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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 origin of the chapter title? HINT: 2017, plus, live-action.

Chapter 15: Days in the Sun

Kaylee approached Bilbo, a picture book clasped against her chest. "Hey, Mr. Baggins," she said, smiling broadly. "Guess what this is?" She held up the storybook as she spoke.

Bilbo took the storybook, opened it, and gazed at the pictures. Smiling in his turn, he said, "You tell me, Miss Kaylee."

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar," she said. "Jennifer reads it to me."

Bilbo nodded. "What's it about?"

Kaylee smiled broadly. "It's about this little caterpillar. It's very hungry, and it keeps eating and eating. And then, one day, it makes itself a cocoon, and when it comes out, it's a butterfly!"

Bilbo chuckled. "Yes, that is exactly what happens to caterpillars."

Kaylee pouted. "I wish you could read this to me, Mr. Baggins."

Biblo touched her shoulder. "I wish I could, too, Miss Kaylee. Unfortunately, as you know, I cannot read your language. But I can tell you stories, and I'll tell you one now."

"Tell me one?" Kaylee stared at him.

Bilbo tilted his head. "Has no one ever told you a story, Miss Kaylee?"

The little girl shook her head. "Mommy and Daddy and Jennifer read to me. My teacher, too."

Bilbo chuckled. "Well, then, you're in for a real treat! I think you'll find that I'm a very good storyteller." He paused, and then began.

¹ "Once, when I was a little lad, my best friend, who was my cousin Siggy Took, came over to visit us for a few weeks. We were just old enough that our milk teeth were beginning to come out, just as you will be soon, Miss Kaylee, and Siggy had a loose tooth that had begun to wiggle. He was always pushing and pulling at it with his tongue. I was fascinated by this, because none of my teeth had begun to come out yet. One day at luncheon, Siggy bit into a pear, and just like that, his tooth popped out, sticking right into the pear. It wasn't very pleasant at mealtime, because it did bleed a little, but my mama had him take a sip of water and spit it out into a cup, and that was that.

"'Did it hurt, Siggy?' I asked.

"'Not much. It hurts less than it did when it was just loose.' My mama took the pear and rinsed it off, and we finished our meal.

"Before we left the table, we were astonished when Papa reached into his weskit pocket and pulled out a farthing, a nice shiny copper one, and gave it to Siggy in exchange for the tooth. Siggy was quite excited about this, as you can imagine.

"My father explained that this was a custom among the Bagginses, to exchange a farthing for each milk tooth a child lost. He excused himself to go back to his study. Siggy and I were about to do the same and then go out and play, when Mama asked us to wait a moment.

"'Lads, I hope that you understand this is only a Baggins custom. The Tooks do not follow that custom. So, Siggy, you must not expect any such farthings when you return home, and Bilbo, if you should lose a tooth at the Great Smials (which is where my cousins on my mother's side all lived, Miss Kaylee), then you must not expect any, either. Am I quite clear on this, my dears?'"

"We assured her that we did understand what she was telling us. As we went back outside to play upon the Hill, Siggy was looking thoughtfully at his farthing.

"'You should put that in your pocket before you lose it, cousin,' I said to him.

"He just gave a big sigh. 'I suppose so.' He tucked it reluctantly into the pocket of his jacket.

"I looked at him. 'I should think you'd be happy to have a farthing. Mama's taking us with her to the village when she shops tomorrow. You can buy sweets!'

"'Yes, and then it will be gone,' he replied. 'You are lucky! You have a lot of teeth, and you are a Baggins! You are bound to get a lot of farthings!'

"'But not before tomorrow.' Now that I thought about it, it did not seem quite fair that Siggy got to have his tooth out and I did not.

"'If all of my teeth came out before I leave, then I could have as many farthings as I have teeth.' Siggy's mind was clearly working on the problem.

"'I wish some of mine would come out today, so that I could have some farthings, too!'"

Kaylee interrupted Bilbo with a giggle. "Boys are so silly! If all of their teeth came out at one time, how would they eat?"

Bilbo chuckled. "They do say that lasses are much more clever than lads, my dear. I think you have just proved it. But wait until you hear what a silly solution to our problem we came up with…" He cleared his throat.

