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An Unexpected Adventure  by KathyG

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

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

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

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

Chapter 13: Be Prepared

Joey followed Kevin and Jennifer through the hallway as they made their way to Mr. Bilbo's rooms.  They turned a corner and saw Boromir just entering the door, and heard Bilbo greeting him.  But they weren't close enough yet to hear what he said.  He hoped that Kaylee wasn't still mad at them for going without her, but he knew that Lady Arwen was going to do something special for his little sister tonight.

They soon came to the door themselves, and Kevin knocked on it.

The door opened, and there stood Mr. Bilbo.  He was grinning at them.  "Come in, children, come in!" he said pleasantly.  "You are not the last to arrive—soon we will be joined by Aragorn and Gandalf!"  Joey grinned back.

The spacious rooms were furnished with a combination of furniture meant for both tall and short people.  Joey had been to visit a few times, but he noticed that the furniture had been slightly rearranged.  He spotted Boromir sitting on an overstuffed sofa, with Pippin on an ottoman in front of him.  The two were chatting amiably.

Just then, Merry called out sharply, "Pip!  Stir your stumps and get over here, and help with the refreshments.  And I don't mean by that to sample it for quality!"

Pippin stuck his tongue out at Merry, but laughingly went over to the table where the five hobbits were laying out a lavish spread.

There were breads, sliced meats and cheeses, fruits, several kinds of pastries and cakes, and any number of other tasty items.  It seemed to Joey enough food for thirty, not thirteen.  Of course, the hobbits would probably eat twice as much as everybody else put together.  One of the first things Joey had noticed about hobbits was how much food they could eat!  They can sure eat a whole lot more than can! he thought wryly.

Joey noticed with dismay the cask which Bilbo, with the help of Sam, was preparing to tap.  Lined up in front of it were a number of mugs, six in hobbit size and seven of a regular size.  I wonder what there'll be for kids to drink, he thought.  Surely not beer!  I hate beer!  He made a face at the thought.

It seemed that the same thing had occurred to Jennifer as well.  "Surely we'll have something besides that beer to drink," he heard her whisper to Kevin.

"Of course, we will," Kevin whispered back.  "Mr. Baggins knows we don't drink beer."

Too bad they don't have any Kool-Aid here, Joey thought ruefully.  Or Coke or Sunkist, either!

Sure enough, the children spotted Merry bringing out a teapot with teacups to sit on the table, and then they noticed a silver pitcher with little drops of water on the outside, which was also near the cask.  Merry turned to them and asked them whether they wanted tea or fruit juice.  "The juice is apple and pear," he told them.  Joey shrugged.  Apple or pear juice would be much better choices than that yucky beer.

Only Jennifer took a cup of tea, but both Joey and Kevin picked the juice.  It was quite good, and Joey decided it was just as good or better than Kool-Aid, and at least as good as pop.  Wonder if they sell this juice at Wal-Mart? he silently wondered.

Joey saw Legolas standing back and just watching.  He wondered: did Elves like beer?

But Gimli was kind of standing close to the cask, his eyes alight with anticipation.  Joey made a face.  How can Gimli stand that gross stuff?  He shook his head.

Bilbo laughed at the dwarf.  "All in good time, my dear Gimli.  We must wait for the other guests to arrive."

But just then, there was another rap on the door, and at the same moment, Bilbo, Frodo, and Merry all said, "Get the door, Pippin!"

Pippin raised his eyebrow, but didn't object to them all ordering him around.  Joey knew he would have been quite annoyed if people ordered him around the way the older hobbits were bossing Pippin around.  The young hobbit trotted over and opened the door with a grin.  "Strider!  And Gandalf!  Come in, come in!  Bilbo won't let us touch a thing until everyone is here!"

Aragorn smiled from behind Gandalf and greeted him cheerfully.  Gandalf looked at him with a twinkle in his eye.  "And of course, Peregrin Took, that is more important to you than our company, I am sure!" he said gruffly.

"Of course, Gandalf," he said.  "After all, food's food and beer's beer, and what's more important than that?"  He gave another of his giggles when he said it, and the old wizard just shook his head.

Joey was often a little shocked at how much of a smart-aleck Pippin could be to Gandalf.  He didn't think he'd dare to be like that to the wizard.  But maybe Pippin didn't know that Gandalf was also an angel.  Gandalf probably didn't say anything, since it's supposed to be a secret.

