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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.

Can you guess the origins of this chapter's title? HINT: It follows the pattern of previous chapter titles; plus, 1953.

Chapter 14: Following the Leader

It was near the turning of the year, cold and windy, as the Company stood around on the terrace near dusk, preparing to start on their way. Elrond had advised them to leave at that time, hoping to avoid unfriendly eyes that might be lurking near the borders of Rivendell. It had been decided that they would be travelling at night for the same reason.

Pippin shivered, pulling his cloak closer to his body, and moved nearer to Merry. "Well, we are up to our ankles in briars now, cousin," he whispered. Merry's mouth twitched in amusement, but he did not say anything.

"You should fear the many eyes of the servants of Sauron," Elrond said. "I do not doubt that news of the discomfiture of the Riders has already reached him, and he will be filled with wrath. Soon now his spies on foot and wing will be abroad in the northern lands. Even of the sky above you must beware as you go on your way.'"

Now Merry spoke up. "I do wish he would not sound so very cheerful," he muttered to Pippin.

Pippin snorted, and then bumped Merry with his elbow. Frodo, who stood ahead of them, turned and shot them a glare.

Jennifer, who had been feeling rather miserable to be leaving her little sister behind, stifled a snicker. Merry and Pippin always seemed to find something funny to say, to lighten the mood a little. Still, it only lasted an instant, and now her misery came back. Kaylee was only just getting used to being without having her parents around, and now she'd be all alone except for Lucy, for Heaven only knew how long. Lost in her thoughts, Jennifer had tuned out some of the others.

"Loud and clear it sounds in the valleys of the hills, and then let all the foes of Gondor flee!" Boromir said unexpectedly, causing her to look at him.

Jennifer turned around and saw Boromir take up his big war-horn and blow a sudden loud blast that made everyone except the Elves jump. It echoed all around the Valley. Yanking her thumb out of her mouth, Kaylee jerked, and then grabbed tight hold of Arwen, who wrapped a comforting arm around the little girl's shoulder.

Gandalf gave the big Gondorian a glare, but it was Elrond who spoke up: "Slow should you be to wind that horn again, Boromir, until you stand once more on the borders of your land, and dire need is on you."

"Maybe," said Boromir. "But always I have let my horn cry at setting forth, and though thereafter we may walk in the shadows, I will not go forth as a thief in the night."

A blast of chill wind swept through, and Jennifer felt grateful for the thick warm clothes and fur-lined jackets and cloaks that the Elves had provided. In spite of the warm cloak, she still shivered. She glanced over to see Sam talking to Bill the Pony, who was laden with everything that the two-legged members of the Company could not carry. Did she really have everything?

She reached down and patted her belt pouch. Good, her camera was safely inside.

At that moment Elrond joined Gandalf, and he called the Company to him. "This is my last word," he said in a low voice. "The Ring-bearer is setting out on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid: neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way; you three children are under the guardianship of Aragorn, and so where he goes, you will." Aragorn and the three older children nodded; Kaylee held Lucy to her chest with her left hand, and stuck the thumb of her right hand back into her mouth. Scanning the Company's faces, Elrond continued, "You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road."

"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens," said Gimli.

"Maybe," said Elrond, "but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall."

"Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart," said Gimli.

"Or break it," said Elrond. "Look not too far ahead! But go now with good hearts! Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you. May the stars shine upon your faces!"

"Good…good luck!" cried Bilbo, stuttering with the cold. "I don't suppose you will be able to keep a diary, Frodo my lad, but I shall expect a full account when you get back. And don't be too long! Farewell!"

"Wait!" Jennifer removed her camera from her coat pocket and turned it on. "Before we leave, I want to take a couple of pictures of all of us together. Get together, all of you." The entire group assembled in front of her, with Kaylee holding Lucy up, and Jennifer snapped the picture.