"We reached the top of the Hill and climbed into the rooftree, still pondering our dilemma. We sat upon a large branch and thought and thought. Just as I was feeling drowsy and wondered if I might just close my eyes for a few moments, Siggy gave a shout.

"'I know!' he said. 'One time, Chop (that was our older cousin Adelgrim's nickname, Miss Kaylee) got into a quarrel with one of the Chubb cousins! They were hitting and everything. Anyway, Chop hit Tolly Chubb a good one in the mouth, and knocked two of his teeth out!'

"I was dubious about this. 'Wouldn't that hurt?' I asked.

"'Maybe. A little bit. It hurt more when Grandfather Gerontius thrashed them.'

"My eyes grew wide at that. My father never gave thrashings. But it meant we had nothing to fear on that score.

"Siggy saw that I was wavering, and coaxed me some more. 'Just think of all we could buy at the shops tomorrow.'

"I made up my mind, and immediately dropped to the ground. 'Well, what are you waiting for?' I asked.

"Siggy jumped down and then we looked at each other, uncertain as to how to proceed. I myself had never seen a fight with hitting and everything. And we weren't angry at one another, nor quarreling. 'What next?' I asked.

"'Well, I guess we start hitting.'

"I braced myself. 'You should have the first go at me,' I said. 'You already have a farthing.'

"'All right.' Now Siggy looked uncertain, yet it was his idea. He balled up his fist and raised it up. Then he looked at me for a long time. I began to get impatient. Yet just when I thought he wouldn't do anything, he struck out—and managed to miss me altogether!

"'That didn't count,' I said. 'Have another go.'

"He did. This time he did not miss, but barely tapped me upon the jaw. 'Did it work?' he asked me hopefully.

"I felt around my mouth with my tongue. 'Not even loose. Try again.'

"I had barely spoken when his arm flashed and he hit me quite hard on the mouth. 'Ow!' But it still had not worked. My mouth hurt, though. 'Maybe it should be my turn now.'

"Siggy nodded, seemingly relieved. He set himself, and thrust his face forward, as if that might help. Realising that I would need to hit him quite hard, I made my fist, swung my arm around and struck out with all my might. I missed completely and ended up swinging all the way around, nearly falling over. "This is harder than you'd think," I said.

"'Try again,' said Siggy. 'Aim for my teeth.' He gave a ghastly grin, showing all his teeth.

"Once more I swung, with a bit less energy and a bit more aim. I hit him right in the middle of his teeth. But no luck. I had not even loosened one, and my knuckles hurt."

Kaylee was laughing quite hard now, and behind him, Bilbo heard more laughter, most of it more than mortal fair. He grinned. He loved an audience.

"We exchanged a few more blows, taking turns. Most of them missed, but a few did not. Our teeth stayed firmly in our mouths, and we began to get frustrated. Just as Siggy had landed a quite painful blow to my jaw, we both froze.

"'MASTER BILBO! MASTER SIGISMOND!' It was Tam Goodchild, our gardener. Before either of us could say a word, he grabbed each of us by an ear. 'Fighting! I never thought I'd live to see the day you'd be a-fighting!'

"'But we weren't really fighting,' I tried to explain.

"Tam's strong fingers pinched hard as he marched us smartly down the Hill to the back door. "And a-lying about it, too!"

"My mother answered the door and looked astounded at the sight we made. I cheered up immensely. Mama would understand that we weren't really fighting…We grinned at her, though it was rather painful.

"'I'm sorry, Mistress Baggins, but I found 'em pounding away at each other down by the well,' Tam said.

"Her expression was even more shocked. 'Lads! I cannot believe that you were fighting!'

"'We weren't, Mama!' I said.

"'No, Aunt Bella, we weren't fighting!'

"'I seen 'em,' repeated Tam.

'I know you did, Master Tam, and I am so very sorry that you had to deal with my son and my nephew so. Thank you.'

Tam stared down at us with a forlorn expression. "Kinfolk shouldn't be a-fighting, Master Bilbo," he said quietly, before he turned and went away back to his work.

