, but not quite so fancy and formal.  In the process, the children had fastened leather pouches to their new belts, one for each child; it was evident that since their new Elvish clothes had no pockets, pouches would be needed to carry their small belongings.  Kevin had removed several Band-Aids and a small bottle of antiseptic out of his first-aid kit and slipped them into his pouch, in case of an emergency, as well as his handkerchief.  Jennifer had knelt down to tie Kaylee’s hiking boots for her.

When the children had assured Eledhwen that they could find their way to the dining hall on their own this time, she had agreed.  She had gathered the clothing they had arrived in, and was now preparing to take it down to the laundry.

"Lady Jennifer, is there any special treatment this clothing needs?" the elf nursemaid asked her.

Jennifer shook her head.  "It's just jeans and T-shirts and jackets.  And socks and underwear, and our hiking boots.  And Kevin and Joey’s belts, only our boots and belts don’t need washing.  Sometimes, though, our boots need to be polished.”  She paused.  “You might want to make sure the zippers are zipped, and that the snaps are snapped together."  She pointed at the zippers on the jackets and blue jeans as she spoke.

When Eledhwen looked puzzled, Jennifer showed her the zippers and snaps on their jackets and on Kevin and Joey’s blue jeans, and then she demonstrated for the elf nursemaid how to zip and unzip the zippers and how to fasten and unfasten the snaps on their clothing.  “Our backpacks have snaps and zippers, too,” she said, holding hers up to demonstrate.

"Why, how clever!" the Elven-maiden exclaimed.

Jennifer grinned as she watched Eledhwen zip her jacket up and down again several times.  Suddenly, she remembered something.  "Oh!" she exclaimed.  "Kevin, Joey, and Kaylee—did all of you empty your pockets last night?"  She looked in her own jeans pockets to make sure they were empty.

Wincing, Kevin’s face flushed, and he examined his jeans pockets.  “Drat!  I forgot.”  While he sheepishly removed his wallet and the park ranger’s phone number from his back jeans pocket and returned to his own bedroom to leave them on his table, Joey and Kaylee grinned smugly, and virtuously pointed to the small tables by their beds, on which they had laid the contents of their pockets the previous evening.

"See," boasted Kaylee, "we remembered!"  She pointed at the pebble she had laid on the table the evening before.

Jennifer shook her head at her little sister, and repeated what their mother often said: "Kaylee, we don't brag about doing what we are supposed to do anyway!"

"I'm sorry," Kaylee said, looking abashed.

Joey rolled his eyes at Kaylee.  “Well, anyway, I remembered to bring my backpack, which is more than you did!”

Kaylee’s eyes filled with tears, and Jennifer put an arm around her shoulder.  “That’s enough, Joey.  You know Mom doesn’t like us to gloat when someone makes a mistake.”

Shrugging, Joey bit his lower lip.  “Sorry.”

Eledhwen stifled a smile; she could see how the elder sister was striving to fill in for their absent mother.  "Well, I shall take these away now."

At that moment, Mairen entered the room, and Eledhwen carried out the children’s clothes.  Mairen picked up Lucy and gently clasped the puppy against her chest.  “I shall take you down to the kitchen for your own breakfast, and then down to the kennels for a few lessons,” she told Lucy, who licked her neck and thumped her tail against the elf nursemaid’s chest.  Mairen turned to Kaylee.  "Lucy will get to meet the other dogs who live here, Miss Kaylee."

Kaylee reached up and patted the puppy.  "You be a good girl, Lucy, and mind your teacher!"

Suppressing a laugh, Mairen left the room with Lucy, passing Kevin as he entered.

The children headed off for breakfast.  They did recall the way to go, and as before, they soon ran into the hobbits again.  This time, Merry and Pippin were accompanied by Frodo, Bilbo, and Sam, as well as two Dwarves.

"Good morning, McClouds," said Bilbo cheerfully.  Kevin noticed that as Bilbo spoke, the other hobbits stood back slightly and watched him politely.  "Have you met our friends yet?  They are most honorable Dwarves from Erebor.”

The older one bowed to them.  "Glóin, son of Gróin, at your service and your family's."  He gestured to the other younger Dwarf.  "This is my son, Gimli."

The other Dwarf also bowed.  "At your service."  Unlike his father’s hair, which had a lot of grey in it, his own hair and his lengthy beard were red.  The lower half of both dwarves’ beards were divided into two thick braids, and Gimli’s hair also had one or two narrow braids dangling from his scalp.

Kevin hesitated only briefly, and then he bowed awkwardly.  "Uh, hi.  Pleased to meet you.  Kevin McCloud, uh, son of Steven McCloud, at your service.  These are my sisters, Jennifer and Kaylee."  He gestured toward each sister as he introduced her.  Jennifer bobbed a little bow, and Kaylee imitated her.  “And this is my brother, Joey."  When Joey didn't try to bow, Kevin lightly kicked his foot.  With his face flushed, Joey also gave an awkward bow.

