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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 21: Reflection

Haldir introduced them to the two new Elves, Thorchon and Lassiel.  Like most of the Elves whom the  Company had met in Lothlórien so far, they were fair-haired.  Thorchon was not quite so tall as Haldir, and he was clad in grey.  Lassiel's long, blonde hair was pulled to the back in a loose plait, and fell nearly to her knees; her long gown was pale green.

"I will leave you with them for now.  I must go and make my report."  Haldir gripped Aragorn's forearm briefly, and gave the rest of them a nod, before he left.

It turned out that the two Elves were to escort them to a place where they could bathe, and then would show them to where they would be staying.  Lassiel led Jennifer away from the rest, which made Kevin somewhat nervous, but of course his sister couldn't take a bath with all of the guys.  He knew she would welcome a bath as much as he would.  All they'd been able to do, throughout their whole journey so far, was to just wash themselves in cold water.  He hoped these Elves had hot water as in Rivendell, but he wasn't sure, since they lived in trees.  With the rest of the group, Kevin followed Thorchon back part of the way they had come.  Then he led them to one side down a path marked on one side by white stones.  Soon they came to a small clearing hedged about by small trees and bushes.  Inside was a pond, but it was clear and clean and giving off steam.  There was a bubbling in the center, indicating that it was a hot spring.

There was a carved wooden bench nearby, piled with folded white linen.  Kevin and the other males quickly disrobed.  Since he played sports, he was used to stripping down in the locker room, and he wasn't embarrassed since he knew no one else would look at him; the others were too busy getting ready for their own baths to take any notice of him.  He helped Joey get undressed.  His little brother was slightly embarrassed, but he knew Joey would get used to it.  "Hey, guy," he said, "it's okay.  No one will look; the others are all going too busy cleaning themselves to pay any attention to us.”  He nodded toward their companions.  “Besides, won't a hot bath feel good?"

Joey nodded, his face still red.  But he lost his embarrassment once he got into the water, which was the perfect temperature.  Kevin watched Joey's blushes subside, and then took a bar of soft creamy soap from a basket on the bank of the pond and tossed it to his little brother, and then he handed Joey one of the smaller linen cloths.  "Be sure to wash behind your ears and the back of your neck," he said, exaggerating his bossy tone.

Joey laughed.  "Yes, Mommy," he said mockingly.

Laughing, Kevin picked up a bar of soap.  Sure now that his brother was comfortable, he exchanged a wink with Pippin, who was taking his own bath nearby, and turned his attention to his own bathing.  It felt seriously good to not be dirty anymore!   

-oo000oo-

“Where am I gonna bathe?” Jennifer asked Lassiel, as the female elf led her away from her companions.

“There is a pond not far from the one where your brothers will bathe.”  Lassiel stepped aside and gestured toward the clearing ahead of them.

Jennifer stepped forward.  The clearing was hedged with tall bushes, and in the center was a shallow pond.  The water was clear, and it was giving off steam, as Jennifer noticed.  She smiled.  At least the water would not be cold.  There must be a hot spring underneath, she thought.  In that instant, she noticed bubbles rising to the surface of the water in the middle.  There is a hot spring!  She smiled.  At least I won’t have to take a cold bath!

Close to the edge of the pond was a carved wooden bench.  Some pieces of white linen were folded on it and stacked in a short pile.  It was clear to Jennifer that they were meant to be washcloths and towels.  A basket filled with bars of soap rested on the bank of the pond, and a narrow jar stood next to it.  “No one will come in here while you are bathing, Lady Jennifer,” Lassiel told her.  “So you are free to undress and step into the water.”  She nodded toward the basket.  “The bars of soap are for your use, and the jar contains a liquid soap for your hair.”

Jennifer smiled.  “Thanks.  The—the water’s not too hot, is it?”

Lassiel shook her head.  “It is near to hot, but it will not burn you.”

Jennifer smiled again, in relief.  “Thanks.  Don’t think I want any first- or second-degree burns on my body tonight.”