"'But, Mama—' Bilbo protested.

"'Not another word from you, Bilbo Baggins! Or you either, Sigismond Took! We will let your father deal with this!'

"My mother marched us straight to my father's study. We were not allowed to say a word, as she reported what Tam had told her. Of course our split lips and bruised jaws were against us.

"'Not only were the two of you fighting, and were caught in the act, but you continue to lie about it. Bilbo, I am sorely disappointed in you. And Sigismond, all I can say is that we will be forced to cut your visit short…'"

"'Papa! No!' I exclaimed. 'Please don't make Siggy go home!'

"'Uncle Bungo! Yes, we were hitting, but we weren't fighting, really, really—we weren't!'

"Mama and Papa looked more confused than ever. Finally Papa said, 'If you weren't fighting, what were you doing, then?'

"I was so relieved to finally have a chance to explain the very logical reason for our behaviour. 'We were just trying to knock our teeth out!'

"'WHAT?' I do not think I had ever seen my papa look quite so astonished.

"'Yes, Uncle Bungo!' Siggy put in. 'We thought it would be good to have some farthings when we go with Auntie to the market tomorrow! And besides—I wanted Bilbo to knock all of mine out before I go home, or I won't get any more farthings!'

"My mother took that moment to leave and close the door. Looking back at it now, I realise that she must have found the whole thing more than a little amusing, once the explanation had been forthcoming. Papa simply sat there staring at us for the longest time. The two of us grew uncomfortable and began to fidget. Perhaps our idea was not such a good one after all.

"Finally, I saw the slightest twitch at the corner of my father's mouth. Then he sighed, and said, 'You know, lads, there is a rule about milk teeth. Only the ones that come out naturally will receive a farthing.'

"Now Siggy and I hung our heads. 'It seemed like a good idea at the time, Uncle Bungo,' my cousin said sadly. While visions of riches had danced in our heads, it had seemed a very good idea. I thought of all the sweets we could have bought with our fortune.

"'I suppose it did,' he said. 'But just how did you think you would be able to eat once all those teeth came out at once? Why, you might have had to go back to drinking nothing but milk, like a babe who has no teeth at all yet!'

"Siggy and I stared at one another. This had not occurred to us at all!

"My father pointed at the table where his students did their lessons. 'Have a seat,' he said.

"He took out two pieces of foolscap, a bottle of ink, and two quills. 'I would like the two of you to write for me a full page on the importance of teeth. You will not copy. And you will not write over and over again, '"I need them to chew my food."' Siggy's face fell.

"It was a rather tedious afternoon, and I learned a number of variations on the phrase he had forbidden. But we never tried to knock our teeth out again."

Kaylee was laughing so hard, she had the hiccups, and of course the rest of Bilbo's audience was howling with laughter as well.

"Well, Miss Kaylee, do you like having someone tell you a story instead of reading it?" he asked.

She was still breathless with laughter, but she vigorously nodded, her eyes sparkling with mirth, and with a broad grin stretched across her face. Bilbo smiled at her. "It won't be long now until your milk teeth will start to come out. When that happens, your grown-up teeth will begin taking their place."

Kaylee nodded. Both rows of her front baby teeth showed plainly as she smiled broadly back at Bilbo. "The tooth fairy's gonna give me money when I lose my teeth," she said.

Bilbo arched an eyebrow, and shook his head. What strange notions these young people had! Out loud, he said, "Would you care to accompany me to the kitchen? I do believe that it is very nearly time for elevenses!"

Still smiling broadly, Kaylee hopped down from the bench, her storybook in hand, and arm in arm, the two small people ambled away.

-oo000oo-

As the Company trudged eastward, Joey looked around. Suddenly, he thought of a counting song that he had learned from his friends and sometimes sang with them, especially on long car trips. He grinned, and started singing.

"Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall,

Ninety-nine bottles of beer!

Take one down and pass it around.

Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall!"

Kevin and Jennifer exchanged grins, and Jennifer joined in on the next stanza.

"Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall,

Ninety-eight bottles of beer!

Take one down and pass it around.

Ninety-seven bottles of beer on the wall!"