Aragorn came into the room and paused.  "Good evening, Lord Kevin, Lady Jennifer, and Master Joey.  I hope this gathering will not be too boring for you."

Kevin said, "I think we'll be all right.  After all, we all have to get to know each other, since we're going to be travelling together."  He looked over at Jennifer and Joey, and then turned back to Aragorn.

"A very good attitude, Lord Kevin."  He gave a nod and a smile to Jennifer, and ruffled Joey's hair as he passed by, and went to talk to Boromir.

Just then Mr. Bilbo announced that the beer was ready to be served.  Merry took two mugs over to Aragorn and Boromir, and Pippin came over with the pitcher to ask Kevin and Joey if they wanted a refill of their juice.  Jennifer was still sipping her tea.

They overheard Merry telling Aragorn and Boromir, "You should go and serve yourselves some food before Pippin gets a chance at it, and leaves it bare as a field after locusts."

"Oi!" exclaimed Pippin.  "Look who's talking!"  Joey snickered, and Kevin and Jennifer grinned.

Gimli drank his beer quickly, almost in one gulp, and rubbing a rough hand across the foam that flecked his beard, said, "By Durin's beard!  That is a most excellent beer, Master Bilbo!  Where did you come by it?"

"From the cellars here at Rivendell, of course," Bilbo answered.

"Elves made this?"  He sounded incredulous.  "I thought Elves only drank wine!"

Bilbo laughed, and then Legolas said, with the kind of snooty tone of voice he always used with Gimli, "That is a common misconception.  Elves, in general, are far more fond of wine.  But we certainly like beer and ale as well."

"In fact, they are uncommonly good brewers when they choose to be," said Bilbo, "but I must confess that they do not broach the beer casks as often as I would prefer."

Gandalf laughed, and said, "My dear Bilbo, if they broached the beer casks as often as you preferred, you would soon be an avowed tippler!"

"Now, Gandalf, I seem to recall that you are fond of your beer as well as your pipe, so don't take that tone with me!"

"Well," said Pippin, who was at the tap and filling his own mug once more, "I'd say this is even better than the beer at The Golden Perch!"

"I think you're right, Pip," agreed Merry, who waited behind him to refill his mug as well.  "What do you say, Sam?"  He turned to Samwise, who was right behind him.

"I don't know, sir, as I never got the chance to try the beer at The Golden Perch.  But I'd say it's at least as tasty as The Green Dragon, though it's not so brown.  I wonder what sort of hops they use."

Frodo nodded.  "I think that you are right, Sam.  And it would be interesting to learn the kind of hops that Elves use in making their beer."

This led to a discussion of different inns and the excellence or poor quality of their beers and ales, and from there they all started telling stories about getting drunk.  Boromir told of the first time he had taken his brother Faramir out to get drunk, and how they had come home and made a lot of racket, and a guard had helped them to sneak in without waking up their father.

Mischievously, Frodo told of Merry's first time that his cousin became drunk, and had everyone else laughing, but then Boromir asked Pippin about his first such experience.  The young hobbit looked at his toes, and Merry quickly said, "Oh, no one wants to hear that story."  The hobbits looked so solemn at this that Joey wondered what the tale might be, but Merry went on, "How about you, Gimli?"

"Dwarves never get drunk!" he proclaimed.  "Although it would not do, perhaps, to ask my cousin Oín if that is really true."

"It would not do to ask me, either," said Bilbo.  "For I have seen enough Dwarves in their cups to know.  I will confess, however, that it is rare.  Dwarves have a remarkable capacity for drink, and Dwarven ale is a potent brew!"  He looked at Legolas.  "And I know that Elves are not immune to overindulgence either.  I seem to remember a couple of Mirkwood Elves who made themselves rather merry over some wine, and thus allowed me to make away with some of my friends."

Legolas burst out into laughter.  "My father still rails over that from time to time.  But the wine of Dorwinion is remarkably potent, and even by Elves, not meant to be drunk unwatered!"

