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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 24: Two Worlds

Gail woke to the pealing of a large bell and turned to see Steve still snoring beside her.  She started to wake him, but changed her mind and slipped off the bed, padding over to the old-fashioned washstand.  She carefully poured some of the water into the basin.  Next to the basin were two folded white cloths, and on a bar attached to the end were two folded white towels.  They gave every appearance of being made from real linen!  She wondered, would they be as absorbent and comfortable to use as terry cloth?

But she was pleasantly surprised to find that though they felt quite different, they worked quite well.  A small bar of pale green soap lay in a little dish next to the basin—it smelled of rosemary and mint.  The water, of course, was cold. But she washed up and then looked up at the mirror hanging above the washstand.  I need to get my brush out of my backpack! she thought.  It’s a good thing we took our backpacks with us when we left the campsite, or we wouldn’t have what we need right now!  We need our toiletries, and I need certain other things.  Thank goodness we have them.  She looked at the now-soapy water in the basin, and realized she'd need to empty it, so that Steve could have clean water to wash with as well.

Her dilemma was solved when she noticed that the pretty copper container that she had taken for a wastebasket was actually a bucket!  She poured the water from the basin to the bucket, and then turned to find her husband quietly watching her, his hands behind his head on the pillow.

"You look beautiful," he said.

She gave a skeptical sniff.  "My hair's a mess, and I just washed off all my make-up!  But thank you anyway."  She smiled.  "Sometimes I don't know if you are just biased, or maybe you need glasses."

Steve chuckled.  "You are always beautiful, and you don't need make-up to make you that way."  He grinned; it was a familiar bit of banter.

Gail laughed, but then looked thoughtful.  "All these Elves are really beautiful!"

Steve shook his head.  "They are, every last one of them, drop-dead gorgeous, the men and the women.  It's unnatural, or maybe it's just natural to Elves.  But none of them have your beauty."  

This time she looked thoughtful.  "It does seem strange.  I haven't seen anyone who doesn't look like a model.  And everyone seems to be the same age!  I haven’t seen any old elves here, so far, or any child elves either.  But then, Lady Arwen did say that there haven’t been any children here in over seventy years, or elf children in over two thousand, seven hundred years."  She shook her head.  “I would have never thought that elves could have children!  Of course, I never expected elves to exist for real, or to be even taller than humans.”

Steve nodded.  "I know what you mean.  And yes, Lady Arwen did say that.  Mr. Baggins was quite elderly, but apparently, he's not a kind of Elf.  He said he was a hobbit, whatever that is."

Gail puckered her brow.  "I know I've heard that word before," she said.  Suddenly, she froze.  “I remember!  There's a book called The Hobbit!  An Englishman named J.R.R. Tolkien wrote it decades ago.  I’ve never read it, but I’ve heard of it.”  She shook her head in bewilderment.  “But it’s a fantasy novel, I’m told.”

"You're right," said Steve.  He furrowed his brow.  "I remember now.  And years ago, there were those movies about something—wasn't it that Lord of the Rings movie that won all those awards?  Three movies, in fact; they came out soon after the turn of the millennium.  They were about hobbits and Elves, too!"

Gail nodded.  “Yes.  That’s another book he wrote—a sequel to the first, I think.  And yes, someone made it into a series of movies.  I’ve never read that book either, or seen the movies except for occasional ads on TV, and that was years ago.  And now, they’re in the process of making The Hobbit into a set of movies as well, I’m told.”

Steve shook his head.  "What have we gotten ourselves into here, Gail?  And our children…"  But what else he would have said was interrupted by the arrival of Eledhwen and Thalion to help them dress.

-oo000oo-

Getting dressed by someone else had not been quite so traumatic as they had expected.  It turned out that the door the two of them had taken for a closet actually led into a separate dressing room, containing two wardrobes and a full-length mirror.  Eledhwen took Gail in there to dress her, while Thalion helped Steve to dress in the bedroom. 

Gail admired her reflection.  Eledhwen had dressed her hair; since it was shoulder-length anyway, it hung down no shorter than before, but two thin braids hung down the side of her face with jeweled beads threaded through them.  And the dress did look lovely, although she was not sure how she'd manage not to trip herself, as the hem dragged the floor.  She asked Eledhwen.