Lassiel smiled at her, and then she turned to leave.  As soon as she was out of sight, Jennifer removed her clothes and laid them on the end of the bench.  Picking up a bar of soft, creamy soap, she entered the water and began to wash herself.  Lassiel was right; the water was comfortably hot, but not hot enough to burn her.  When she had finished washing her body, she picked up the jar and tipped it over her head to lather her hair with the liquid soap.  Once she had finished washing her hair, she ducked below the water to rinse the soap out of it, rubbing her fingers through her hair in the process, and then she stepped out of the pond to dry herself.  She smiled broadly.  It feels so good to be clean once more!

-oo000oo-

All of them, including Jennifer, were bathed and clean and dressed in clean clothing brought to them by the two attending Elves, who returned just as they were finished with their baths, and then they were taken back to the path where they had separated, and Thorchon and Lassiel led them to a beautiful pavilion at the foot of one of the mallorn trees, near the fountain.  Soft couches had been placed there, and on a low round table were trays with sweet bread, fruit, cheese, and cold meat, and pitchers of clear, cold water.  There were also plates and cups for them to use.  Bidding them a peaceful night in their musical voices, Thorchon and Lessiel left them.  Joey and the hobbits took full advantage of the food, but the others only ate a little bit, and then they found places to bed down, as soon as they had supped.  For a while, they chatted about the day, about Lothlórien, and the Lord and Lady.  It was too disheartening to think back any further than that.

“What did you blush for, Sam?” said Pippin.  “You soon broke down.  Anyone would have thought you had a guilty conscience.  I hope it was nothing worse than a wicked plot to steal one of my blankets.”

“I never thought no such thing,” answered Sam, in no mood for jest.  “If you want to know, I felt as if I hadn’t got nothing on, and I didn’t like it.  She seemed to be looking inside me and asking what I would do if she gave me the chance of flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole with—with a bit of garden of my own.”

“That’s funny,” said Merry.  “Almost exactly what I felt myself, only, only well, I don’t think I’ll say any more,” he ended lamely.

It seemed like they all had the same ordeal: they all had been offered something each really wanted if they would only decide to just give up and go back, and leave the others to deal with Sauron and his Ring.

“And it seemed to me, too,” said Gimli, “that my choice would remain secret and known only to myself.”

Kevin shook his head, bewildered.  “The same thing happened to me,” he said softly.  “I thought I was just being tempted, and I did what I had been taught, to resist it.  Was it really Galadriel?”

Aragorn nodded.  “It appears that it was, Kevin.  What was it that she offered you?”

Kevin bit his lower lip as he looked back on that moment.  “Well, uh,” he said slowly, “I got to thinking: what if we had never entered the cave?  What if we could go back in time and just completely forget Middle-earth, erase it from our memories?  We’d be safe with our mom and dad, and we’d be free from danger.”  He shook his head.  “But then I realized we could not do that.  We can’t leave you guys in the lurch like that—most of all, Frodo.  It’s God’s will that we take part in this quest, and we know He’s not gonna let us go back until it’s over.”  He looked at Jennifer, who nodded agreement.  “Soon as I prayed for deliverance from that temptation, it disappeared.  And—it’s hard to describe—”  Furrowing his eyebrows, he tried to think of the words that would explain what had happened.  “—it felt like a pressure on my mind also disappeared, a pressure I hadn’t even known was there, till it was gone.”

Jennifer grimaced as she stepped through the curtain that partially covered her couch in one corner of the pavilion, giving her privacy.  Holding it open and turning back to face the others, she said, “The Lady Galadriel can’t turn back time, and powerful as she is, I don’t think even she can open up that portal so we can go back through it.”

Kevin nodded.  “I agree.  I don’t think she can, either.  Can she, Aragorn?” 

The Ranger shook his head.  "Nay, she is powerful, one of the Noldor from the First Age, and she once dwelt in Aman, in the light of the Two Trees.  But that power is not in her.  She was merely testing your mettle, Kevin."

Jennifer bit her lower lip.  “Funny thing is, the same thing happened to me.  And I did what you did, Kevin, when you fought it.”  She turned to Joey.  “What about you, Joey?  Did she offer you anything?”