Joey wondered why they all were so interested in talking about beer and wine, of all things.  He hoped the rest of the party wouldn't be this boring.  Why would anyone like beer, anyway?  It tastes awful!  He scrunched his face.  He had tried it once at a friend's urging, and it had tasted so bitter, almost like cough medicine.  He had never been tempted to try it a second time.  Beer doesn't taste good!  Anyway, it's not right to get drunk.  The Bible says so!  But then, Jesus did turn water into wine.  I'll have to ask Kevin about that sometime.

But Bilbo had noticed how silent the McCloud children were.  "But this is poor manners!  I know that Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey do not partake of beer or spirits!  I am sure that we are boring them all to death!"

"How about a story, Uncle Bilbo?" Frodo asked, giving the children a concerned look.

Joey had noticed that Bilbo was always glad to tell stories about his adventures.  Sure enough, they were all glad to listen to him tell about it, with occasional comments from Gandalf, who had been there, and Gimli, whose father had been.

When the story was finished, the hobbits were still munching on the food, and Joey went to get some more as well.  He was right behind Boromir, and he had his eye on some of those yummy-looking little honey buns.  He'd only had one so far, and would so love another.  Boromir was filling his own plate up.

Pippin grinned up at Boromir.  "We'll make a hobbit of you yet, Boromir."

Boromir chuckled.  "I can think of worse fates."

Joey giggled.  He looked up at Boromir.  "Yes, but just imagine if you had fur on your feet!  You couldn't wear your boots!"

This made both Pippin and Boromir laugh.  "True, but if my feet were hard-soled as theirs are, I would not need them!"  Boromir winked at Joey, who grinned.

Just then there was another tap upon Bilbo's door.  Bilbo himself went to answer this time, as Pippin was busy taking seconds (or was it thirds? Joey wondered) on his plate.

"Welcome, Master Elrond!" the hobbit exclaimed as he threw the door open.  "And welcome, my Lady Arwen, and Miss Kaylee, and...my goodness!  Everyone else as well!"  Bilbo grinned and winked.  "Come in!  Come in!" he said, with a gracious wave of his arm.

"Kaylee!" Jennifer cried out.  "What on earth?"  She exchanged a look with Kevin, who shrugged.

Joey noticed that the newcomers were all carrying bags and bundles and some things that were wrapped in brightly coloured cloth and tied with ribbon.  Presents?  He wondered who they were for.  In addition to Master Elrond, Lady Arwen and Kaylee, he also saw Lord Glorfindel, Eledhwen, Mairen, Erestor, Lindir, and a few other Elves whose names Joey could not recall.

"We come bearing farewell gifts to the Company," Elrond announced.

Bilbo's original guests all looked surprised, although Bilbo himself did not look at all surprised.  He gestured to the table beneath the window that served as his desk, and they noticed that it was unusually tidy; in fact, it was completely bare of the quills and inkstand and the piles of papers that usually made their homes there.  But there was a small box upon it.  Bilbo ushered the new guests over to place their burdens upon the table.

Kaylee had taken Jennifer's hand, and was bouncing up and down.  "Hey, Jennifer, guess what!  I got to help!  Did you know they never heard of wrapping paper here?  But Lady Arwen and me went to pick out some pretty cloth, and I showed her how to wrap stuff.  It's kind of harder without any tape, though."  She grinned, and then in a sing-song voice, said, "I know what you got!  I know what you got!"

Jennifer frowned, but before she could reprimand her little sister, Lady Arwen laughed and said, "Kaylee, hina, you mustn't gloat.  After all, the idea is for them to be surprised."

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

Arwen laughed again.  "Well, why do you not help to give them out?"

Now it was Kaylee's turn to grin.  "Okay!"  She looked over at the table, and picked up something long, that had been completely swathed in fabric and ribbon, and carried it over to her older sister.  Jennifer noticed there were some other lengthy items as well, but this one was the longest.

She took it from her sister and pulled on the bow tied near one end.  The fabric just slid away to the floor, and Jennifer's eyes grew wide.  She gasped, "Is this my stick?" for it was now as smooth as smooth could be, and carved with leaves and vines, and it had a very slight knob at each end.  It was polished, and the wood seemed to almost glow.  Mairen stepped to her side, and retrieved the fabric from the floor, folding it as she stood.

"I am sorry that you missed it, Lady Jennifer.  I took it so that Avorn," and she gave a proud smile to her husband, who was among those Elves who had joined them, "could do the carving this afternoon."