The Elf-woman laughed.  "When you walk, gently kick the skirts forward as you step.  And lift them in front whenever you walk down steps or stairs."

When Gail came back into the bedroom, Steve's jaw dropped.  He swallowed hard, and then said, "I think that dress really suits you, honey."

She blushed again, and then studied him in his outfit.  "Well, I think you look like a fairy-tale prince in your clothes."

Then both of them blushed, as they realized that the two Elves were watching them in amusement.  Steve cleared his throat.  “Come on.  We’d better go get Kaylee and Megan.”

In the hallway, they found their daughters waiting with Mairen.  Gail noticed that Kaylee's and Megan’s dresses were indeed very similar, although the sleeves were not quite as long, and the hems came down only to the tops of their ankles.  Kaylee's dress was rose-colored, and Megan's was pale blue.

The family followed the Elves down to the dining hall, which at night had a very different appearance.  It was lit by candles and torches on the walls.  A long table was at the head of the room, set upon a dais.  The other long tables were still there, but all of the tables were covered with creamy linen tablecloths, and they had candles in silver candlesticks set upon them.  

To their surprise, Eledhwen and Mairen told Steve and Gail that they would be sitting at the High Table with Master Elrond and Lady Arwen, while the children would be sitting at one of the other tables.  Gail was not happy about it, but since Kaylee didn't seem to mind, and Megan seemed happy enough to go with her "big sister", she decided not to make a scene.  Steve squeezed Gail’s hand, letting her know that he felt the same way she did.

Mairen smiled kindly at Gail.  “You will be reunited with your daughters when the feast is over.”  With a wan smile, Gail nodded.

Thalion led them to the dais.  "You will wait to be seated until the Master and Lady Arwen arrive.  You, Mr. McCloud, will sit next to Lady Arwen, and you, Mrs. McCloud, will be sitting next to Master Elrond.”  Gail noticed that all the chairs were along one side of the table, all facing into the room and looking down at the other tables.

Gail looked at Steve, who shrugged.  “Apparently, it's similar to the kind of seating arrangements they have at royal banquets in our world,” he said in a low voice.

Gail smiled wryly.  “So it would appear.”

"Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. McCloud," a voice addressed them at about waist-height.  It was the hobbit.

“Good evening, Mr. Baggins."  Steve smiled down at Bilbo.

"We are glad to see you," said Gail.

"And I, you.  You do realize," the elderly hobbit said, "that you have thrown our Elves into confusion by your insistence on Shire forms of address.  Young Kevin and Jennifer have been ‘lorded’ and ladied’ ever since they arrived here."

"Oh?  Have they, now?" Steve asked, raising his eyebrows.

"Indeed, they did tell us there were no lords and ladies in your land, but I think they felt uncomfortable with correcting the adults.  In any case, the titles persisted, and I do not think the young ones felt up to disputing them.  Of course, since Joey and Kaylee were so much younger, the Shire forms were allowed for them.  They have been addressed as Master Joey and Miss Kaylee."

"I see.”  Steve nodded.  “Now, then, you said, 'Shire forms'?  What does that mean?"  He exchanged a puzzled look with Gail.

"Just that in my own land, the Shire, we also have no lords, although the Thain's wife is, of courtesy, titled, 'Lady'.  But it's not much used even then, save upon especially solemn occasions."

Steve and Gail exchanged a glance.  “I see.  Very interesting, Mr. Baggins,” Steve said thoughtfully.

“But you do have last names,” Gail said.  “As we do.”

"This is true," replied the hobbit.  "The same customs of address are also used in the neighboring land of Bree.  But elsewhere in the lands I know of, such customs are unknown."