Now Kevin joined in, and the three of them sang the third stanza together.

"Ninety-seven bottles of beer on the wall,

Ninety-seven bottles of beer!

Take one down and pass it around.

Ninety-six bottles of beer on the wall!"

They were not even halfway through the third stanza when Pippin piped in, in his light tenor (after all, the stanzas were not that hard!), and then, at the beginning of the fourth stanza, the other three hobbits added their voices as well. They had reached as far as:

"Eighty-four bottles of beer on the wall,

Eighty-four bottles of beer!

Take one down and pass it around…"

"All right, all right, that is enough!" Aragorn ordered.

"Yes, sing some other song," Gimli added. Aragorn, Boromir, and Gandalf exchanged amused glances and shook their heads.

With a look of mischief, the hobbits started off singing:

"One hundred apple pies, cooling on the sill;

Snatch one down, to eat our fill.

Pass it around,

No need to fight—

Everybody has a bite!


"Ninety-nine apple pies, cooling on the sill;

Snatch one down, to eat our fill.

Pass it around,

No need to fight—

Everybody has a bite!


"Ninety-eight apple pies…"

Gandalf turned around and glared at them. "Not that one, either." Joey giggled, and Kevin and Jennifer grinned.

Without missing a single beat, Pippin began:

"A hobbit of habit is Nob o' the Lea,

Oh, a hobbit of habit is he, is he!

"First breakfast he has at the rise of the sun,

Two eggs, a sausage and one sticky bun.

He stays at the table until it is done,

And then back to bed is his idea of fun.


"A hobbit of habit is Nob o' the Lea,

Oh, a hobbit of habit is he, is he!


"Second breakfast, to the kitchen again;

Porridge and cream is his happy plan,

Followed by toast and strawberry jam,

An apple or pear and a wee bit of ham."


The other hobbits added their voices in, and the children began to join in the chorus.


"A hobbit of habit is Nob o' the Lea,

Oh, a hobbit of habit is he, is he!


"He takes himself out for a bit of a walk,

But elevenses come at the chime of a clock.

There's no time to stop and no time to talk

When there's bread and butter and beans in the crock.


"A hobbit of habit is Nob o' the Lea,

Oh, a hobbit of habit is he, is he!


"Though he's much work to do, he has a hunch

That naught will be done before time for lunch.

There are mushrooms and leeks and carrots in a bunch,

All of them things that he's eager to munch.


"A hobbit of habit is Nob o' the Lea,

Oh, a hobbit of habit is he, is he!


"He's ready to eat when teatime arrives,

Though fainting with hunger his spirit revives

With scones thickly spread with soft cheese and chives

And tea made with honey from his own beehives.


"A hobbit of habit is Nob o' the Lea,

Oh a hobbit of habit is he, is he!


"Soon supper has come and his hunger is dire;

He's almost certain that he soon will expire—

But there's chicken on the spit and soup on the fire.

It makes him the happiest lad in the Shire.


"A hobbit of habit is Nob o' the Lea,

Oh, a hobbit of habit is he, is he!


"And now that he finally finds he is fed,

He takes himself off to his warm little bed

And laying him down and nodding his head

He dreams of a marvelous, bountiful spread!


"A hobbit of habit is Nob o' the Lea,

Oh, a hobbit of habit is he, is he!"

The song ended, and as they had begun to go uphill, it was getting harder to sing and walk. Instead, Jennifer asked something she had been curious about for a little while.

"Pippin, why is it that when you hobbits sing, it's always you who starts?"

Pippin laughed. "I guess just because I like singing the most."

Merry looked sideways at his cousin. "Don't let my cousin fool you. Among hobbits, he's considered a fine singer, and he also plays several musical instruments."

"In fact," Frodo put in, "just a few years ago, a minstrel from Outside the Shire asked him to become his apprentice. But of course, we couldn't part with our Pip!"

"I'm sure you couldn't." Jennifer smiled. "Kevin plays the guitar, and Joey plays the harmonica. Kevin's guitar was back at the campsite when we came here, but Joey brought his harmonica here."