"Oh, thank you!"  Jennifer flew at her and gave her a big hug.  Mairen blushed.  "And you, too, Mr. Avorn!"  She threw her arms around Avorn, who appeared taken aback, but lightly returned her embrace.

I really can use it as a baton now! she thought.  It's just as smooth as a baton! It was always so awkward to use before, since it was so knobby, but now it's just as smooth as I need it to be.  It'll be perfect for practicing with during our walks!  She smiled broadly as she gazed down at it and rubbed her fingers over its now-smooth, polished surface.

Bilbo chuckled.  "I know you have it in mind to use in practicing those moves you showed us, but it will also make a very good walking stick."  He approached Jennifer and ran his fingers over her stick.  "There will be difficult terrain to walk through, and this stick will make it easier for you to get over such ground."

Jennifer nodded, smiling.  "Thanks."

Kaylee now picked up the other four long packages and passed them out to the hobbits.  They, too, had smoothed and polished sticks, though not so elaborately carved, to use as walking sticks on the journey.

After they had examined their gifts and given their thanks, Pippin looked closely at the table.  "Where are the rest of them?" he asked.

Aragorn laughed.  "Boromir and Kevin and I need to be unencumbered by walking sticks—if we need one for a while, we can find something along the way.  And Elves never use them, and Gimli has his own walking stick."

"Now, on with the rest of the gifts," Lady Arwen urged the little girl.

Kaylee handed Joey and each of the hobbits a little tin box.  When Joey opened his, he found inside two tiny fishhooks, two little lead weights, and a length of line.  "Oh, my!  Thanks!" he said, and then furrowed his eyebrows.  "But what about a fishing pole?"

Frodo laughed.  "Growing upon any sturdy willow tree or alder growing on the bank of the water.  Or we can always dangle our lines from our fingers, if need be."

"It's nice," Merry added, "to have one's own pole, but every hobbit knows how to fish without one. We can show you."

"Uh, Aragorn…"  Joey looked up at the Ranger.  "Can I use my knife to cut branches for fishing poles?  I don't have a pocket-knife."

"Not while we have an Elf with us." He grinned at Legolas.

"I can just ask the tree to grant us a limb," the Elf said.  "We do not cut living wood."

The children looked at him, astonished.  Ask the trees?!

Jennifer gaped at Legolas.  "You can actually ask a tree to do things?"

"Whoa!" Joey added, his mouth wide open.  "Can trees talk back to you, too?"

A mysterious smile was Legolas' only answer.

Now Kaylee handed a package to Kevin.  It contained a hunting knife, suitable for skinning animals, in a sturdy sheath.  It had a hook on the back so that he could attach it next to the scabbard for his sword.  Afterward, there was another item, a large cloth bag. Elrond handed it to Kevin.  "In truth, it is for all of you children."

Kevin opened the bag, and drew out a sturdy leather case of red.  It had a wavy golden, eight-pointed star embossed on the front. He looked puzzled.

"I believe that your Holy Book should fit within it and be protected against the trials of travel.  It was originally made for the history of Elder Days, which is in our library here. That book no longer needs to travel.  This case was made with words of protection and blessings upon it."

"Thank you," Kevin said with a grateful smile.  He had realized, after they had finished having their things gone through before repacking, that the Elf lord was truly concerned about the fact that items which were irreplaceable could be lost or damaged on the trip.  That was the main reason the children had been asked to leave some things behind.

More gifts were passed out to all of the members of the Fellowship.  A small bag containing a flintstone and a bit of tinder was given to each of them.  They also received a tin of the mixture the Elves used on their teeth, mostly salt and some herbs—Jennifer sniffed hers, and it smelled minty.  It would make a good substitute for toothpaste when their own ran out.  Sam was given a little box of salt; Pippin and Merry were both gifted with bags for foraging.

Frodo was quite surprised, when he opened the long cloth-wrapped bundle presented to him, to discover the very scabbard Bilbo had given him with Sting earlier that morning.  But now, instead of the leather being shabby and dull, it gleamed like new; the embossing had been embellished with colour, and the iron buckle had been polished.  He was taken aback.  "I left this in my room after luncheon this afternoon. How?"

Elrond smiled.  "I knew that Bilbo planned to gift it to you, so I retrieved it to let our armourer clean and polish it, so that it would once again be worthy of so honourable a blade as Sting!"