“Just a chance to be back with Mom and Dad.”  Joey shrugged.  “But I can’t go back without you two.  And Kaylee.  And Lucy.  And I said that in my mind.”

Boromir frowned.  “To me it seemed exceedingly strange.  Maybe it was only a test, as you said, Aragorn, and she thought to read our thoughts for her own good purpose; but almost I should have said that she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have the power to give.  It need not be said that I refused to listen.  The Men of Minas Tirith are true to their word.”  But what he thought that the Lady had offered him Boromir did not tell.

And as for Frodo, he would not speak, though Boromir pressed him with questions.  “She held you long in her gaze, Ring-bearer,” he said.

“Yes,” said Frodo; “but whatever came into my mind then I will keep there.”

“Well, have a care!” said Boromir.  “I do not feel too sure of this Elvish lady and her purposes.”

“Speak no evil of the Lady Galadriel!” said Aragorn sternly.  “You know not what you say.  There is in her and in this land no evil, unless a man bring it hither himself.  Then let him beware!  But tonight I shall sleep without fear for the first time since I left Rivendell.  And may I sleep deep, and forget for a while my grief!  I am weary in body and in heart.”

He cast himself down upon his couch and fell at once into a long sleep.  Jennifer disappeared behind the curtain, and Joey and Kevin lay down on their couches next to each other.  The others soon did the same, and no sound or dream disturbed their slumber. 

-oo000oo-

The next morning, the members of the Company wakened refreshed, though still sad and grieving.  They had slept scattered about the pavilion, with Jennifer just a little further off than the others, in the partially curtained-off corner—the most privacy she'd had since she had left Rivendell.  The morning was sunny and bright with the sunlight on the clearing, and the glittering fountain made a soothing sound.

Some Elves had brought them breakfast: delicious-smelling fresh bread, fruits, and cheese, and a hot drink smelling of herbs.  The hobbits immediately took over serving their friends as they had been doing on the journey.

"What will we be doing today, Strider?" Pippin asked, as they sat around eating their breakfast.

"We will be here for some days, Pippin.  There will be scouts sent out to check the borders, and to see if the orcs are still following us or waiting upon us to leave.  I am quite sure we will find things to occupy ourselves with as we rest.  I do believe this will be a good chance for weapons practice and learning some skills that will do us some good when we leave here."

Legolas spoke up.  "Haldir has offered to give those of you who wish it archery lessons.  Kevin, you have told me that neither you nor your siblings can shoot, at least not with a bow.  I know that Pippin and Merry know how to shoot, and that Pippin is quite skilled.  Frodo, do you shoot?  Sam?"

Frodo smiled.  "Not really.  I tried it out a few times when visiting my Took kin, but I am a very poor shot."

Sam shook his head.  "I've never had no reason to shoot a bow, but I'm not half-bad with a sling or even a thrown rock.  A bow and arrows'd be just one more thing to have to keep track of on the walk, when we leave."

Merry and Pippin exchanged a look.  "Sam's got a point there.  I think we'd better stick to learning how to fight with our blades," said Merry.

Pippin nodded.  "Much as it would be nice to have a bow I could use, I think it would be too much to ask for these Elves to make us special bows.  You can't tell me they've got bows our size sitting around here."

Legolas laughed.  "You are quite right, though I do not think a bowyer of the Galadhrim would object to making bows your size.  Still, it is probably the right decision.  You and Merry need to concentrate on your blade work.”

The group finished eating, and while Boromir took Merry, Pippin, Kevin, and Joey aside to work with their swords, Legolas drew Jennifer over to where the two of them could spar with the long knives of the Elves.

"Um, Legolas?” Jennifer asked hesitantly.  “I'd kind of like to learn archery, too.  With the knives, an enemy has to get awful close for me to use them."  She made a wry face, but she was serious.

"Very well; we shall see about getting you a bow by tomorrow.  Meanwhile, we shall continue with the knives."  Jennifer nodded.

Aragorn and Gimli both decided to help Boromir with his pupils.  Aragorn took Kevin aside, and Gimli worked with Merry.  Boromir concentrated on Pippin and Joey.  The two youngest fighters had a great fear of hurting their sparring partner that kept both of them holding back too much.