Pippin glanced over at Joey. "I know I have heard you play it, Joey! One of these days, when we have time, maybe you'll teach me to play that harmonica. Although I don't think I'd be able to find one for myself, unless we could perhaps find a Dwarf who could make one."

Just as Joey was going to reply, he stumbled over a small hole in their path, and would have fallen if Jennifer had not reached out and grabbed him by the elbow. "Whew! That was a close call," she said.

"It is getting much darker, and the path is getting more difficult. Perhaps we should save our breath for walking," Gandalf said from the head of the group, without even turning around to look.

Joey's eyes went wide. "How'd he know what happened?" he hissed in a whisper.

Merry whispered back, "Of course he knew. He's a wizard."

The Company continued on their way in silence for a time, and then Joey grinned up at Kevin and Jennifer. He had suddenly remembered another activity that he, his siblings, and his friends sometimes participated in to pass the time during long car trips. "Beep," he said.

Jennifer grinned back. "Beep."

Kevin laughed. "Beep."

"Beep," Joey repeated.

Merry and Pippin grinned at one another, shrugged and both said at the same time, "Beep."

At the front of the line, Gandalf shook his head, and Aragorn gave a low moan and put his hand over his face.

"Beep," said Frodo.

-oo000oo-

After a few days, the novelty of walking all night and sleeping most of the day, and only occasionally being allowed to have a few small fires that were just barely enough to boil water on, began to wear off. Even Pippin and Joey were having a hard time staying cheerful, and no one had much energy for singing and chatting on the trail, except early in the evening.

"What's wrong with the hobbits?" Joey asked Kevin quietly, one evening. They were five days out from Rivendell, and the first few nights of walking had been accompanied by non-stop hobbit prattle or singing with the children, especially Merry and Pippin. But tonight they had all four been mostly silent, and had clung together more than usual.

"I don't know, Joey," Kevin answered. "But they seem a little down in the dumps, don't they?"

Gandalf overheard the two brothers talking. The Company was taking a short rest before moving on.

"Tomorrow is the first day of Yule." He saw that they did not understand. "According to the Shire calendar, the last day of the old year, and the first day of the new, are called Yule. It is a major holiday for hobbits, and involves gift-giving, feasting, storytelling, and family gatherings. Obviously, they have realized what they are missing."

Joey and Kevin looked at each other. "Pippin told us something about that, before we left," Kevin said. "It sounded like Christmas to us."

"Yeah." Joey nodded agreement. "Only the hobbits celebrate it on New Year's Eve, not Christmas Day."

Jennifer had been listening in, and she nodded in her turn. "In our world, Christmas is called 'Yule' in some countries. We celebrate it on December twenty-fifth in our country, and a lot of other countries do, too, but some countries celebrate it on January sixth."

"In the Northern part of Eriador, the turning of the year is the shortest day of the year, and is called Yule or the Turning of the Year." Aragorn said. "In the Shire calendar, it takes place on the two days between the old year and the new."

Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey stared at him. "There are two days between the old year and the new?" Joey asked, wide-eyed.

"Only in the Shire calendar," Aragorn replied. "They have a very well-organized calendar. But there are many calendars in Middle-earth. The Elves have their own, and the calendar of Gondor is somewhat based on the Elven calendar, but has some differences."

Jennifer thought of trying to explain Christmas, but then realized that doing so might involve talking about things that hadn't occurred or been revealed yet. After all, Jesus hadn't been born yet. If they were not able to return home, they might never have Christmas with their whole family again. Tears sparked in her eyes at the prospect, but she blinked them away, and said aloud, "I sure can understand why they would be so homesick right now."

"Poor lads!" said Gimli, also joining the conversation. All of the hobbits were so young, except the Ring-bearer, and none of them had ever been out of their homeland before. Nothing like missing a major special occasion to bring on homesickness.

Aragorn glanced at Gandalf, and then went over to speak quietly to Legolas and Boromir, who were standing watch over their temporary resting place.

The children and the hobbits were weary and footsore as dawn began to break over the chill bleak landscape. Legolas had scouted ahead, and found a little out of the way spot, nestled between two hills. There was a copse of scrubby trees to one side, and a great rock formation to the other.