Next, she turned on the self-timer function, set the camera on the table, facing the assembled group, and hurried to join the others. A moment later, the camera itself took their picture. Approaching it, Jennifer picked it up and looked over the two photographs, and then she smiled in satisfaction.

"Well, we're all set," she said. She shut the camera off and slipped it back into her belt pouch. Wait till I show these pictures to Mom and Daddy!

Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey took turns hugging Kaylee and cuddling Lucy, who whined. "Be good now," Kevin told Kaylee, and she nodded. "We'll be back with you as soon as we can." He set Kaylee down, and Jennifer handed Lucy to her. Kevin rubbed Lucy's head, and then joined the rest of the Company; Elrond joined the little girl and Arwen. Many others of Elrond's household stood in the shadows and watched the Company go, bidding them farewell with soft voices. There was no laughter, and at first, no song or music.

Kaylee watched her brothers and sister as they strode toward the entrance to Rivendell with the rest of the company. They're off to see the wizard, she thought, as mental pictures of The Wizard of Oz floated into her head. I wish I was going with them! She cleared her throat and, in a mournful voice, started to sing:

"Follow the yellow brick road.

Follow the yellow brick road.

Follow, follow, follow, follow,

Follow the yellow brick road.

Follow the yellow brick—

Follow the yellow brick—

Follow the yellow brick road…¹

As they set off, Jennifer could hear while her little sister's faint treble blew away into the brisk wind, as they went marching into who knew what. Kaylee's voice sounded so sad. Now she's singing, "You're off to see the wizard!" to cheer herself up, she thought. Jennifer blinked away the tears that started to form, and shook her head. She could not be fretting about Kaylee now; she should just be glad that her sister was safe in the care of Lady Arwen. She took a deep breath and continued on, one foot after the other, her walking stick in her hand.

-oo000oo-

As the Company turned away and faded silently into the dusk, Kaylee, who had just finished singing "Follow the Yellow Brick Road/You're Off to See the Wizard", nestled against Arwen and inserted her thumb back into her mouth. Elrond, who was standing on the other side of the little girl from Arwen, took Lucy out of her arms and handed the puppy to Bilbo, and then he lifted Kaylee up in his own arms. They had needed to hold the pup; otherwise she might have tried to follow Bill. Lucy and the pony had become good friends, and she whined a bit as the Company moved out of her sight. Bilbo rubbed Lucy's head.

"Your brothers and sister are in good hands," Elrond told Kaylee softly. "Aragorn and the others will all take good care of them, and do everything in their power to keep them safe."

"And I will take good care of you and Lucy while they are gone," Arwen added. Elrond nodded agreement, and Bilbo joined them, holding the wiggling puppy.

"We all will," Elrond promised, and then he carried Kaylee inside, followed by the others.

-oo000oo-

The Company crossed the bridge and wound slowly up the long steep paths that led out of the cloven vale of Rivendell; and they came at length to the high moor where the wind hissed through the heather. Then with one glance at the Last Homely House twinkling below them they strode away far into the night.

Grinning at his older brother and sister, Joey began to poke Jennifer in the arm. She pushed his hand back the second time he poked her. A moment later, he poked her again.

"Joey! Stop that!" Jennifer said, pushing him away from her.

"That is enough, Joey," Aragorn ordered him from near the front of the column, near Gandalf. Shrugging, Joey turned toward the hobbits ahead of him. Shaking her head, Jennifer rolled her eyes, and Kevin shrugged. The others exchanged amused grins, and Gimli snorted.

Joey glanced over at Jennifer. She had just started to march and to twirl her newly-carved walking stick. She had told him that she wanted to keep up her baton skills while they were on their journey; it would help make the time pass, she had said, and it reminded her of walking miles in a parade, as she had done so often in the past. Joey wished he had something interesting to do while he walked. He sighed, and kicked a pebble up the path. He saw it land by his sister's feet, and noticed those white knives Lady Arwen gave her.

