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An Unexpected Adventure  by KathyG

Summary: In the spring of 2012, four American children find themselves thrust into an unfamiliar 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.

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 Ringsbelongs 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 27: I See the Light

Gail had feared that she would be at loose ends hanging around with Steve down at the training grounds for most of the day, of course, but she really was still uncertain of the daily schedule in Rivendell, and she still did not quite know her way around the maze of corridors that made up the Last Homely House.

She needn’t have worried, though.  Kaylee already had their day planned.  Right after breakfast, her daughter began pulling on Gail’s hand.

“Mommy!  I want you and Megan to come to my lessons with me!”

“Your lessons?”  Gail had not thought the Elves would want to bother with entertaining her daughter now that Kaylee’s parents were on the scene.

“Yes, Mommy!  Lady Arwen said I could, and you could come, too, and Megan could have lessons, too, if she wants, and I want to finish my new nighty and show you what I made!”

“I wanna less’n like Kaylee!” Megan crowed.

Gail had to laugh.  With Megan on her hip and Kaylee pulling her along by her other hand, she allowed herself to be led along through the wide and sunny passages.

As they walked, Kaylee gave a running commentary on the day’s activities.  “We’re going to the solar—that’s what Lady Arwen calls her sunroom.  After lunch, you can come to the paddock and see me ride, and then Mr. Baggins is going to let me make scones!  Those are really yummy.”

“Scones, huh?” Gail asked, still trying to wrap her brain around all the things her little girl was learning.  It would never occur to her to allow a five-year-old to use a sharp needle, or to cook on a hot stove, much less in a hot fireplace!

They had reached the solar, as Kaylee had called it.  Kaylee pushed open the door and entered the room with her mother and little sister in tow.  Gail saw the Lady sitting in a carved chair beneath one of the wide windows; there were several other Elf women in the room, all busy with various types of needlework.  Kaylee dropped her mother’s hand and turned to the Lady of the House, and made, to her mother’s astonishment, a graceful curtsy.

“Good morning, Lady Arwen.  I came for my lesson today,” she said in a dignified manner.  Then she grinned and darted up to Arwen’s side.  “Hey, guess what!  Mommy and Megan came, too,” she added in a much more excited tone, bouncing on her heels.  “Can I show Mommy what I did?  Can Megan have a lesson, too?”

Arwen laughed, and placed a calming hand on Kaylee’s shoulder.  “I think that we can do all that and more, tithen nin.  Why do you not go ask Mairen for your workbasket?  Eledhwen.”  She gestured, and that maiden turned and came to her side.  “Perhaps Megan would like to learn to weave?”

“Yes, my Lady.”  She smiled at Megan and took her hand, leading the three-and-a-half-year-old over to a shelf filled with various supplies.

Kaylee had gone across the room to ask for the aforementioned workbasket, and now her hostess nodded at Gail and gestured to another chair near her own.  “Please, be seated, Mrs. McCloud.  And welcome to my chambers.  I am pleased that you and your younger daughter have accompanied Kaylee.”

Gail smiled.  “Thank you, Lady Arwen.  Please call me Gail.”  She sat down, amazed at the comfort of the solid wood chair.

“Very well...Gail.  And please, call me Arwen.”

Just then, Kaylee darted over, a large basket on her arm.  “Look, Mommy!”  She put the basket on the arm of her mother’s chair, and opened it.  “Look what Lady Arwen gave me!”

Gail admired the little sewing kit that was right on top as her daughter removed it and handed it to her. She was astonished that the thimble and scissors appeared to be made of real silver.  “Well, sweetheart, this is a very pretty sewing kit,” she told the little girl.

Then Kaylee pulled out what appeared to be three dishcloths.  Each had an embroidered border: one of red stars, one of green leaves, and one of blue flowers.  Kaylee smiled broadly.  “I made another with yellow flowers, but I gave it to Mr. Baggins!  And I made a pouch for my friend, Halbarad, with a silver star.  But I gave that to him before he went away.”  She tiptoed up and whispered, “He said I could sew better than his granddaughter!”

Chuckling, Gail examined the stitches.  They were very well done.  She smiled at her daughter.  “Don’t tell your daddy, but I think you sew better than I do, at least by hand.  Maybe when we get home, you can learn to use a sewing machine, too.  I’ll see if I can find one at Wal-Mart that’s made for beginners.”

She blinked.  She couldn’t believe she was actually thinking of letting a five-year-old use a sewing machine!  But she was beginning to re-think a lot of things.

Kaylee dug something else out of the basket, a larger project, apparently.  The fabric was much softer and finer than the dishcloths.  “This is gonna be my new nightie, Mommy!”  She handed it to her mother.  “I just have to finish the neck and the hem and the...the...?”  Kaylee glanced over at Arwen.