"We are on the way to breakfast," said Bilbo politely.  "Won't you join us?"

Jennifer exchanged a glance with Kevin and nodded.  “We’d like that.  Thanks.”  She smiled at Bilbo.

The children fell in behind the others and followed along.  “I don’t get it,” Joey whispered, puzzled.  “We don’t bow and say, ‘at your service,’ at home.”

“True, but we’re not at home anymore,” Kevin whispered back, with a wry smile.  “We’re in a foreign country, remember?  Another world, actually, but it may as well be a foreign country—it is, really, when you think about it.  And foreigners have different customs from us Americans.  We have to be polite their way while we’re here.”  Joey shrugged, and then nodded.

“Yeah.”  Jennifer nodded in her turn.  “We do have to, don’t we?”  She looked at Kaylee.

Kaylee looked up at her big sister and nodded.  "Uh-huh.  I'm hungry!”

As they entered the dining hall, the children saw that it was set up differently for breakfast.  A great sideboard was set up on one side of the the room, with bowls and plates and silverware, and a good many different kinds of foods.  There was a large tureen filled with some sort of hot cereal that had berries and nuts floating in it; there was a selection of breads; and there were several kinds of meat—not only bacon, ham, and sausage, but fish and some sort of meat pie.  And there were many other things as well.

"It's like a buffet," Kevin whispered to Jennifer.

"What's a buffet?" asked Pippin, whose sharp hobbit ears had heard.

"It's like this," Jennifer answered, "a lot of foods, and everyone serves themselves."

"They always have breakfast this way," said the hobbit.  "It's the way we usually have second breakfast in the Shire, too, especially when there is company."

"Well, in the Great Houses, like the Great Smials or Brandy Hall, at any rate," put in Frodo.  "Smaller homes don't always do it this way."

"Sometimes in the Shire, when we have the big village feasts, we do it for supper, too," Sam put in.  "Everyone brings a dish to share."

“And so we serve ourselves, as we did at elevenses yesterday?” Jennifer asked.  Frodo nodded.

Jennifer helped herself to a bowl of the porridge-like substance.  It did not look quite like oatmeal, but it smelled really good.  "What is this?" she asked.

"The Elves call it frumenty," said Merry. "It's cracked wheat, with a little bit of milk and eggs in it.  When they serve it for breakfast, they put fruit and nuts in it, but sometimes at supper, they put in meat and serve it as a side dish."

Kevin and Jennifer helped Kaylee and Joey with their selections.  Kaylee did not want any of the frumenty, but agreed to taste a bite of Jennifer's when they got to the table.  But Jennifer persuaded her little sister to have some fresh bread and butter, and some of the fruit: there were sliced apples and pears, and some grapes.  Kaylee took some grapes and several apple slices, as well as two slices of bacon and a piece of sausage.  Both Kevin and Joey filled their plates with meat—bacon, ham, sausage, and some sort of chop, but no fish.  They also took some of the bread and fruit.  They were disappointed to find no eggs to go with the ham, sausage, and bacon.  Kevin also took a small spoonful of frumenty, but Joey did not want to try it.

The pitchers at the end of the dining hall held only water, but there was a teapot.  Jennifer and Kevin poured cups of hot tea for themselves and cups of water for Joey and Kaylee, and took them to the table, where all four of them sat side by side.  To Jennifer’s relief, there was a small pitcher of honey on the table; she drizzled some honey into her own tea with a little wooden honey dipper.

Kevin left his own tea unsweetened.  Too bad there’s no orange juice, he thought.  I’m surprised there’s no milk either, except maybe in the frumenty.  Doesn’t Rivendell have any cows?

Bilbo grinned.  "You can thank me for that," the old hobbit said.  "When I first came here, I insisted on tea for breakfast with all the trimmings.  Many of the Elves drink it as well, now."

After Kevin, Jennifer, Joey, and Kaylee had taken one another’s hands and bowed their heads, and Kaylee had asked the blessing, the children talked for a little while with the hobbits about the food.  It turned out that food in the Shire was closer to the sorts of foods that the McClouds ate at home, if somewhat more old-fashioned than they were used to.  However, the children soon learned that not even the hobbits ate dry cereal like Cheerios and corn flakes.

Kevin tried to explain the concept of dry cereal.  "You buy them at the store in boxes.  They’re made of grain.  The Cheerios are made of dried oats that have been turned into little O shapes."  He made a circle with his fingers to demonstrate.  "You just pour them in a bowl, add some sugar, and pour on some milk, and they are ready to eat with a spoon.  If you want to, you can also chop up some fruit and include it in with the cereal, too.  Some cereal comes in flakes—corn flakes, wheat flakes, bran flakes, and so forth—and may have raisins in them.  Like raisin bran.  Not all flakes do, though."

"And some are like little squares with cinnamon, or little balls or circles or other shapes, and come in all kind of colors!  They’re delicious!" Joey added enthusiastically.  When he was home, he loved Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms, although his mother would not let him or Kaylee have them very often.  She did, however, allow them to eat Rice Krispies, which they also loved.