Lady Arwen only gave her a few lessons after she gave her those knives, so how's she gonna use them? Joey wondered. Is Legolas really gonna teach her knife-fighting? With a shrug, he turned forward.

As the Company continued onward in the darkening twilight, Joey started thinking about the night a week or so before their camping trip that their family had watched Dumbo on DVD for their family movie night. The circus was on its way, too, just like we are, he thought. The song about the circus train leaving its winter quarters was stuck in his head. He began to hum the tune, and after a few moments, started to sing it; he was bored, but he recalled that when they got bored in the car, their dad encouraged them to sing, so he sang a little louder.

*"Casey Junior's comin' down the track,

Comin' down the track

With a smoky stack.

Hear him puffin',

Comin' round the hill;

Casey's here to thrill

Every Jack and Jill.

Every time his funny little whistle sounds—toot, toot!—

Everybody hurries to the circus grounds.

Time for lemonade and Cracker Jack.

Casey Junior's back;

Casey Junior's back…"

The others listened to him in amusement. "I'm afraid it's gonna be quite a while before we'll be having any lemonade or Cracker Jack again, Joey," Kevin told him. "Or before we'll be going to a circus again." Joey shrugged, and Jennifer smiled in spite of her heavy heart.

"What was that 'toot-toot'?" Boromir asked curiously.

Jennifer began to try and explain what a train was, and a train whistle, and then it began to turn into an explanation of the movie, Dumbo. At first, everyone was trying to listen to her explanation, but pretty soon she stopped trying, because it was clear from their expressions that they didn't have a clue of what she was talking about.

An amused smile crept over Jennifer's face as she recollected Kaylee singing, "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" as they had left the Last Homely House. She'd be singing "We're Off to See the Wizard" right now, if she was with us, she thought. It would be a most appropriate song to her, except instead of going to see a wizard, we're traveling with one.

Jennifer bit her lower lip, sorrow welling up in her heart. I wish Kaylee could come with us. I'm already missing her!

The children had a large stock of songs from movies, musicals, and TV shows stored in their heads. The family often watched them together, and their mother had the habit of singing along with the movies on TV, which had rubbed off on them. And the whole family was involved in music in the church: their mom sang in the adult choir, Kevin and Jennifer sang in the youth choir, and Joey and Kaylee sang in the children's choir. Their dad helped with the sound system, even though he had a nice singing voice as well. Therefore, the children took any chance they could to sing, especially when they were bored.

When Joey finished the song, he heard Kevin begin a song from another old Disney movie, and Joey and Jennifer chimed in with him:

*"Westward ho, westward ho.

Westward the wagons roll.


"There's magic in the wind

And a brightness in the sky.

There's a Promised Land a-waitin',

And we'll get there by and by.


"Westward ho the wagons,

Always westward ho.

Westward roll the wagons,

For Oregon's our goal…"²

The three children took turns singing all of the stanzas of that song. The others exchanged puzzled glances when they finished. "This Oregon…" Aragorn paused. "You've told us you live in Oregon."

"Yes, sir." Kevin nodded. "It's a state now, an American state, but it used to be an American territory. The song we were singing is from an old Disney movie, Westward Ho the Wagons. The movie—it's set back in the pioneer days. Back then a lot of Americans were leaving their homes and moving west. It's about a group of pioneers moving to Oregon Territory."

Jennifer nodded. "Oregon was the last territory pioneers could move to, because it's right up against the Pacific Ocean—well, that and California. I'm not sure which territory Washington was part of, back then—it might have been part of Oregon Territory. I'll have to look that up when we get back home." She paused, furrowing her eyebrows.

"Actually, no," Kevin told her. "Washington was its own territory back then—Washington Territory. So once the United States had control of California, there were actually three territories right up against the Pacific Ocean that pioneers could move to."

The two of them continued the discussion. Much of the information was fresh in Kevin's mind, since he'd recently had a test on the subject in his American history class. He corrected Jennifer, and added quite a few more facts.