“The cuffs, Kaylee, dear,” Arwen replied serenely, with a small smile.  ”I think you might get the neck and cuffs finished today.  Do you already have your binding cut out?”

The child dug down into the basket again, and came up with some strips of the same cloth, which had been folded in half lengthwise.  “Yes, my lady,” she answered.

The Lady gave her a brighter smile, and patted a large footstool that was beside her chair.  Kaylee gathered her nightie from her mother, who had been examining it, and her basket from the arm of her mother’s chair, and went to sit upon the stool and took from the basket the small sewing kit.  Carefully and with patience, she threaded her needle as Gail watched with mingled pride and astonishment.

Arwen bent over her little pupil, and showed her how to hold the binding in place with her fingers, as it was to be sewn on.  Gail noticed that there was no pinning involved, and wondered—but of course, pins were something that, at home, were mass-produced.  Having a bunch of pins would probably not be practical here.  When they returned home, she would have to teach Kaylee how to use sewing pins.

Kaylee was soon engrossed in her stitching, her little tongue poking out slightly in concentration, and as soon as Arwen realized the child was intent on her task, she sat up to see Gail watching closely.

“You seem surprised, Gail.”

Gail shook her head incredulously.  “It just never occurred to me that a child of Kaylee’s age could learn to do a task that takes such patience and fine-motor control.”

“You might be surprised at what young children can learn, when given the chance,” Arwen replied with a knowing smile.

“Mommy!” Megan shouted.  “Lookee!”

Gail turned and rose to go ever to the other side of the room where Megan sat on Eledhwen’s lap.  “I can weave!”  Grinning from ear to ear, her daughter held up a small square loom threaded with blue yarn in one hand; in the other was a small shuttle of yellow yarn.  “See!  I go ovah, undah.  Miss El’wen show me.”  Megan demonstrated for her mother.

“That’s wonderful, sweetie!  Good job!”  Gail looked at Eledhwen gratefully.  “Thank you very much for your patience.”

Eledhwen nodded, smiling.  “It is no trouble.  It is a delight to have little ones to teach once again.”

Returning to her chair, Gail sat back down.  “Have you taught children in the past, then?” she asked Eledhwen.

“Yes, there were many children in lost Doriath, where once I was nursemaid to my Lady’s grandmother Elwing, and for a brief time, I cared for my Lord Elrond and his brother Elros ere they were made hostage by the sons of Fëanor at the fall of Sirion.”

Gail stared at her, gobsmacked.  “Oh.  I see,” she said lamely, and glanced at Arwen, who was trying to hide a smile.

“She is somewhat older than she appears.  She was also nursemaid to my brothers, but when I was small, she was away from Rivendell for a time.”  Arwen appeared highly amused.  “Mairen was my nursemaid.”

Mairen was seated at a large loom, with her back turned.  Without turning around, she said, “Indeed, I was, and quite a handful you were, my Lady.”

Gail tried to repress a snicker, but didn’t quite succeed in doing so.  “Indeed?” she asked, attempting to bite back an amused grin.  “I would never guess it from looking at you now, Arwen.”

Arwen laughed.  “I certainly was, Gail.  I was spoiled beyond belief, as at the time, I was the only child here.”

Gail laughed, and then glanced around at her daughters and the other busy women in the room.  Everybody was busy doing something but her, and that didn’t seem right.  “I feel like I should be working on something, too, but it’s been years since I did any hand-sewing.  All my sewing, anymore, is done on a sewing machine.”

Kaylee, who had been quietly sewing away, glanced up.  “You could do it, Mommy.  I bet you could make a dishcloth!  They’re easy.  I could show you how to make stars!”

The adults all laughed.  “From the mouths of babes,” chuckled Gail, and she soon found herself cross-stitching a row of stars along the hem of a linen dish towel.

She had nearly lost track of time, but the Elves had not.  Mairen rose from her cushion at the loom and turned.  “Miss Kaylee, it is time for your lunch.  Mrs. McCloud, do you wish to accompany us, or have a tray brought up for you?”

Gail leaned back and thought.  “I believe that we will go down for lunch,” she soon answered, and rose to collect Megan, who was reluctant to leave her project.  Still, the three-year-old didn’t fuss too much.  She wanted to walk, and took her sister’s hand as they headed down to the dining room.

-oo000oo-

After a delicious lunch of chicken soup with dumplings and vegetables, Gail and her two small daughters walked down to the paddock, accompanied by Mairen, who had come down with them.  Kaylee and Megan, hand in hand, skipped ahead of the two adults.

“I’m actually very pleased that Kaylee is learning to ride.  She has always loved ponies, but Steve and I could never have afforded riding lessons,” Gail told Mairen.  “Nor do we have enough space in our yard to keep a pony.”

Mairen looked surprised.  “Is it so costly, then?”