Kaylee smiled broadly.  “They’re soo delicious!”  She smacked her lips.

Merry looked at the children suspiciously.  "How do they make them like that?  It seems like it would be an awful lot of work to sit around and make enough tiny little bits of circles or squares or whatever, enough to fill a box.  What's the use of it?"

Sam shook his head.  "Don't sound too good to me."

Kevin and Jennifer exchanged glances.  “They’re made in factories,” Kevin explained.  “Factories are places where things are made that people need or want.”  It was clear from the expressions on the others’ faces that his explanation did not satisfy their curiosity.  Kevin shrugged.  “It’s kind of hard to explain to people who have never heard of factories, I’m afraid.”  Biting her lower lip, Jennifer nodded agreement.  Kevin continued, “Well, anyway, the factories make the different kinds of cereal and put them in boxes and ship them to stores, and there, people buy them.  That’s where we get ours.”

Jennifer nodded agreement.  “We buy our cooked cereal in stores, too—oatmeal and Malt-o-Meal and cream of wheat.  You have to cook them before you can eat them.  Once they’re cooked, we always put some milk and sugar in ours before we eat them.”

Just then, Gandalf and Boromir entered the dining hall and, within a few minutes, presented themselves at the table with laden plates.  "May we join you?" Gandalf asked.  The others gestured toward the empty chairs in welcome.

As Boromir and Gandalf sat down, Boromir asked curiously, "What were you speaking of?"

Frodo looked up with a twinkle in his eye.  "The children were trying to explain one of the foods they are accustomed to in their own land: little bits of grain served in boxes."

Kevin and Jennifer looked at each other in dismay as they thought of trying to explain it all over again.  Bilbo decided to take mercy on them and changed the conversation.  "Over the years I've been here, I've introduced some of our Shire foods here, but the Elves' foods are all quite delicious, if you only give it a chance."

After several moments of silent eating and of listening to the hobbits discuss the food, Jennifer, who had finished her frumenty, laid her spoon down and wiped her mouth with her cloth napkin.  “Uh, I have a question.  Why does everyone here call me ‘Lady Jennifer’?” the young girl asked.  “And why is everyone calling my brother ‘Lord Kevin’?  Is that some kind of custom here?”

“In a manner of speaking.” Gandalf nodded.  “We tend to be more formal with ladies than I suspect people are in your world.”

Boromir nodded.  “Besides which, you are a noble young lady, and here in Middle-earth, we address noble ladies, in particular, accordingly.”

Jennifer blushed.  “I don’t know how noble my heart is, but thanks.  I try.”

Kevin laughed sheepishly.  “Same here, to be honest.”

Gandalf chuckled.  “Yes, you do; we’ve all seen that.  But Boromir isn’t talking only about nobility of spirit.”

“No.”  Boromir nodded agreement.  “You and your brothers and sister all come from a noble family in your world, Lady Jennifer; we have all sensed that.  You may not see yourself that way, but you are.”

Jennifer exchanged an amused, nervous glance with Kevin and shrugged.  “Well, uh, thanks again, but we’re not, not really.  There are no aristocrats in our country, no class system.  There are in some other countries, but not in the United States of America.  No titled lords and ladies, just people who are rich, poor, or middle class, depending on how much money they make.”

Kevin nodded agreement.  “We’re not rich, but we are middle class.  Our dad works as an geologist, so he earns enough money to provide for our needs and some of our wants.”

“That’s right,” Jennifer said.

Boromir looked from Kevin to Jennifer, and then smiled at the young girl graciously.  “You are noble on the inside, Lady Jennifer.  And that is where it counts the most.”  He looked at Kevin.  “I have seen that same nobility in you, Lord Kevin.”

Jennifer blushed again and exchanged a glance with her brother.  “Uh, thanks.  It’s—it’s kind of you to say so.”

“Yeah,” Kevin agreed.  “Thanks.”

Kaylee wiggled and bounced on her seat.  “Hey, does that mean I’m a lady, too?”

Gandalf's eyes twinkled.  "It certainly does, little one.  Lady Kaylee!"  The little girl giggled, and the rest laughed.  Kevin ruffled her hair affectionately.  "Although at your age, it is customary here in the North to call you 'Miss' Kaylee."

"Hey, Lady Kaylee, that rhymes!" Joey said, with a grin.

“It certainly does, Master Joey,” agreed Boromir, smiling in amusement.

“You know what that means, don’t you?”  Jennifer turned to her little sister.  “It means you have to behave like a lady, and that means having good manners.  Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’, using good table manners, not interrupting people when they talk, and all that stuff.  And Joey, it means you have to behave like a gentleman, and that means having good manners, too.”

Gandalf nodded agreement.  “Well, one thing has become clear to me.  You children have wise parents, and so I have no doubt that Master Joey and Miss Kaylee will learn good manners.  They have already begun to, in fact.”  Jennifer nodded. 