"Thank you," Frodo said with a grateful smile.

"If you had let me know in time," said Bilbo, "I could have let you take it to fix it up ahead of time."

Elrond raised an eyebrow and looked down at his small friend.  "And, Mr. Baggins," he said with mock sternness, "I would have gladly done so if you had let me know sooner than breakfast this morning."  Everyone laughed at that, including Bilbo.

Afterward, everyone also received a whetstone, and a special cloth for using to sharpen their knives and other weapons.

Jennifer bit her lower lip as she looked down at her little brother's growing pile of what she thought of as "grown-up" gifts.  "Uh, Master Elrond, I don't know if it'd be safe for Joey to have a flintstone or whetstone.  Or tinder!  Shouldn't one of the grown-ups keep those for him?"

Joey was about to protest when Aragorn's hand fell on his shoulder.  "Lady Jennifer, I understand that you want to protect your little brother, but you are objecting to all the wrong things.  Joey will be a part of the Company, and he needs to be able to do his share.  He may be needed to help start a fire, and he certainly will need to learn how to take care of his knife.  I shall teach him how myself.  Besides, at his age, he should already know how to do those things."

Frodo nodded.  "Young hobbits learn to safely work around a fire, and to use and care for knives, when they are barely out of faunthood."

Kevin put an arm on Jennifer's shoulder.  "We aren't at home where kids are well-protected from a lot of dangerous things, and don't have to fend for themselves.  Remember your history, Jen.  Kids used to learn and do all sorts of grown-up things."

Jennifer subsided.  She was only trying to do what her mother would do, but after all, her mom had never had to be in a place like this.

"If our mom was here, she'd be reacting the same way," Kevin explained to Aragorn.  "She wants to keep us safe.  She doesn't even like it that Dad has taught me to handle a gun, even though I'm fifteen now."

"Mothers are like that," was Aragorn's reply.

But the subject was soon changed by the last of the gifts: new leggings, breeches, and tunics for everyone, and new stockings for everyone except the hobbits.

Jennifer held up the beautiful new stockings, knit in elaborate designs.  They were so fine and soft—she had never seen even the most expensive store-bought ones that felt as soft and comfortable as these did.  I would love to take these home!  They are going to feel so good on my feet.

There was still one small package left, wrapped in blue fabric and tied with a white ribbon.

"I don't remember that one," said Kaylee, looking puzzled.

With a smile, Lady Arwen picked it up and held it out to the little girl.  "That is because this is for you, my young helper."

Kaylee took it and looked up with a broad smile that showed all of her front baby teeth.  Then she pulled on the ribbon and took off the cloth.  Inside was a little leather pouch, more like an envelope than anything else.  She opened it; inside were some needles, a tiny silver thimble, and a little pair of silver scissors.  "Oh!  My very own sewing kit!  Thank you!"  She bounced on her heels.  "Will you show me how to use it?"

"Of course, I will," Arwen replied.  Kaylee rushed over to give the Elf a hug.  Arwen smiled and hugged her back.

Jennifer smiled at the kit.  "That thimble sure is pretty, and so are the scissors," she said, picking the thimble up.  She examined it for a long moment and then, setting it down, looked at Arwen.  "Is that real silver, or is it just silver-plate?"  The room went quiet, and all of the hobbits stared at her, aghast.

Jennifer frowned, distress in her eyes.  "Uh, did I say something wrong?  Sorry, I'm still not familiar with all the rules of etiquette here."

"Yeah, some of our customs are different where we come from," Kevin added.

Bilbo said, "Miss Jennifer, I do not know how it is where you come from, but it is considered very rude to comment on the value of a gift."

Hanging her head, Jennifer bit her lower lip.  "I'm sorry.  I really didn't mean to be rude.  I was just worried about Kaylee maybe losing it or something.  We usually don't give really valuable things to children."  She shook her head.  "I can't seem to say anything right tonight.  I'm sorry," she said in a small voice, staring down at the floor, her shoulders slumped.

This time it was Elrond who spoke.  "Think nothing more of it, Lady Jennifer; we know you did not mean to offend."  Approaching the young girl, he laid a hand on her shoulder, and she raised her head and looked up at him gratefully.