“We live in a city,” Gail explained.  “If we lived in the country and had our own horses, it might work out.  But right now, it is more convenient to live in town, and riding lessons cost money.   Money we just can’t afford on my husband’s salary.”  She smiled ruefully.  “You have to pay for lessons anywhere, unless you own horses or have friends who do.”

Arwen nodded thoughtfully.  Money certainly complicated a lot of things, much more for the Edain than for Elves.  But even for Elves, it did so from time to time, especially when dealing with other races.

Just then they approached the paddock.  Curubor was waiting, and there was more than one pony awaiting them.  There were also two horses waiting as well.

Kaylee rushed over to greet Merrylegs, whom she hugged, as he rubbed his face on her shoulder and whickered softly.  Then Kaylee looked up at her teacher.  “Who is the other pony, Master Curubor?” she asked politely, gazing at the dainty little bay mare with white stockings and a white blaze on her forehead.

“Well, Miss Kaylee, the other pony shall be yours to ride, and as for a name, that shall be yours to decide, as well.  What would you like to call her?”

Gail watched in amusement as Kaylee studied the pony intently, her face scrunched up in thought.  Then Kaylee grinned, and said, “I know!”  She turned to look at all the adults.  “I’m going to name her Barrel!”

“Barrel?” Gail asked in confusion, though the Elves were smiling.  They were quite familiar with Mr. Baggins’s stories of his Adventure.

“Yes, Mommy!  That’s what the dragon thought was the name of Mr. Baggins’s pony, but it really wasn’t.  And he and the Dwarves, they all escaped in barrels!”  Kaylee smiled up at her mother.

“Oh,” Gail said.  I seem to be saying that a lot lately, she thought ruefully.  Just then, there was a tug on her sleeve.  She looked down at Megan.  “What is it, Megan?”

“Wanna wide pony, Mommy,” Megan said.

“Yes, Mommy,” Kaylee added.  “Megan gets to learn to ride, too!”

“As do you, Mrs. McCloud, added Mairen with a twinkle in her eye.

“Me?” Gail asked, shocked.

“Yes, you must learn if, as you and your husband intend, you are to go to join your other children.”  Mairen nodded emphatically.

Put that way, Gail realized that Mairen was right.  She and Steve would indeed have to learn to ride, before they began their trip to find their other children.  She found that she was suddenly quite determined to learn something she had not thought of even attempting for many years, although she had once wanted to as a child.  At least here, her riding lessons would be free, as were her daughters’.

Kaylee mounted the newly-named Barrel all by herself, and then grinned over at Mairen and Curubor.  “Did I do good?” she asked her teachers.

“Do well,” her mother corrected her.

Kaylee did not seem to hear her mother’s correction, but Mairen replied, “You did quite well, Kaylee.”

Gail shook her head slightly.  Then she asked Mairen, “Don’t you teach girls to ride sidesaddle, since skirts are so long here?”

The Elf-woman looked puzzled.  “Sidesaddle?”

“From what I gather, in the history of our own world, back when women wore long skirts, they were taught to ride sitting sideways on the horse—or the pony, too, I suppose.”  Gail paused.  “Special saddles were invented for that purpose.  They’re called sidesaddles.”

Curubor and Mairen exchanged an astonished look.  “We have never heard of such a thing,” Curubor replied.  “It sounds most impractical.”  

Gail nodded.  She was coming to realize that in spite of many parallels, the cultures of Middle-earth did not exactly match up with the history of her own world.

“Now, Miss Megan, do you want to ride a pony, as well?” Curubor asked, smiling down at the three-and-a-half-year-old girl.

“Yes!  Yes!  Me, too.”  She jumped up and down in eagerness, grinning from ear to ear.

But when the groom lifted Megan, to place her on Merrylegs’ back, her expression changed to one of fear.  “Noo,” she moaned.  “Scawy up here!”

Curubor looked dismayed, but Kaylee urged Barrel up next to her sister.  “It’s okay, Megan.  Merrylegs is a nice pony.  He won’t let you fall.  See how I do it?  It’s easy.”

Megan, who had begun to tear up, looked at Kaylee with admiration.  She gave a big sniff and nodded.  “Do just like you.”  Once Curubor had helped her mount, she straightened up and tried to sit just like Kaylee was, and with Curubor’s patient guidance and Kaylee riding alongside, the two little girls made a slow circuit of the paddock.

And now Gail found herself being coaxed over to the side of one of the remaining horses, and realized that her own first riding lesson was imminent…

Later on, as she walked stiffly back to the house, with both she and her daughters smelling distinctly horsey, Mairen advised them to take a hot bath before joining Mr. Baggins for tea.

Gail took her advice, and after a while, the three of them, dressed in clean clothes and smelling of lavender and rosemary, stood knocking on the door of Bilbo Baggins’s quarters.