Kevin and Jennifer looked at one another.  It appeared that they'd be "Lord" and "Lady" whether they had real titles or not.  And while it seemed strange to hear Joey and Kaylee addressed as "Master" and "Miss", Bilbo said that was the custom for children in his home of the Shire, and in the place called Bree.  It would be far too difficult to argue with everyone, and easiest to just go along with the customs.

-oo000oo-

After breakfast, the children were approached by Mairen, who brought them Lucy back from the kennels and said the Lady Arwen had asked her to show them the parts of the Last Homely House they had not seen yet.  Kaylee took Mairen's hand and skipped alongside the Elf-maiden, asking many questions.  Joey walked at Mairen's other side; wagging her tail, Lucy scampered alongside Joey.  Kevin and Jennifer fell back slightly.

"Jen," whispered Kevin, "do you think we should talk to Joey and Kaylee about what Gandalf told us?  What if one of them says something they’re not supposed to?"

Jennifer shrugged and shook her head, not to say "no", but to indicate that she wasn't sure.  "I almost can't believe it myself—I mean, not about the angel part, but just that all of this still seems so unreal.  I know it has to be real, because, well, it can't be a dream.  There are just too many details, and everything here is so vivid.  No dream I’ve ever had has had so many details, or such vivid ones."

"I know what you mean.  None of my dreams ever have, either."  Kevin sighed.  "But I do think that we have to talk to them.  I think it will make Kaylee, and probably Joey, too, feel better if they know an angel is watching over them."

Jennifer looked thoughtful.  "I don't think he's that kind of angel.  He said he was a 'Maia', whatever that is.  That's probably a totally different kind of angel than the ones we know about."

Kevin was about to reply when he realized that Mairen, the two younger children, and Lucy were way ahead of them.  They had stopped to wait for Kevin and Jennifer to catch up.  They'd stopped near the large double doors that opened to the outside.  The two older McClouds stepped up their pace to catch up with the others.

As soon as Kevin and Jennifer caught up, Mairen swung open one of the double doors.  The doorway led to a wide, stone-flagged porch.  The steps that began at the porch went down to what looked like a large vegetable garden, though it was much prettier and more elegant than any vegetable garden they had ever seen before.  It was arranged in beds built of stone, with the stone wide enough at the top to sit on and easily reach into the beds.  The beds led to a large greenhouse, and in the center of the garden was a large well, with stone benches built around it.

"A wishing well!" Kaylee exclaimed, with a delighted grin on her baby-like face, and raced forward.

Mairen laughed and allowed the little girl to run ahead on her own, followed by Joey and Lucy.  "What does she mean by 'wishing well'?"

"It's a custom in our country," said Jennifer.  "If you drop a penny or other small coin in the well and make a wish, it’s supposed to come true."

Mairen stopped and looked at them incredulously.

Kevin shook his head.  "It doesn’t, really.  It's just a thing for fun," he said.  "Most grown-ups don't really believe it, but it's fun to imagine it.  And little kids do believe it sometimes."

"Ah, I see," she said.  "And of course, seeing the small ones enjoying the custom also makes the grown-ups happy as well.  And do grown-ups also observe the custom, even though they do not believe?"

Jennifer smiled.  "Yes, because it reminds them of when they were little.  And also, sometimes young couples’ll do it just because it seems romantic."

With a smile and a nod, Mairen went on to show them the greenhouse, and also the laundry-house, which was nearby.  There, they found Eledhwen with some other Elves.  They were washing some clothes in large stone basins using a long paddle-like board to move the cloth around and sometimes to beat the clothes, and there was a fire beneath a large copper cauldron of water, from which steam arose.  Just beyond, they saw a long, fence-like structure, on which some more clothing was hung to dry, including their own.  The children’s own clothes rather stood out, the blue jeans, brightly colored T-shirts, and jackets in sharp contrast to the white linens and to the more subdued colors of the Elves’ clothing hanging alongside them.  Jennifer noticed that all of these clothes seemed to be everyday clothing.  None of the sorts of colorful finery was on display there.  She asked about that.

Eledhwen shook her head, and some of the other Elves laughed at her question.  "Fine clothes like those you wore to the feast would never be washed in water," she said.  “Instead, they are brushed clean and hung in the fresh air.  If they become badly soiled or stained, the spots may be cleaned alone."

Jennifer nodded.  “Oh.  Well, where we come from, all of our clothes get washed in water.  Even fancy dress-up clothes.”

“Not all of them,” Kevin reminded her.  “Some of them have to be dry-cleaned, remember?”

Jennifer nodded, smiling sheepishly.  “Oh, yeah, that’s right!  I forgot.  You can’t wash those clothes in water, so you have to take them to the cleaners.”

Eledhwen joined Mairen, and they showed the children a few more areas, where various crafts and work was done.  Then the two elf maidens led the children and Lucy back through the vegetable garden and the wishing well in the center.

"We have some other tasks to attend to, Lord Kevin and Lady Jennifer.  Do you wish to return to your rooms?"