Just then, Gail noticed a number of other Elves milling about.  There was the one named Glorfindel, who, she was startled to see, really did seem to glow slightly in the candlelight.  Bilbo began to point out others.  "There is Master Erestor, Master Elrond's councillor and steward.  There is Lindir, the minstrel, and his wife, Amarië, and over there is Mistress Narviel, the chief blacksmith, and her husband the chief groom, Curubor, who gives Miss Kaylee riding lessons.  Eledhwen, along with Mairen, will be sitting with your daughters tonight, but she is Lady Arwen's senior handmaiden.  However, she and her husband, Avorn—"  He pointed to a dark-haired Elf.  “—the chief woodwright, usually sit at the High Table.  Master Elrond's sons, Elladan and Elrohir, have just recently left on a journey, but they, too, usually sit up here."

Steve had been following Bilbo's identifications, making note of the names and faces of each person as Bilbo pointed them out, for he was quite observant.  He put an arm around Gail, who was simply confused.  He knew it would take his wife a little longer to remember all those names.  “I know, hon,” he said in a low voice.  “It’s going to take time to remember everybody’s names here.”

Gail bit her lower lip.  “It certainly will for me, since I don’t have your memory for names.”

However, at that moment, Master Elrond entered, his daughter on his arm.  Lady Arwen was looking especially radiant in a dark blue gown.  They took their seats in the two center chairs at the table.  For the first time, Steve noticed that the two chairs were ever so slightly larger and more ornate than the others.  Like a subtle pair of thrones, he thought.  Lady Arwen sat by her father's right hand, next to Steve’s assigned chair.

Their host gave a signal with his upraised hand, and people began to find their places.  Bilbo escorted Gail to her place at Master Elrond's side, while Steve remembered to take his seat next to Lady Arwen.  She gave him a radiant smile.  "Welcome, Mr. McCloud," she said.  Steve realized that Eledhwen must have spread the word about their preferred form of address, since everyone had been using it since they came down.

Steve smiled.  “Thank you.”

Lord Glorfindel was on Steve's other side.  He turned towards Steve and said, "How are you finding Rivendell so far, Mr. McCloud?"

Steve sat silently for a moment, thinking.  "To be honest, it is rather stunning.  Places like this don't exist where we live.  Much of the style seem to be a bit reminiscent of past ages in our world, but, well, better, and just a little different.  And I have to say, I've never experienced this sort of hospitality anywhere before.  You took our children in, and then you took us in—even gave us clothes!"

Glorfindel nodded.  "The Last Homely House is famous for its hospitality.  For many lives of Men, Master Elrond has welcomed folk of all races to his home, and his generosity is legendary."

"What do you mean, 'lives of Men'?” Steve asked, furrowing his brow in puzzlement.

Arwen had turned from speaking to one of the servants, giving orders for the food to be brought out.  She said, "The lives of Men are fleeting, seventy or eighty years for most, and even the longest-lived Men, the Dúnedain, seldom live longer than two centuries in these days.  Hobbits seem to average about a century or a little more.  Dwarves, unless slain in battle, often live to two and a half centuries.  Elves however, are tied to Arda.  Unless they be slain in battle or fade from grief, they will live until the end of the world."

“Arda?”  Steve raised his eyebrows, obviously puzzled.  “Sorry, I’m afraid I’ve never heard of the place.”

"Arda is the name of our world; Middle-earth or Ennor is what we call the part of the world East of the Sundering Sea," Glorfindel answered.

"Oh."  Steve had so many questions now that he couldn't sort out what he wanted to ask next.  And it seemed that he was going to have to take his time to find out what he most wanted to know: why his older children had decided to go on the perilous journey he and Gail had been told of.  If this was indeed God’s will, then he and Gail would have to accept it, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t try to look out for the children now that they were here, too.  No matter how hospitable Rivendell was, he had no intention of staying here patiently, waiting for them to return.  He was going to find them, and if he knew Gail, she felt the same way.  They might need to stay a while to get their bearings and make preparations for travel, but they would be going after Kevin and Jennifer and Joey; his main concern about that, however, was Kaylee and Megan.  He and Gail would have to decide whether to take them along or leave them behind.

Out loud, Steve said, "I see I have a lot to learn."  Leaning forward to glance at Gail, who seemed to be listening intently to Master Elrond, he added, “My wife and I both do.”  I need to talk this over with Gail after supper, he thought.

They were interrupted by a servant bearing soup.  It smelled wonderful, and for a while the conversation flagged.