Boromir knelt down in front of the two.  "Pippin, Joey, I know that you do not wish to injure one another, and I will do my best to see that neither of you comes to grievous harm.  But you must expect small cuts and nicks and bruises as a part of your training."

After that, they did work out much harder.  Pippin did end up with bruised and scraped knuckles from a blow with the flat of Joey's blade, and Joey had a little cut on his left forearm that frightened Pippin far more than it hurt Joey.  Still, Pippin held onto his blade, and did not fling it aside as he had on one occasion, when he had drawn blood while sparring with Boromir.  Kevin, who had removed some Band-Aids and the bottle of antiseptic from his first-aid kit and put them in his leather pouch after breakfast that morning, stopped his own sparring long enough to tend Joey’s cut and Pippin’s scraped knuckles; afterward, they all resumed practicing.

All the while, Legolas was helping Jennifer to increase her speed in fighting with Elvish knives.  The Elf was impressed with her dexterity in handling the blades (perhaps, he thought, it was helped by that walking stick she had constantly twirled), but she needed to be much faster in drawing the blades from their sheaths at her boot tops.

When Jennifer and Legolas stopped to catch their breaths, Legolas patted her shoulder.  “You need to work on your speed in drawing your blades from their sheaths,” he told her.   “We will work on that as soon as we are ready to continue.  However, I am quite impressed with your dexterity, Lady Jennifer, in handling your knives.”

Jennifer laughed.  “Thanks.  Years of baton-twirling have certainly paid off!”  She smiled broadly.  Legolas laughed and nodded agreement.

The group practiced and sparred until the hobbits got hungry, and they all took a break.  The hobbits and Joey nibbled at some of the leftover food the Elves had brought earlier, and the others just rested and took the chance to drink some water.  The water was delicious and cold, coming from the sparkling streamlet that ran through the clearing where their pavilion was located.   

-oo000oo-

They lost track of the days in Lothlórien, so far as they could tell.  Each day was sunny and fair, except for a few showers of brief light rain.  It never lasted long, but the air always felt cleaner and fresher afterwards.  It seemed like it was spring, rather than the dead of winter, although it was as quiet and tranquil as winter days often were.  It seemed to them that they did little but eat and drink and rest and walk among the trees, as well as continue their weapons training, and it was enough.

There was time for the Company to heal from any hurts they had during the journey, to rest, and to come to terms with their grief for the loss of Gandalf.  They also had the chance to explore Lothlórien, sometimes together and sometimes alone.

Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey returned to memorizing Bible verses every day as they had done back in Rivendell, and they spent some time on a daily basis studying Kevin’s Bible, praying together, and singing hymns, gospel songs, and praise songs.  Every morning, Kevin spent some time asking God to tell them what verses to memorize, and he always received guidance which he then passed onto his brother and sister.  In addition to their daily lessons with their swords and knives, Aragorn gave Kevin and Jennifer daily lessons in tracking, and he and Legolas also gave them daily instruction in archery.  When Joey wasn’t engaged in weapons practice or in practicing his Scripture memory work, he played his harmonica, and he played with the hobbits and with his older brother and sister, or by himself.

Pippin often accompanied Jennifer in her walks, chattering about his home and the Shire.  He was always careful to help her when she ascended the stairs into the flets, and when the hobbits served the group their meals, he would always serve her first.  An embarrassing thought had begun to occur to her.  Did Pippin like her?  Well, of course he did, but…as more than a friend?  She did not know much about hobbits and whether they'd like a person who wasn't a hobbit in that way.  But she did know that according to the way that hobbits reckoned ages, he was closer to her in age than the others.  Of course, she thought of him as a very good friend, but, well, he wasn't what she'd always thought would be her "type".  She could not even imagine being romantic with him; she wasn’t the least bit interested in having him for a boyfriend.  But how else could she explain the way he tended to be around her so much?  She really needed some advice, and she certainly couldn't ask Kevin!  She liked Pippin very much, but not in a romantic way.  Somehow, she was going to have to let him down gently if he did like her that way, but first, she needed someone to talk to.