Kevin and Jennifer exchanged glances.  "No, thanks," said Kevin.  "I think we'll rest here a few minutes, if you don't mind, and then maybe do a little more exploring."  Jennifer nodded agreement.

The two Elf-maidens gave them a nod and a word of farewell.  Jennifer sank down on one of the benches by the well and held her arms out silently.  Kaylee crawled into her sister's lap, as a now-exhausted Lucy curled up beneath the bench.  Joey had gone to the well and was hanging over it on his elbows, peering down into it.

Kevin looked at him.  "Hey, Joey!  Come on over here.  We have some stuff we need to tell you guys about some things before we go back inside."  Joey raced toward them.

Jennifer looked at her little brother and sister.  "What do you think about all these Elves, and the hobbits and dwarves and so on?"

Kaylee looked puzzled at the question.  "I like them!  Everyone is friendly, and it's beautiful here!"  She smiled broadly.  “It’s just like a fairyland!”  The others laughed.

"Why are you asking us that, Jen?" Joey said.  "There's nothing bad about these people!  I just know they're good guys!"

"What about Gandalf?  He's a wizard," said Kevin.

"Well, he's a good one, then."  Joey looked up at his older brother defiantly.

Kevin chuckled.  "You are right, Joey."  He sat down on the bench next to the one where Jennifer and Kaylee were.  "He is good, but he's more than just a good wizard."  He turned to Kaylee.  “And he’s not a humbug wizard, either.”

Joey sat down and looked at his brother.  "What do you mean?"

"Well, it's a sort of secret."  Kevin turned to Kaylee, whose eyes had grown wide.  "Can you keep a secret, Kaylee?"

She nodded silently and snuggled closer to Jennifer.

"Last night, after you two went to bed, Gandalf came to my room and spoke with Jennifer and me.  He told us what he is.  Joey, Kaylee, Gandalf is a kind of wizard they call an Istar, but he was something else before that.  He’s an angel, sent by God."

"WHOA!" Joey exclaimed.  “A real angel, huh?"

“Yep, a real angel.  No wings, though.”  With a smile, Kevin looked at Kaylee, who still had not said anything.  "What about you, kitten?  What do you think?" 

"I'm glad he's an angel.  I like him!”  Kaylee tilted her head.  “But why is it a secret?"

Kevin bit his lower lip.  "Well, uh, that's kind of hard to explain.  But it seems that we may not be in another world after all, but far back in the past—sometime maybe after the Garden of Eden, but before Abraham, and maybe even before the Flood and Noah."  Kaylee exchanged a glance with Jennifer.  Kevin added, “Only thing is, you won’t find this time in any history book.  Or the Bible, either.”

"Whoa!  That's a long time ago," said Joey, seemingly taking it in stride.  "So why is it a secret?  And why is it not in history books or the Bible?"

"Well, it seems as if it is not the right time for the people here to know about many of the things that God revealed in the Bible.  God revealed himself to Abraham, and this seems to be a long time before Abraham."  Kevin paused.  “As for why it’s not in the Bible or history books, well, Jen and I just don’t know.  The Bible only tells about humans, Adam and Eve, you know; it doesn’t say anything about elves, dwarfs, or hobbits.  I don’t know why that’s the case.”

Joey and Kaylee were silent for a few moments, trying to absorb the information they had just heard.  Then in a small voice, Kaylee asked, "Does this mean we can't talk about Jesus?"

“Yeah, the Bible says we have to talk about Jesus!” Joey added, frowning.  “So people can get saved.”

Jennifer looked at Kevin.  "I'm not sure, sweetie.  Jesus was in a lot of prophecies back in Old Testament times, but they never said His name exactly.  As far as we can tell, none of those prophecies exist here yet, and even if any of them do, none of them have come true."

“Yeah, Jesus hasn’t even been born yet.  Most of the folks in the Bible haven’t been born yet.  Abraham’s gotta be born first, you know.  Back home, Joey, we can tell people about Jesus—in fact, we’re commanded to—because we live after Jesus came.  If we’re right about where we are—or when, rather—that’s not the case for the people here.”  Kevin looked troubled.  "I guess we'll have to pray about that, and maybe we can all talk with Gandalf about it again later.  We'll see what he says about it."

Jennifer nodded.  “Yeah.”

Just then they heard the chime of the bell which indicated it was nearly time for lunch.  As Kaylee leaped to her feet and darted ahead of her brothers and sister, she tripped and fell on the path.  Sobbing, she turned sideways and clutched her right elbow.

Jennifer and Kevin darted toward her.  As Jennifer gently lifted Kaylee into a sitting position, Kevin removed the little girl’s now-bloodstained hand from her elbow and looked at it.  “It’s all right, Kaylee,” he said soothingly.  “It’s just a scraped elbow.  I know it hurts, but I’ll fix you right up.”  He removed the Band-Aids, the bottle of antiseptic, and his handkerchief from the pouch that the Elves had given him that morning, and after he had gently dabbed her scrape with the handkerchief, he dribbled some antiseptic onto it.  Then he tore the wrapping off one of the Band-Aids.  Within a few minutes, he had taped the Band-Aid over her elbow and wiped the blood off her left hand.  All the while, Jennifer whispered soothingly into her little sister’s ear.