Jennifer turned back to the others. "Well, anyway, Washington's to the north of Oregon, just below the Canadian border—it's a state, too, now. California's just to the south of our state…"

"Yeah," Joey agreed. "And you know what? There's just three countries in North America: the United States, Canada, and Mexico. And there's seven continents all over the world, including North America and Asia. I learned that in school. North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica!" He smiled broadly, proud of his knowledge.

Kevin looked at their companions. They'd lost them again, all the rest of the group just stared at them, looking confused. "Well, anyway, that's what the song was about…" Kevin's voice trailed off.

"Yeah, I love Westward Ho the Wagons!" Joey smiled broadly.

"He sure does, and he also loves Star Wars and Spider-Man. Especially Spider-Man. There's some other old TV shows he loves, too." Jennifer smiled.

"I can't wait to watch Spider-Man again!" Joey added, with a broad smile.

Kevin laughed. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait, Joey," he told his little brother. "Just as Jenn and I will have to wait to watch our favorite shows again."

The others shook their heads and exchanged bewildered glances. "Spider-Man?" Aragorn stared at the children, puzzled.

"Yeah, Spider-Man's a man with spider abilities. A superhero," Joey explained. "He can spin webs and everything!"

Kevin and Jennifer laughed. Between the two of them, with occasional interruptions by Joey, began to explain to the others about comic-book superheroes and the origins of Spider-Man.

Kevin wound the explanation up. "And Joey—he's also got some Spider-Man comic books, some of which were in his backpack when we came to Middle-earth. Joey loves to watch Spider-Man, and he also loves to read the comic books."

"Yeah, I love Spider-Man!" Joey grinned. The others exchanged bemused expressions. Joey grinned up at them, and then he sang the theme song to the old cartoon show. When he had finished, he added, "If Spider-Man was here, he'd go to Mount Doom, climb up it just like a spider, and use his spider web to throw that nasty old Ring into the fire!" He mimicked throwing a spider web toward the nearest hillside.

The others laughed, and the hobbits grinned and shook their heads. "Well, Joey, Spider-Man is not here, so we must use the resources we have at hand to accomplish our Quest," Aragorn told him, his face quirked in amusement. "And even if there were a real Spider-Man here to help us, I'm afraid that Sauron would find out about him and do everything in his power to stop him. And believe me, Sauron's powers are considerable." Gandalf nodded agreement.

Then Kevin began to explain about some other comic-book superheroes and TV shows, The others were beginning to look a little annoyed. Sometimes the children's explanations raised more questions than they answered, and many of their words did not make sense, as there was no equivalent in Westron. Pippin looked totally frustrated; he was bursting with questions, but the answers were just as frustrating as the questions themselves. He was learning to just not ask quite so often. Furrowing their eyebrows as they scanned their companions' bewildered facial expressions, Kevin and Jennifer stared at each other.

"Don't people in Middle-earth ever use their imaginations to invent stuff?" Jennifer asked, bewildered. "You know, make up stories and plays, make up songs and dances, create drawings, paintings, and statues, and invent things that no one ever thought of before? Because you don't know what you're missing, if you don't. I mean, that's called using your creativity! Spider-Man and other superheroes aren't real; somebody made them up. They're just fictional characters where we come from."

"Yeah, that's right," added Kevin.

Frodo suddenly stopped in his tracks and turned to face the children. There was a frustrated expression on his face. "Of course people in Middle-earth use their imaginations to 'invent things'!" He put his hands on his hips. "Perhaps not as prolifically as the people of your world who appear to do nothing else!" His blue eyes flashed.

Jennifer came to a sudden halt. She felt as if she had just been slapped. "S—sorry," she stammered. "I didn't mean to be mean, Frodo."

"None of us did," Kevin added.

Everyone else had halted now, and was staring at them. Jennifer was blushing, and Joey was looking at his feet. Kevin wanted to say something, but didn't know what else he could add to the apology. Not without possibly making things worse, at any rate.