Gandalf looked at the site with approval. "I think we may be able to have a fire and a hot meal this evening." This at least drew the hobbits' attention, if it did not seem to cheer them much.

Still the morning meal was the same journeybread and fruit they had been having every morning at the end of the night's walking. Jennifer took the chance to brew her daily cup of dárithil, while Sam was fixing tea for everyone else.

Sam laid out the bedrolls close together, as they had been sleeping together for warmth and comfort since leaving the Shire. Packs were slung down, and Sam and Pippin were getting ready to lie down, when they realized Frodo and Merry seemed to be waiting for something.

Frodo blushed, and reached into his inside jacket pocket, and pulled out a small bag. "When I realized that we'd be on the tramp today, I got these from one of the Elves in the Rivendell kitchen." He poured out into his hand some boiled sweets, each wrapped in a twist of paper. There were twelve of them, and he handed one out to each member of the Company. "I know it's not much, but it's something. Happy Yuletide." He attempted to sound cheerful with the traditional greeting, but it sounded more than a bit forced.

"Thank you, Frodo," said Gandalf gravely, as he popped the treat into his mouth. Everyone else followed suit, except for Sam and Jennifer, who said they would save theirs for later, and Pippin, who just stared at his.

Merry reached into his pack. "I have to confess these are not from me. I don't even know what they are. Bilbo gave them to me just before we left, with instructions to pass them out today." He opened the package, and startled a laugh out of both Frodo and Gandalf when it revealed a stack of pristine white handkerchiefs, twelve of them. He passed them out carefully.

"This was very thoughtful of Bilbo," said Aragorn, a bit bemused, as he stowed his in his pouch.

"It certainly was," said Gimli. "I will have to thank him when we return."

Kevin and Jennifer were quite grateful; they had never had any handkerchiefs of their own, and there was no Kleenex in Middle-earth! Joey grinned at his—it was a neat present, and he remembered Bilbo telling them how much he had missed having handkerchiefs on his own Adventure. He was in such a hurry to meet the Dwarves, he forgot his handkerchiefs! he thought.

Merry placed Pippin's in his hand as he did not make a move to take it. The tweenager looked at it, and burst into tears.

"I didn't even think of bringing something!" he wailed.

Merry moved to hug him, and Frodo used his new handkerchief to wipe the lad's tears. But Sam just stared at his toes, looking every bit as miserable as Pippin, though there were no tears.

Jennifer moved to try and comfort Pippin as well, but Kevin shook his head. "It's probably a family thing, Jen."

The rest of the Fellowship looked on, a bit uncomfortable, and then moved on about the business of settling in for a day's rest, leaving the hobbits to comfort their own. The four finally arranged themselves for rest, but Pippin cried himself to sleep.

It made Joey feel so bad, he wanted to cry, too.

The hobbits awakened in the twilight to a delicious smell. For once, someone had started the cooking without waiting for Sam.

The four of them sat up, blinking owlishly at the fire.

Frodo stood up. "What do we have?" he asked. The other three hobbits were getting up as well.

"Legolas brought down a pair of fine, fat pheasants, with Kevin's help," said Aragorn, turning the birds on the stick that was serving as a spit. "Come sit over here, my friends." He gestured to one of the larger rocks, which had been decorated with a few holly branches.

"Guess what! Jen and I found them!" said Joey, with a big grin on his face.

"Oh!" said Pippin, in a stunned voice.

"Master Sam, I am afraid I have been into your stores. I got a few potatoes for the roasting," said Gimli.

"That's all right, Mr. Gimli," Sam answered, amazed.

"Where is Boromir?" asked Merry, looking about. Then he spotted him near the edge of the light, on watch. He turned briefly and smiled, then returned his gaze outward.

"Boromir contributed this," said Aragorn, holding up a flask. "I think we will water down these spirits, but I do believe the occasion calls for a toast or two."

"Not for us," said Kevin, glancing at his siblings. "We'll make do with tea!" Jennifer nodded agreement, and Joey shrugged.

Pippin gave a little bounce where he sat, and Frodo gave a smile that was genuinely cheerful. The food was soon served out, and for a time concentration was on the meal.