At last, Kaylee’s sobs subsided, and Jennifer wiped off the tears streaking her face.  “Come on, Kaylee.”  Jennifer lifted the little girl up in her arms.  “I’ll bet you anything there’ll be something good for lunch.”  A wan smile crept across Kaylee’s face, and Jennifer laughed.  Followed by Lucy, the children went inside, Jennifer carrying Kaylee.

-oo000oo-

One morning, a few days later, on the terrace, Kaylee had been earnestly explaining Santa Claus to the hobbits, with Joey giving her some help.  Their explanation had been rather confusing, as it had been laced with ideas from various television specials and Christmas movies and Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas”.  Just as the hobbits were getting completely confused, Mairen and Eledhwen came to remind the younger children that they had been invited to take elevenses with Bilbo.  Joey, Kaylee, and the hobbits hurried off with Eledhwen, and Mairen stayed with Jennifer and Kevin.

Elrond, Arwen, Glorfindel, Legolas, Gandalf, and the older children had been standing in the background and listening in amusement.  Now with the hobbits and younger children gone, they entered the dining room and took their seats at the table, and so did Mairen.  Servants served the food.  "Now, then," Elrond asked, one eyebrow climbing up his forehead as he picked up his fork.  "Who is this Santa Claus?”

Kevin and Jennifer looked at each other.  “It’s a good thing Kaylee and Joey are gonna be eating lunch with Eledhwen and the hobbits, this time,” Jennifer said, with a grin.  “Especially Kaylee.”  She took a bite after she had spoken.

“Yeah,” agreed her brother, grinning back.  As he laid his fork down, he looked at Elrond.  “You remember what Kaylee said, how excited she got, when you first told us you were Elves.”  Elrond nodded.  “He’s a make-believe character where we come from, but he’s based on a man who really existed a long time ago, in our world..."  Pausing to clear his throat, Kevin (with occasional help from Jennifer) tried to explain some of the story, beginning with Saint Nicholas, and adding in what they knew of how the legend had evolved.  The Elves and Gandalf exchanged puzzled glances as Kevin spoke.

“Well, anyway, little children often still believe in him; Kaylee does,” he continued.  “That’s why she got all excited when you told her that all of you were Elves, Master Elrond.  Joey believed in him till last year; Jennifer and I both did when we were Kaylee’s age."   The two of them went on to explain the modern ideas, including Santa's elves.  "The elves—they’re make-believe characters, too, in our world, and they’re nothing like the real-life Elves we’ve met here.  They’re more like—uh, well, like…”  He paused, thinking.  “Well, really more like...hobbits, except for the furry feet."  Kevin blushed.

“And you should see the clothes they wear,” Jennifer added, grinning.

The others all laughed, and Kevin thought of how seldom he heard Elves actually laugh aloud.  When they did, it sounded like...well, not like any mortal laughter.  It was almost like music.  He sighed in contentment and continued.

“Christmas Day is on December twenty-fifth, and Santa delivers the toys the night before.”  Kevin paused.  “Little kids are always so excited when it’s time to go to bed on Christmas Eve, because they know that Santa is going to come and bring them toys and candy while they’re asleep.  It’s easier to get children to go to bed then than any other night of the year, because they know that Santa won’t come while they’re awake.  And it’s easier to get them to behave themselves when Christmas Day is approaching, because they know that Santa Claus only brings toys to good children.”  Exchanging knowing looks, Elrond and the others chuckled, and Kevin grinned again.  “It’s true about the ice and snow at the North Pole, since it’s right at the top of the world above the Arctic Circle, though it’s not true about the rest.”

Kevin was surprised to see the expressions on everyone else's faces turn grave and serious, and wondered what he had said to elicit that reaction.  But before he could try to decide whether to ask about it, Jennifer spoke up.  “That’s right.  Joey knows the truth about Santa Claus now; last Christmas was his last to believe.  Kaylee and Megan still believe.  Megan only learned about him last Christmas.”

Kevin nodded agreement, and Jennifer smiled wistfully.  “That’s the nice thing about being a little kid, you know—you get to believe in the magic.”  She laughed.  “Kaylee likes to leave cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve, before she goes to bed, because she knows he’ll be getting hungry on that long flight.”  She took a swallow of her water.

Elrond nodded, his eyes twinkling.  “I see.  And now that you have told us about Santa Claus, who is the Easter bunny?”  He paused.  “I seem to remember Miss Kaylee mentioning that bunny while I was questioning you children about your arrival here.”  He took a bite of his bread and followed it with a sip of wine.

For the next several minutes, as everyone finished eating, Kevin and Jennifer explained to the Elves and Gandalf about the Easter bunny.