One morning, she slept late, and when she woke up, she did not see Pippin nearby.  She looked about the clearing.  Aragorn and Gimli were sharpening their weapons—something they did a lot, she'd noticed.  Legolas wasn't there either.  Boromir seemed to be still asleep.  Frodo and Merry were by the fire, and they looked over and saw her.

"Lady Jennifer!" said Frodo.  "Would you like to have some tea?"  He held up the teakettle, which had been by the fire.  "And Sam's gone off to fetch us a bite for second breakfast.  I'm sure there will be enough for your first as well!"

Nodding, Jennifer joined them.  "Where’s Pippin?" she asked, as she scanned the clearing in search of the young hobbit.

Frodo cocked his head.  "You don't hear?  I suppose our hearing is sharper.  He and Legolas are down by the stream.  Legolas is teaching Pip to play those shepherd's pipes he made for him out of the reeds.  And Joey’s there with them, joining in with his harmonica.  You need not worry; Legolas is keeping an eye on him."

"Oh."  She knew Pippin liked music, as he'd often spoken of missing his fiddle.  Sometimes Joey played his harmonica for the others, but none of them had learned to play it.  "Um…"  She tried to think of how to approach this question to Pippin's cousins.  "Uh…"  She blushed.

"What's wrong, Lady Jennifer?" asked Merry.

"Uh, you two probably know Pippin better than anyone."  She hung her head and asked quickly, "DoyouthinkPippinlikesme?"

Frodo looked astonished.  "Of course, he does!  Has he done something to make you think he's angry with you?"

But Merry chuckled.  "That's not what she meant, Frodo."  He turned to look at Jennifer sympathetically.  "I'm sorry, Jennifer, but I am certain Pippin doesn't think of you that way.  He is fond of you, I'm sure, but like a sister."

Now Jennifer went even redder.  Merry thought she liked Pippin!  "But why does he stay with me so much?  And he's always trying to protect me, even though, well…"  Now she was flustered for a different reason, because the truth was, Pippin did protect her, and there was no "even though he was half her size" about it, but she couldn't say any more about that to his cousins.

Frodo smiled gently at her.  "He pays you those attentions because you are like a sister to him.  Has he told you of his sisters?"

"Yes," she said.  "They’re all older than him, and he tells me about all the pranks he pulls on them.  He said they are named Pearl, Pimpernel, and Pervinca."  Jennifer thought them very odd names, except for "Pearl".

"Well," said Merry, "he would tell you of the pranks he pulls.  But even though they are older, he has always been aware that he's their brother, and he feels very protective of them.  Once, when a lad who was much older than Pippin was paying Vinca unwelcome attentions, Pippin interrupted and told the fellow that he should leave his sister alone, or he'd smack him on the nose.  Pip was barely into his tweens at the time, and he embarrassed the chap so much that he simply turned tail and left.  Of course, he knew what I'd do if he messed with Pippin!"

"Oh," said Jennifer, relieved.

Frodo nodded.  "I know that he misses his family very much, Lady Jennifer.  You help him to feel less homesick."

"Don't feel badly," said Merry, patting her on the arm.  "You are simply not his type.  You are much too thin, and frankly, Pippin is fond of furry ankles on a lass."

Now Jennifer turned red for another reason—she was trying hard not to laugh.  "Thank you so much for helping to clear that up," she managed to say, once she was sure she would not giggle.  “I like him very much, but not that way.  I would hate to have to hurt his feelings.  You won't tell Pippin I asked about this, will you?”

Frodo shook his head.  "Of course, we won't."  He looked at Merry.  It was clear they did not quite believe her denial, but they did not refute her.  Still Merry smirked, and Frodo shook his head with a quiet smile.  How embarrassing.

Merry grinned.  "Certainly not!  He'd get such a swelled head!"  Jennifer and Frodo laughed.