Scanning the room, Elrond added, "It has been a long day.  I think that perhaps it's time for everyone to seek their rest.  Tomorrow is an important day, and I would not have you fretting before you set off in the evening.  You need to be fully rested."

-oo000oo-

The next morning, Jennifer awakened to hear Joey and Kaylee already awake and talking quietly in the other room.

"I'll miss you, Joey," Kaylee said plaintively.  "I wish I could go, too.  I'll be all by myself."

"Don't worry, kitten," Joey said.  "You won't be all by yourself!  Lucy'll be here, too, and you'll have all those Elves to keep you busy!  And we'll be okay.  I guess it can't take too long to go do what has to be done.  And we've got plenty of grown-ups to look after us.  Aragorn's gonna be our guardian while we're gone."

Jennifer stepped into the room.  "Joey's right, sweetie," she said.  "It's all going to work out, you'll see.  It's not going to be fun, unfortunately; you wouldn't enjoy yourself if you went."  Then she said more briskly, "Now, then, let's get ready for breakfast!  We've got almost everything done ahead of time, so we can relax today.  Walking all night, and in cold weather, no less, will be really different to what we are used to, Joey!"  She hugged Joey against her side.  "Better have your warm coat ready this evening; you're going to need it.  We're all going to have to bundle up tonight."

Just then, Mairen came in with Eledhwen to help Joey and Kaylee get dressed, and Jennifer turned to go back into her little room and also get dressed.  By the time she was finished, her younger siblings were also ready for the new day.  Kevin tapped at the door, and they all headed down to the dining hall together.

That morning, the entire Fellowship and Kaylee sat together at one table.  They were joined by Lady Arwen, who sat by Aragorn, and Bilbo, who was sitting between Frodo and Sam, and across from Merry and Pippin.  Kaylee claimed a spot between Arwen and Jennifer.  They took their time eating; the sideboard was laden with everything, as usual.  Gradually, most of the company finished and went on to take care of other things, until only the hobbits and the children were still eating.  Jennifer and Kaylee were just nibbling on a few things and Jennifer was sipping her tea, but Kevin and Joey seemed to be keeping up with the hobbits.

Finally, Pippin was the only one left with food, and he was more playing with it than eating it.  He gave a satisfied sigh.  "Well, that was an excellent second breakfast," he said, "but I think maybe it's time to have a little stroll and work up an appetite for elevenses."

The other hobbits all nodded seriously.  The McCloud children all looked at one another and rolled their eyes.  By this time, they were used to the hobbits' eating habits.  "Well," said Kevin, "I don't think I'll want any elevenses anytime soon.  But a stroll sounds good."

After Jennifer picked up Lucy, they headed outdoors.  The weather in Rivendell was brisk, but not as cold as the children were used to for that time of year, and the sky was clear and blue.  They wandered through the gardens, which had shed its finery for winter.  Joey and Kaylee ran, played with Lucy, and chased one another for a while, and then, joined by Pippin, climbed up an obliging elm.

"What day is it?" Joey finally asked.  "I know we leave tonight; that's not what I'm asking.  I just want to know what day it is.  I don't even know what month it is!"

Pippin said, "I don't know how the Elves reckon it, but it is the twenty-fifth of Foreyule by Shire Reckoning.  That's the last month of the year."

Kaylee wiggled and kicked her legs in excitement.  "It's Christmas!" she squealed.  "It's Christmas Day!"

"Yeah, but don't expect Santa Claus to find us here," Joey told her.  "Besides, we've already had our presents."

"Oh," said Pippin.  "You must mean Yule.  It sounds like you have it earlier in your land than we do here."

Kevin had overheard the exchange.  "It does sound similar," he said.  "I guess customs are different here.  Yeah, we do celebrate it on Foreyule twenty-fifth, as you call it here.  Where we come from, we call this month December, so Christmas Day is on December twenty-fifth.  It's a week before New Year's Day."  He looked up in the tree and gave Kaylee and Joey a look, to remind them that there were things that might be too hard to explain.  The two younger children subsided at his look.  Not far from him, Jennifer was tossing sticks for Lucy, who scampered after them to pick them up and bring them back to her.

After a while, Pippin, Kaylee, and Joey came down from the tree, as Bilbo reminded the other hobbits that it was time to come to his quarters for elevenses.  He politely invited the children to join them, but Kevin just as politely declined.  "We are still full from breakfast," he said.  "There's no way we can keep up with hobbit meals!"  Bilbo chuckled.