“Uh, Gandalf,” Jennifer finally said, “could you do us a favor?  Could you talk with Joey and Kaylee about—uh, what you and Kevin and I talked about the other night?”

Kevin nodded.  “Jennifer and I spoke with them the morning after our arrival, but they have some questions we can’t answer.”

Gandalf nodded.  “Certainly.  Why don't you children come to my quarters when you have finished lunch?”

Kevin and Jennifer exchanged relieved glances.  “Thanks,” Jennifer said.  "We will be there."  Exchanging a glance with Kevin, she added, “We want to be there, too, Kevin and me.”  Kevin nodded agreement.

-oo000oo-

Gandalf knew that the older McCloud siblings wished him to speak to the younger children, and to answer some questions they had.  For himself, he had not a few questions of his own.  He hoped that he had the answers that the children needed.  He had never been as sure of himself since arriving in Ennor as he had been when he had dwelt in the West.

Now he awaited them in his quarters a few hours later, where he had asked them to come after they had finished eating luncheon.  There was a tentative tap at his door.  "Enter," he said.

The door opened, and Jennifer and Kevin ushered Joey and Kaylee in ahead of them.  Lucy scampered into the room ahead of the younger children.  The children looked about Gandalf’s room curiously.  Like all the guest rooms in Rivendell, it was beautiful, but it was still somewhat plainer than their own rooms.  The wizard sat in an armchair by the hearth, smoking his pipe, and there was a large cluster of smoke rings above his head.  They were stacked up in rows, and were not dissipating the way smoke rings usually do.

His guests gaped at them in slack-jawed wonder.  He smiled and shook his head.  "Just one moment," he said.  He made a small gesture with his hand, and the smoke rings linked together in a long chain, and then floated out the wide-open window.  "There."  He knocked his pipe out and laid it aside.  "Master Elrond does not care for smoking; he would not reproach me for doing so in the privacy of my room, but I try to avoid having any smoke smell indoors.  By keeping the smoke together and sending it all away at once, I am able to not leave any scent behind."

Joey gaped at the window.  “Whoa!  How’d you do that?!”

Gandalf chuckled.  “I am a wizard, Master Joey.  I can do many things that mortals and elves cannot do.”

He gestured to the other chairs in the room.  "I understand you have some questions.  Please be seated, and we will see if I am able to answer them."

Although there were enough chairs for all of them, Kaylee preferred to sit on Jennifer's lap.  Lucy decided she wanted the wizard's lap, and trotted over, standing up and, with a whine, putting her front paws on his knees.  He chuckled, and indicated she was welcome.  After three tries, she managed to leap up onto Gandalf’s lap with his help and then settled right down, licking his right hand.  He placed his other hand upon her back and began lightly stroking her.

"Now we are all comfortable, children.  What do you still need to know?"

Kaylee was staring at him, her eyes wide.  "Are you really an angel?"

Joey shook his head in bewilderment.  “Angels don’t smoke!”

Gandalf turned his bushy eyebrows and intense stare at the boy, suppressing his smile.  "And you know that how, Master Joey?"  His black eyes were twinkling, but Joey was intimidated by those eyebrows.  Gandalf had rather thought they would work just as well on a young boy as they did on certain Tooks.  He was glad to note that he appeared to be right on that point.  "Now, I believe I was about to answer your sister."

He turned a much gentler gaze on the little one.  "Miss Kaylee, I believe from what Lord Kevin and Lady Jennifer told me, that it is quite likely.  We do not call ourselves angels.  We are called the Ainur, and we were in the presence of the Creator when the world was sung into being.”  His dark eyes looked wistful.  "All was well, until our brother Melkor wished to make his own song.  He sowed disharmony among the Ainur.  But Eru Ilúvatar turned the Song back to His own purpose."  He stopped as he saw confusion on Kaylee's face.  He paused and thought briefly, before continuing in simpler words.  "This made Melkor angry, and he left the others and persuaded many other Ainur to join him.  Melkor chose to try and destroy the world.  The oldest and most powerful among us were called the Valar.  I was among the Maia, who were servants of the Valar.  Sauron joined Melkor's side along with many others.  After Melkor's defeat, Sauron decided he would take Melkor's place.  We wizards—Istari, as we are called—were sent here to Middle-earth to assist the Free People in their fight against Sauron.”

Gandalf paused as Lucy began to chew his index finger.  After a moment, he withdrew his finger and patted her on the head.  "When I came to Middle-earth, and became a wizard, I lost many of my powers and some of my memories, for we Istari were not meant to order Elves and Men and other free peoples around, but to serve as guides and advisors most of the time.  Our power is used to help, but never to force."

Jennifer looked thoughtful.  “I wonder where Satan fits into all of this.  He’s the enemy of God in our time.  Or of Eru, as you call him.  We call him God.  Or Jehovah.”

"Perhaps that is simply another name for Melkor the Deceiver.  Or perhaps another who rebelled has taken that name.  We have no way to know."