Jennifer shook her head, amused.  “I really don’t.  Pippin’s a sweet boy, and I’m fond of him, but he's not my type, either,” she said.  “There’s a boy I like back home, a couple of years older than me, and I’d date him if he asked me out.”  She paused.  “If Mom and Daddy would let me, that is.  They won’t let me start dating yet.  Not till I’m fifteen.”

Merry grinned.  "I see."  Jennifer realised she might have convinced Frodo, but Merry had his own ideas, and she might as well drop the subject.  But at least she had her answer, and that was the important thing.

And just then, Sam returned with a tray that held a large bowl of frumenty and bread and fruit.  Jennifer had never had frumenty before she came to Middle-earth, but now she had grown quite fond of it.  Wish I could get their recipe to take home to Mom, she thought.  I’ll have to look it up on the Internet when we get back home.  Maybe Mom could make it with ground beef for supper, sometime.  She suddenly was quite hungry!   

-oo000oo-

One morning soon afterward, the whole company went to the large clearing where the Elves had their archery butts, as Joey learned the place with the targets were called.  He had snickered the first time he heard that, but Jennifer had given him a light smack in the back of his head.  "Don't be vulgar, Joseph!" she had whispered.  Joey still thought it was funny, but he didn't laugh at it anymore.

For some days, Kevin and Jennifer had been learning to shoot, but there was no bow the right size for Joey.  And so, while Kevin and Jennifer practiced their archery, the hobbits had finally decided to teach Joey another self-defense skill; they were going to give him his first lesson that morning.  They took him to the other side of the clearing.  He noticed that Sam was carrying a rather heavy sack, but then he was surprised to see the hobbit dumping out a bunch of rocks!

"What are those for, Sam?" Joey asked curiously.

"Throwing," said Sam.  "Are you good at throwing, Master Joey?"

"I guess," he said.  "I play Little League; I'm a pitcher on my team."  Joey's coach seemed to think he was pretty good, but that he still had more to learn.  He added, “Little League’s baseball for kids.”

"Show us," said Merry.

Joey looked through the pile of rocks, and chose one that was mostly round and smooth, but was about the size of a baseball, though it was heavier.  He slipped into a pitching stance.

"Aim at the target," said Sam.  "It's meant for arrows, so you can't hit it from here, but throw as if you could."

Joey nodded and looked straight ahead.  He pretended that someone was on second base about halfway there, wound up, and threw.  The rock flew down the way he'd aimed, but to his dismay, it fell to the ground long before it reached the halfway mark.  "It was too heavy, I guess."

"If you are used to throwing balls," said Merry, "rocks are quite a bit heavier."  Merry picked one of the stones up and tossed it in his palm a few times, and then, without winding up or anything, he let it fly.  It was fast, and went far past where Joey's rock had landed, although still far short of the target.  "You also have to have good aim and speed."  He gave a look at Frodo and picked up two rocks, handing one to his older cousin.

Frodo gave Merry a nod and took several steps back.  Without further warning, Merry launched his rock up into the air, almost, but not quite, straight up.  In less than an eyeblink, Frodo threw his rock.  It hit the one Merry had thrown, and both rocks were smashed to bits.

"Wow!" exclaimed Joey.  He stared, eyes wide open and jaw dropping, at the bits of smashed stone on the ground.

"Now, just throwing won't go as far as an arrow," said Pippin.  "What you need is a sling.  Sam, show him yours.  The rest of us lost ours in the barrow on our way to Bree, before we got to Rivendell.  Sam's was in his pack on Bill, so he still has his."

Sam reached into his pocket.  Joey was expecting what he'd always thought of as a slingshot—a Y-shaped handle with a stretchy band to shoot with.  But the item Sam brought out was a sort of oval-shaped piece of leather that had long thongs attached to each end.  One of the thongs had a loop at the end; the other did not.  Joey was puzzled; it did look sort of familiar.  Sam grabbed up a stone from the pile and placed it in the center of the leather, with the looped end around three fingers of his right hand and the other cord held loosely in the other fingers.  Then, holding it by the cords, he began to spin it very fast around his head.

Suddenly, he let go of one end.  The stone zipped through the air and smashed the archery target right in the middle!