Joey wanted to go down to the stables and see the horses, and say good-bye to the grooms and the armourer who had been so nice to them while they were learning to ride and to fight.  Kaylee also wanted to pet Bill and say good-bye to the sweet-natured pony.  And so, while Joey carried Lucy, the four children hurried down to the stables to make their final visits and goodbyes.

After their visit to the stables, Kaylee was tired, and it was nearly time for lunch.  All the walking had given them an appetite, and they were glad to head back.  Kevin picked up Kaylee to carry her, not minding it, since he knew it would be the last time for a long time that he would have a chance to do so.  Jennifer picked up Lucy, and the puppy licked her neck as she carried her toward the house.  After a moment, Kevin looked over at her.  "Uh, Jen…" he said.

She gave a sigh and put Lucy down.  She looked at the puppy and said, "Heel."  Lucy thumped her tail and followed immediately.  Jennifer knew it was better for the little spaniel, but it was nice to carry her, too.  Lucy walked with them into the building and toward the dining room, wagging her tail.

The hobbits were not in the dining room.  It seemed they were having their last lunch in Bilbo's room as well.  They didn't see anyone else from the Fellowship except Gimli, who was sitting with his father Glóin and some other Dwarves, who looked as though they were nearly finished.  One of the servants picked up Lucy, to take her down to the kitchen for her own meal.

The children contented themselves with bowls of delicious vegetable soup and fresh hot bread, and goblets of fruit juice.  "Yummy, yummy!"  Smiling broadly, Kaylee smacked her lips and took another swallow of her fruit juice.

Jennifer took up Kaylee's napkin and wiped the little girl's lips, where drops of juice were.  Kaylee was about to protest when they all four looked up to see the Lady Arwen approach.  "Good afternoon.  My father asked me to remind you that you will need to get some sleep this afternoon, for you shall have none tonight."

"A nap!" Joey protested, scowling.  Kaylee looked just as upset.

Kevin put his hand on Joey's arm; still scowling, the little boy subsided.  "Thank you, Lady Arwen," Kevin said.  While he wasn't keen on a nap himself, he knew it was probably good sense.  Lucy came scampering toward them, wagging her tail.

"Does Lucy have to take a nap, too?"  Kaylee pouted.  Jennifer looked at her sternly, and her little sister tried to look less cross, without much success.

They stood up, and Lady Arwen took the two younger children by the hand.  "What if we go up to your room, and you lie down, and I will tell you a story, and perhaps sing to you?"  They brightened at the thought.

Kevin went into his room and shut his door.  He didn't anticipate being able to sleep much, but he thought he could at least try to rest.

In Joey and Kaylee's room, Jennifer got on top of Kaylee's bed and cuddled up next to her little sister.  Lucy jumped up at the foot of Joey's bed, and no one scolded her to get down.  Arwen sat down in a chair next to Joey's bed, and began to speak softly in her fair voice.

"Once there was an Elven maiden named Lúthien, the fairest of all the Elves.  She was the daughter of Thingol, the King of Doriath, and of Melian his Queen…"

She continued to tell of the meeting of Lúthien and Beren, and her voice was so soft and musical that Joey did not even mind that it was dreaded "lovey-dovey" stuff.  As he listened, he seemed to slip into a dream of a star-lit sky, and he could hear Arwen singing as he slept.

"A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!

silivren penna míriel

o menel aglar elenath,

Gilthoniel, A!  Elbereth!

We still remember, we who dwell

In this far land beneath the trees

The starlight on the Western Seas."

-oo000oo-

It was late evening when they were wakened to take one last meal in Rivendell.

-oo000oo-

Portions of the scene of Bilbo's party are adapted from Dreamflower's story, https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8751901/1/A-Convivial-Evening, "A Convivial Evening".

A/N: The "Hymn to Elbereth" by J.R.R. Tolkien is first found in FotR, Chapter III: "Three's Company".

Note: Because two of the chapters were accidentally posted as one, I have taken the liberty of dividing that one chapter in two and posting them accordingly.  Therefore, what was originally Chapter 12 in its entirety is now Chapters 12 and 13, and the chapters that follow have been renumbered.  K.G.





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