-oo000oo-

On the other side of Master Elrond, Gail had been having her own conversation.  Her host had been telling her some of the things her children had been learning.  She tried to keep the appalled expression off her face.  While it was all very well for Kaylee to learn how to ride a pony, to sew, and to garden, it was quite another to learn that Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey were learning how to fight with swords and knives, and how to make fire, and to engage in other such dangerous activities.  Kevin and Jennifer, she could understand, since they were in their teens, but Joey was far too young.  And come to that, she still wasn't that keen on Kevin sword-fighting.  After all, she still wasn’t completely happy about her husband teaching Kevin to handle a gun; he was only a boy, still.  She breathed in and out slowly, nodding her head in the right places, and trying to be tactful.  Wait until she told Steve!

When Master Elrond turned to speak to his daughter for a moment, her attention was caught by Bilbo, who asked her, "Are you settling in well here in Rivendell?"

"They could not have been nicer," she said.  "I can hardly believe they even gave us these clothes!"

"It's very homely here," Bilbo agreed.  Gail had already realized that “homely” here did not mean “slightly ugly” as it did at home, but was more the old-fashioned meaning of "homelike".  Although this place was certainly not anything like her own home, it did have a homelike coziness and comfort about it.

"I have not seen any other hobbits here.  Are you the only one?"

"I am.  I have lived here for seventeen years, ever since I decided to retire from my duties in the Shire—that is the homeland of my birth, and the home of most hobbits, save for some few in Bree, a small land slightly east of the Shire."

Gail nodded.  “You mentioned something about the Shire, whatever it is, and its customs before we started eating.  But why here?"  Why on earth would he want to leave his home and his people, permanently?

Bilbo grinned.  "Some seventy-odd years ago in my youth, there was a small matter of thirteen Dwarves, a wizard, and a dragon in the lands to the East of here.  The wizard came to my home, Bag End, and asked me to go with them; I was fifty years old then.”

Gail’s mouth had dropped open as Bilbo had spoken.  “What?” she gasped, when he had finished talking.  Wizards?  Dragons?  How can that be? she wondered.  First elves and hobbits, now wizards and dragons!  What kind of place is this, anyway?  Has God really dropped us into a fantasy land of some kind?

Bilbo smiled.  “While I was traveling with them, we passed through here, and I struck up an acquaintance with Master Elrond.  On my return journey, he invited me to come and visit here someday.  When I was eleventy-one, I decided to take him up on it, and here I still am.”

Eleventy-one? Gail silently wondered, as her mouth hung open.  He must mean one hundred and eleven!  But he doesn’t look that old!

A wistful expression crossed Bilbo’s elderly face.  “I do miss the Shire sometimes, and my kin.  But at least I recently had a visit from three of my younger cousins, and a friend of theirs."  The expression on his face became guarded.  "Oh!  Look! The food has arrived!"

Gail shook her head violently and tried to turn her attention to the delicious-smelling bowl of soup that one of the servants placed before her.  But her mind kept circling around the astonishing information she had just learned.

What other fantasy creatures are we going to meet here?  

Once the food began to arrive, Bilbo's conversation seemed to dwell on the food they were being served.  Gail lost track of the many courses, which seemed to be combinations of the ordinary and the exotic.  She soon found she should only have a little at a time, since more food kept coming.  She was astonished to see Bilbo take full-sized servings of everything, and keep on eating more.  She wondered where the little fellow put it all.  Are your legs hollow, Mr. Baggins? she thought wryly, at one point.

She was quite relieved when the last course, a beautiful cake, was served.  She was sorry she could only eat a couple of bites, since it was sublime.  It was a rich fruitcake, loaded with fruits and nuts, and covered in marzipan.  Unlike the usual fruitcakes she'd had at home, this one was moist, and though dense and rich, it was not heavy.  She wondered what the secrets of its baking might be.

I’ll have to get their recipe before we return home.  This would be a great cake to have at Christmas.

After that, Master Elrond rose, and made a small speech of welcome to her and Steve.  She blushed, for she hadn't expected such a thing, but she was quite proud when Steve rose up and began to thank Master Elrond and everyone there for their gracious hospitality.