Gandalf shook his head. "I know that it is difficult, children, to understand that what is common and ordinary to you is something that we do not even have the words for. We do not understand what 'deeveedees', 'seedees' are, and when you try to explain them, you use words that are equally confusing, such as 'teevees' and 'moovees'." Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey nodded, and Gandalf scanned the others' faces. "As for the rest of us, we must learn not to take offense at the children's ignorance of our world and ways. They know only what they have seen and heard since they came here."

He cast a look over the entire Company. "We are losing time now. Let us go on our way; and if you must sing, sing more quietly. I do not think we are so far away from Rivendell that we must walk in total silence, but we do not need to make the hills echo!"

Abashed, all of them began walking once more, in silence at first. After a while, Joey began to sing again, this time more quietly. He sang the theme songs to some old children's TV shows, "The Banana Splits," "H.R. Pufnstuf," and "The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". Then he sang all of the stanzas of the theme song of “The Mickey Mouse Club”. As he sang, “‘Mickey Mouse Club, Mickey Mouse Club, we’ll have fun; we’ll meet new faces. We’ll do things, and we’ll go places. All around the world, we’re marching,’” the others smiled. Joey finished by singing the version of the song that the Mouseketeers had always sung just before the show's closing credits.

Legolas and Boromir looked at each other as soon as the little boy had finished that song. "These children certainly love to sing," Boromir said in a low voice.

Legolas, who was the rearguard, nodded agreement. "Let them sing," he said in an equally low voice, making sure that the children could not hear him. "Right now, this is an exciting adventure for the McCloud children, a chance for them to travel and see new places. They do not know the dangers we will eventually encounter on this Quest. Singing walking songs, in particular, seems to help them keep their spirits up, so let them sing while they can. They will come face to face with the reality of the Quest soon enough."

Smiling ruefully, Boromir nodded agreement. When Joey had finished singing several more songs, some of which Pippin joined in on the chorus after hearing it, the hobbits contributed some Shire songs.

-oo000oo-

By the time the moon was high, the children were getting tired, and so were the hobbits. Jennifer had long since ceased her marching and baton practice, and was trudging wearily, leaning on her walking stick. The singing and chatter had died out. The hobbits had not flagged quite so much, but Joey, who at the beginning of the evening had expended a lot of energy in singing and talking, was stumbling along in silence. Aragorn looked back and saw Kevin pick up his younger brother, who only protested briefly.

"'m not a baby," he muttered.

"Of course you aren't," Kevin responded. He'd scarcely answered when Joey's head was drooping on his brother's shoulder, already asleep.

Aragorn shook his head, and drew Gandalf's attention to the two brothers. "Kevin will now tire more quickly for the effort of carrying Joey," he said.

Gandalf nodded. "We shall likely need to stop sooner than we meant to, since that is the case. Send Legolas to scout us out a good camping spot."

A brief hand signal from the Ranger to the Elf sent Legolas loping ahead of the group. He ran lightly, seemingly not very fast, but he was soon lost to the sight of the mortals.

Gimli looked wary. "Where is he going?" he asked gruffly.

Gandalf turned his bristling eyebrows towards the Dwarf. "To scout out our first campsite." His tone was just as gruff. "I will not tolerate bickering and suspicion in this Company!" the Wizard added sternly.

Gimli only looked a little abashed. "I was simply asking."

"Of course you were," replied Gandalf drily.

Aragorn hid a smile. He was used to Gandalf's irascible manner. They continued on for nearly an hour more, and when he began to notice Kevin was also beginning to stumble, he dropped back himself and offered to carry the youngest member of the Company. It was a measure of Kevin's weariness that he did not argue, but willingly handed over his burden. Aragorn decided that he, Boromir, and Legolas would probably all have to help carry Joey at least some of each night. Kevin would build up more strength and stamina as they traveled, but he was not up to carrying so much weight for so long at a time yet. Aragorn would have to discuss it with the others when they stopped to make camp.