Now Joey realized why it looked familiar: "David and Goliath!" he yelled.  It was just like the pictures of David and Goliath he had seen in Bible stories.  It was a sling just like David had used!

The hobbits all looked at him puzzled.  "It's from a Bible story.  There was a boy in the Bible named David.  His people, the Israelites, were being attacked by the Philistines.  Their leader was a giant named Goliath.  David used a sling and a stone to kill him!"

He stared once more at the target.  "I wish I could do that!"

"Well, Joey," said Frodo, "that's just what Sam is going to teach you."  He reached in his pocket and pulled out another sling, this one rather new-looking.  "We got Legolas to beg a bit of leather from the other Elves, and Sam made this for you."

"Thank you!" Joey said, his eyes shining.  He took it and examined it carefully, and then looked up at Sam.

Sam carefully showed him how to choose a proper stone, fit it into the leather, and how to hold the cords.  "Now, remember, Master Joey, when you twirl it 'round your head, you have to do it really fast, so as the stone don't fall out."

Joey nodded and held it up, and he began to swing it faster and faster.  Suddenly, he let go.

"NO!" shouted the hobbits.  Instead of going towards the target, it went flying off to the side, where the archery lessons were going on.

"LOOK OUT!" yelled Frodo.

In the instant they had yelled, Legolas leapt forward and knocked Jennifer and Kevin to the ground and Aragorn and Boromir jerked backwards, as the stone went sailing past.  It very likely would have hit Kevin in the head if Legolas had not moved so quickly.

Joey was pale, and he dropped the sling to the ground.  Everyone was staring at him in silence.  He took a deep breath and shuddered.  His hands trembled.

After a few seconds, Sam spoke up.  "Well, Master Joey, I see as how we need to work somewhat on your aim."

Joey took another deep breath, shuddering a second time.  “No kidding!”  Silently, he added, It’s sure not like pitching a baseball!  He shook his head.   

-oo000oo-

After that, Sam gave Joey daily lessons in using a sling, being careful to make sure that no one else was around except the other hobbits during Joey’s lessons.  Gradually, the little boy’s skill improved, until the day finally came when he could hit the assigned target with his rock.  When Aragorn was not giving the older two children lessons in tracking, and when Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey were not receiving weapons-training, they spent much of their time exploring the surrounding forest and playing with one another, as well as with the younger hobbits.  Frequently, Jennifer and Kevin wandered around with her digital camera and his tablet, taking a few pictures of their surroundings and of the elves that they saw.  They had to save the batteries and memory on their devices, and often they'd delete the ones that just didn't seem to capture the beauty around them, but they were able to save a few of the pictures to show their parents.  Sometimes, Joey played his harmonica for the others, and Pippin played his new shepherd’s pipes that Legolas had made for him.  Soon, the young hobbit began to give Joey lessons in playing his shepherd’s pipes, and the little boy practiced diligently.

The Company had not seen the Lord and Lady again since their first night in Lothlorien, and they couldn't really talk to most of the Elves, since very few of them knew Westron.  Haldir had bidden them farewell and gone back again to the fences of the North, where they had increased their guard since learning of what had happened in Moria.  Legolas was away much among the Galadhrim, though he returned to eat and talk with them.  He often took Gimli with him when he went abroad in the land, and the others wondered at this change.  Kevin and Jennifer hoped this meant that Legolas and Gimli were becoming friends.

The remaining Fellowship finally found themselves beginning to be able to talk about Gandalf and how much they missed him.  Kevin and Jennifer began to realize that everyone in the group, except for themselves and Joey, had already known the wizard long before the journey began.  Yet they missed him a lot; they had felt so safe with him, since they knew he was an angel.  The two of them wondered if he had returned to Heaven to be with God (or IIúvatar, as Gandalf had called him) and the other angels.  It would have been good for him to regain his memories and powers, they knew.  But they missed him just the same.

“Mithrandir, Mithrandir,” sang the Elves.  “O Pilgrim Grey!"  as they loved to call him.  But if Legolas was with the Company, he would not interpret the songs for them, saying, “I have not the heart to tell you.  For me, the grief is still too near."





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