Their host gave a nod, and offering his arm to his daughter, they left the room, and people began to rise and get ready to depart.  She had scarcely rejoined her husband when a small blur barrelled into her legs.  It was Kaylee.  "Mommy!  Daddy!  Come on!  It's time for the Hall of Fire!"  She bounced in anticipation.

Eledhwen, carrying Megan, and accompanied by Mairen, joined them.  The Elf-maid gave Kaylee a stern look.  "Miss Kaylee!  What are you forgetting?"

Kaylee immediately stood still, hanging her head.  "I'm sorry," she said in a small voice.  She looked back at her parents.  "Mommy and Daddy, may we please go to the Hall of Fire now?  It's very nice," at first sounding quite grown-up, but then she bounced a little more just on her tiptoes as she spoke, giving her parents a puppy-eyed look.  “Please, please, please?  Pretty please?”

Gail was torn between astonishment at how quickly Kaylee had simmered down and annoyance at another person scolding her child, no matter how gently it was done.  She tried to remind herself that Eledhwen had been basically Kaylee's nanny for five whole months, and it was only to instill behavior that Gail herself had been trying to teach her five-year-old.  She glanced at Steve, who gave a nod while biting back an amused smile.  "Very well, Kaylee, we'll go see this 'Hall of Fire', whatever it is.”

An elf servant approached them, leading Lucy.  She handed the leash to Gail, who took it, looking surprised as Lucy, who was still wearing a collar, calmly sat down next to her.  Goodness gracious, Gail thought, even our puppy has learned a few things here!  Steve took Megan from Eledhwen, and Kaylee took her puppy's leash and eagerly led the way to the Hall of Fire, with Lucy trotting next to Kaylee.

-oo000oo-

As Steve and Gail sat on a bench, listening to the Elvish music, Gail smiled at the pictures that the songs kept forming in her head, even though she couldn’t understand a word of them.  Kaylee and Megan sat on the cushions on the floor in front of their parents.  The flames in the fire pit blazed cheerily.  Lucy lay with her head on her paws, her tail curled on the ground, facing the singing Elf.

“Look,” Steve finally said, nudging Gail, and then pointed at the children.  Looking down at Kaylee and Megan, Gail chuckled.  Both of them were now curled up on the big cushions, with their eyes closed and their mouths parted open.

“I do believe they’ve fallen asleep,” Gail said, rising to her feet.  She picked up Megan; her husband stood up and lifted Kaylee in his arms.

“They may wake up as we get them ready for bed,” she said in a low voice, as she accompanied Steve out of the Hall of Fire, followed by Mairen.  Lucy scampered alongside Steve.  “Kaylee’ll be wanting a bedtime story if she does.”

Steve nodded.  “Yes, she will, and then it’ll be time for their bedtime prayers.”

Sure enough, Kaylee did wake up as her mother was in the process of pulling her Elven dress up over her head.  Within a few minutes, she and Megan were wearing their Elvish nightgowns, and Kaylee was holding her Baby Alive doll in the crook of her arm.

“Would you read me a story?  Please?” she begged her mother.  “Mr. Baggins can’t read to me.  He can’t read English, only Westron and Elvish.  Lady Arwen and Eledhwren and Mairen can’t, either.”  Gail thought that odd, since he seemed to speak English perfectly well, but she put the thought aside for the time-being, chalking it up to just one more oddity of this extremely odd place.  She firmly turned her attention to her daughter.

Gail laughed.  “Certainly.  Which story would you like me to read to you?”

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

Gail smiled.  “Jennifer was reading it to you when we went to the campsite.”

Kaylee nodded.  “She finished it.  But I want to hear it again!”

Gail found the book lying on the table across the room and brought it to the bed.  As she slid onto the bed next to Kaylee, Steve tucked Megan under her covers on the other bed.  Gail opened the book to the beginning of the first chapter.  Clearing her throat, Gail began to read to her daughter.

“‘Chapter 1: The Cyclone.  Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.  Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles.  There were four walls, a roof and a floor, which made one room; and this room contained a rusty-looking cooking stove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four chairs, and the beds.  Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little bed in another corner…’”





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