And young Joey was going to have to be discouraged from expending so much of his energy early in the journey. He, too, needed to build up his strength, as did Kevin and Jennifer, but as young as the child was, it was likely that even after his brother and sister had built up enough stamina to walk throughout a full march, he would still tire out before each night's march came to its end. Singing and chatting so much at the beginning of a march would only hasten his exhaustion.

They had gone perhaps half a league* more when Legolas suddenly reappeared among them, causing everyone save himself and Gandalf to show their startlement.

"I have found an excellent place to stop," said the Elf. "If we turn left off the path by that linden tree up there, and go about a rod*, there is a nice hollow; a small stream runs nearby, and it is surrounded by birches and shrubbery. We might be able to have a small fire without risk of it being seen."

This was welcome news to everyone, and it lent them all a little extra energy. Soon they found themselves in a nice grassy little dell. Joey, who was now awake and somewhat rested from his nap, was feeling hale enough to join Merry and Pippin as they scoured for some firewood. Sam saw to Bill, and Frodo and Jennifer went to fetch some water from the nearby brook. No one had to tell the hobbits what to do, and Joey and Jennifer just naturally joined in the tasks they thought they could help with. In the meantime, Aragorn drew the others to him to assign watches for the rest of the night and the following day.

"Boromir, if you and Kevin will take first watch?" he asked.

Boromir nodded, and so did Kevin. Aragorn noticed the look of pride on the youth's face. Kevin was a very likely young man, even if he was learning some things at a slightly older age than most of the youths Aragorn was familiar with. Those two were assigned the rest of the night, which was only about three hours or so. He and Gimli would watch from dawn until noon, and Gandalf and Legolas would watch until late afternoon, when they would begin to stir and get ready to be on the march again. Afterward, huddling together to discuss the McCloud children, Aragorn, Boromir, and Legolas agreed to start taking turns carrying Joey whenever he grew too weary to keep walking during their nightly marches, so that Kevin would not lose his own stamina so early in a march after this.

Once the fire had been started by Gimli, Sam pulled out his small kettle and made tea. "Chamomile tonight, so as we can rest good," the hobbit said. "'Tisn't time to cook much, but we still have fresh bread as the Elves give us, and a nice little crock of fresh butter as well. And I'll put some 'taters in to roast afore we go to sleep. They'll be nice and done by time we wake up. Ember-roasted 'taters, with a little of that butter and maybe some bits of cheese'll be rare ballast for our bellies at supper."

"But will it be supper?" asked Pippin. "After all, it should be breakfast, if it is the meal we partake of when we wake up."

The result of this was a long four-way argument among the hobbits as to which meal should be dubbed "supper-breakfast" and which should be "breakfast-supper". Gandalf and Aragorn were amused by it, but all the others looked rather astonished at how the hobbits could keep going on and on about the subject. Indeed, Gandalf undertook to keep the entertaining squabble going by occasionally interjecting his own comments on the subject.

By the time they had finished their light meal of tea, bread, and butter, they were all ready to curl up in their bedrolls on the soft grass and go to sleep. Aragorn watched for a few moments, as Boromir instructed Kevin how to keep watch. ("Put your back to the fire," he heard Boromir saying, "so that your eyes will stay accustomed to the darkness.") As Kevin followed the Gondorian's advice, the Ranger made sure his knife was near to hand, closed his eyes, and went to sleep.

-oo000oo-

A/N: “Follow the Yellow Brick Road/You’re Off to See the Wizard” is the property of MGM.

“Casey Jr.", "Wagons Ho!”, and “The Mickey Mouse March” are the properties of the Disney Corporation.

*A league is approximately three miles (so half a league is a mile and a half), and a rod is approximately 15½ feet.  A furlong is approximately 220 rods!





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