“Satan wanted to take God’s place and take over ruling the universe,” Kevin said.  “His original name was Lucifer; he was the leader of the angels before he fell.  He’s also called the devil.  He led a revolution in Heaven, trying to overthrow God, and God threw him and his demons out.”  He paused.  “And then he tempted Eve, who fell, and Adam fell with her.  They were the very first human beings; God created them.  He made them in His image.  They both disobeyed God when Satan tempted Eve.  Sin came into the world as a result.  And death came along with it.”  Jennifer nodded agreement.

Gandalf took another puff of his pipe.  "Much is known of the origins of the Elves and their awakening in the First Age, but of Men, there are no legends of their beginnings before they first met Elves.  Such stories would be lost, with no way to record them.  It is not unlikely that the tale you have of Man's creation may be the real one.  But it is not one I have ever heard told; at any rate, I do believe that your 'Lucifer' could easily be Melkor, for he has many names."  He looked at the children.  "We do know that Men were first encountered to the East."

“Well, the devil and his demons are still on the loose in our time,” Jennifer said.  “God hasn’t imprisoned them yet.”

"Is that so?" the wizard asked.

Kevin made a face.  “It sure is!  Why do you suppose there’s so much evil in the world where we come from?”

"Melkor is in the Void here and now, yet his evil marring of Arda cannot be undone.  And he had many who helped him who still roam the world.  Perhaps your Satan was another of Melkor's following.  I certainly hope that it is not Sauron, for that would bode ill for our errand," he muttered the latter almost under his breath, and the children were not sure they heard him right.

“Errand?  What errand?” Kevin asked, exchanging a puzzled glance with Jennifer, Joey, and Kaylee.

"Never you mind, young man."  The children wanted to ask Gandalf what he meant by that; however, the glint in his eyes discouraged them from pursuing the subject.

Joey looked thoughtful, and then, looking at Gandalf, he said, "Kevin said we have to be careful of what we say.  Can't we talk about Jesus?  We're supposed to tell everyone about Him."

“Jesus has to be born first, Joey,” Jennifer reminded him.

Gandalf nodded.  "I do not think you must never speak of Him, but you must remember that the things you know about Him have not yet been revealed.  It might be safe for you to tell stories about Him, but you must not try to make others believe that they are anything but stories of your own land.  I think that if you simply keep in mind that our Creator has a plan for things to happen in His own time, you will not go wrong.”

“Yes, sir.”  Kevin looked thoughtful.  “We’re not in another world, are we?  We—went back in time.”

Way back,” Jennifer added.  “Not even Abraham’s been born yet, has he?”

"I do not know who Abraham is, but that is what Master Elrond and I believe, although it could be possible that you are also in another world as well.  We have no other experience like yours to go by, after all."  Gandalf sighed, and gave a pat to the puppy in his lap.  "But whether you are only changed in time, or in time and space, we do know that you are now far back before the Age that you know in your home."

"So," asked Jennifer, "you are saying that maybe we can tell a little about what we believe, but it's not the right time for us to try to get other people to believe what we believe?"

"Yes, Lady Jennifer.  I also think that you may talk among yourselves, and share the songs and tales of your land with others, so long as you remember that none of what you speak of has come to be as yet."

He looked once more at the two younger children.  He was sure that they did not truly understand all that was at stake, and yet he felt confident that they would know when it was right to speak and when it was not.  "Do not worry, children.  So long as you remember what I have told you, I do not think you will say anything out of turn."

The children exchanged glances and nodded.  “Yes, sir,” said Kevin.  He shook his head.  “I just don’t know what to make of it, Gandalf.  None of us do.  Our Holy Book, the Bible, doesn’t talk about this time, and neither do our history books.  The Bible only talks about the fall and redemption of man—it doesn’t even mention elves, dwarfs, or hobbits.”

“It sure doesn’t,” Jennifer agreed.

Scanning their faces, Gandalf asked, "Have any of you more pressing questions?  If not, I will be glad to answer later, if you think of any.  In the meanwhile, I have to meet Master Elrond."

"No, sir," said Kevin politely, answering for them all.  "You've given us an awful lot to think about.  I'm sure we’ll have more questions later.  But not right now."

A brief silence descended upon the group for a moment, and then Kaylee wiggled on Jennifer’s lap as she prepared to get down.  “Hey, Mr. Gandalf!  Guess what!  I know what one plus one is.”

“Oh?”  Gandalf raised his bushy eyebrows.  “And what is that, may I ask?”

“Two!”  Smiling broadly, Kaylee held up two fingers and then slid off her sister’s lap.

The others laughed, and Jennifer rubbed her back.  “Well done!” said Gandalf, with a chuckle.

The rest of the children rose, and Kaylee reclaimed Lucy.  "Thank you, Mr. Gandalf," she said, smiling broadly.  "Lucy likes you.”

He smiled.  "And I like her, too.  She is a delightful puppy.”  He rubbed Lucy’s head, and she licked his fingers.  “Farewell, children, for now."  He stood as the children left the room.





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