When they had finished eating, Merry moved as if to prepare for the night's travel.

Gandalf put a hand out. "There is no rush, Meriadoc. I do believe we have time for a pipe and a tale before we move on." He lit his own pipe, and blew the shape of a butterfly, followed by a series of rainbow-colored rings.

"Did I ever tell you about the time Bilbo danced on the table at The Prancing Pony?"

Sam sat forward eagerly, and Pippin relaxed into Frodo's embrace. Joey wiggled in eager anticipation, as he sat between his older brother and sister; he leaned into Jennifer's side, and she wrapped her arm around his shoulders.

And a breeze blew a gap in the clouds, so that the stars looked down from a briefly-clear sky; the clouds soon moved back in, but it was enough to see a few of them twinkling down for a moment.

-oo000oo-

The next afternoon, Joey woke up in his bedroll; some noise had awakened him early. He saw that the adults were talking quietly and paying no attention to those who were still sleeping. An idea occurred to him.

Joey carefully unzipped his backpack, pulled out his monster mask, and then crept toward the men, who were sitting near the campfire. A mischievous grin sneaked across his face as he pulled his monster mask down over his head. He had originally intended to use the mask to scare his sisters during their family's camping trip, but he had just decided that this would be more fun.

"Growll!" he said.

Gandalf jolted. Boromir and Aragorn reached for their swords, and Gimli reached for his axe. Legolas, whose sharp Elven ears had overheard Joey's movements, was the only one who didn't react, and neither did the sleeping hobbits or teenagers. But then Aragorn relaxed, taking his hand off his sword's hilt and shaking his head in amusement. Exchanging a glance with Aragorn, Boromir rolled his eyes. Legolas smirked, and Gimli snorted. Gandalf's eyes twinkled fondly.

"I'm a monster!" Joey said in a growly voice, as he approached the adults. He raised his hands above his head, bending his arms and curling his fingers to make his hands look like claws. "Growll, I'm a scary monster!"

"All right, scary monster, it is time that monsters went back to sleep. It is a good two hours until sunset, and you need the rest," Aragorn told him kindly but firmly. Approaching the little boy, he held his hand out. "I shall take that monster mask, Joey." Shrugging, Joey pulled it off his head and handed it to the Ranger. "You left this inside your backpack so that Lord Elrond would not see it, did you not?"

Joey shrugged. "Yes, sir."

"And why did you include it in your pack?"

Joey ran his finger over the mask and grinned. "I was gonna scare my sisters on our camping trip." He curled his hands over his head again again, making a scary face. "Growwll!"

Shaking his head and biting back an amused grin, Aragorn put his hand on Joey's shoulder. "Not tonight, you are not, and not while we are on this journey. This journey is not the best of times for boyish pranks, Joey. I will keep this mask until we reach safe lands again." Reluctantly, Joey nodded acquiescence.

As the Ranger led the little boy back to his bedroll, Gandalf shook his head in amusement, Boromir chuckled, and Legolas and Gimli laughed. "Little boys," Gimli said, with a snort.

"I know," Legolas agreed, an amused expression creasing his face, and then he sighed, his face sobering. "If only mischievous little boys wearing monster masks were the worst threat we shall encounter."

An amused smile crept across Boromir's own face, and then he shook his head, sobering in his turn. "If only these children could remain happily ignorant of the dangers and threats we are going to encounter. Orcs and trolls are only imaginary creatures in their world."

Legolas nodded. "Whereas, here, they are all too real. At least Miss Kaylee is safe in Rivendell."

Gandalf nodded agreement. "As soon as Aragorn returns, you had better get some sleep. The hobbits and the other children are still asleep, and it is time that the rest of you joined them. I will take the first watch."

-oo000oo-

A/N: "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall" is a popular travel song, and is in the public domain.

"One-hundred Apple Pies" and "Nob O' the Lea" were both written by Dreamflower, and appear in several of her stories.

Portions of this chapter were taken from two of Dreamflower's stories, https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8254705/1/A-Mother-s-Work ("A Mother's Work: Belladonna") and https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8787671/1/Yule-in-Hollin.





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