-oo000oo-

“...and you should have seen me, Steve, after bouncing around on the back of that poor horse like a sack of potatoes for what felt like forever, and looking forward to a nice little cup of tea, I then ended up having a lesson on how to bake in a fireplace.”  Gail shook her head.  “I have to say that was easier than I thought it would be.  Kaylee made a batch of scones as Bilbo and I watched.  Then I also made a rather respectable batch of scones under Bilbo’s directions, and after that, I watched as Kaylee showed Megan how to make cucumber sandwiches, and to decorate some gingerhobbits that Bilbo Baggins had made.”  She smiled wryly.  “I also have learned the ‘proper’ way to make a pot of tea.”  Steve laughed and patted her shoulder.

“Well, Gail,” he said, leaning against the back of the settee, “at least your training sessions were nothing like mine!  I’ll tell you, it’s a relief to relax after my lesson.  Glorfindel reminds me of my old drill sergeant back in boot camp.”  Steve had joined Lord Glorfindel that morning for his first training session in the use of Middle-earth weapons.  The Elf was politer than his drill sergeant had been, but he was just as tough and demanding.

Gail’s mouth quirked.  “He’s probably no less exacting than your drill sergeant was, when you underwent basic training.”

Steve laughed, finding it funny that she echoed his own thoughts—but after all these years, she knew him pretty well.  “That’s certainly true, but after twenty years, I’ve become soft, I’m afraid.  I’m no longer used to being pushed so hard.”  He grinned and put his hands behind his head as he leaned back.  “At least I wasn’t a total newbie with the crossbow.  Even though the ones they have here are not composite bows, they work the same way.  It only took me a few tries to remember what Ryan taught me.”

Gail laughed in her turn.  “That’s good, but I’m sure you’re working hard on your other new skills as well, and that you’re coming along nicely in your lessons.”  Steve smiled his thanks for her confidence in him; he was not quite sure “coming along nicely” fit his fumbling with a sword, although he had remembered his knife-fighting skills and his hand-to-hand combat skills fairly rapidly.  He guessed it was like riding a bicycle; you never forgot how.  Muscle memory, after all, accounted for a lot of things.

The two of them sat in silence for a few moments, looking at the cliffs across the valley and the waterfalls that poured down them.  “This is a lovely valley,” Gail finally said.  “Master Elrond says that Lothlórien is also lovely.  It’ll be interesting to meet his mother-in-law, Lady Galadriel, when we go there.  And his father-in-law, Lord Celeborn.”

Steve nodded agreement.  “It certainly will.”  He paused.  “I just hope I won’t have to use the skills I’m learning here before we return home.”

“Same here.  At least I have no qualms about using the skills I’m learning here.”  Gail bit her lower lip, and then sighed.  “Steve, I’m going to be honest: I do have real misgivings about taking Kaylee and Megan on this trip to Lothlorien, if we do end up going.”

“Well, if this war they speak of ends in victory, Elrond and Arwen will be going, too, hon.  In fact, most of the elves who live here will be going.  We can’t leave our daughters here with the few elves who’ll be staying behind.”  He had spoken privately to Master Elrond at dinner the night before about that, after the history lesson that Elrond had given him and Gail.  He had learned that Glorfindel would be leaving soon with a large group of warriors, and that Master Elrond and Lady Arwen would be heading South with another group as soon as word arrived of the end of the War—unless it ended badly.  But Steve did not want to think about that; it was far too difficult to imagine what that would mean for his three older children who were already in harm’s way.  For the time being, all that Steve and Gail could do was to pray for God’s intervention in that war, and for His protection of their children and themselves.

“What about Bilbo?”  Gail leaned forward.

Steve furrowed his eyebrows.  “Elrond has his doubts about Bilbo being able to go.  His health being what it is, he may also have to stay behind.  But I don’t want him to be stuck with the job of looking after our daughters, Gail.  He has done a wonderful job of helping to amuse them and helping to teach Kaylee new skills, for which I’m grateful, but taking care of them almost on his own is another story.”

“True.”  Gail sighed again.  After a moment, she added, “If we do go after our other children at some point, suppose we leave Kaylee and Megan in Lórien?  Or, better yet, how about we leave them here anyway, Steve?  Surely the few elves who will stay here can look after them.  I’m sure Bilbo won’t have to perform that job alone.  Surely some of the elves will stay behind, and they’ll be quite capable of looking after our daughters until we come back.”

Steve smiled ruefully.  “I wouldn’t have a problem with that, except that Elrond told me last night that he and Glorfindel have reason to believe that Rivendell and Lórien may both be attacked at some point.  I don’t want Kaylee and Megan to be here without us if that happens, or alone in Lothlórien either.  I want our daughters where I can protect them, if I have to.”

Gail shook her head, scowling.  “You mean they’re expecting a possible attack here in Rivendell?  Or at Lothlórien?”  Her husband nodded.  Gail clenched her fists.  “Steve, I’ll confess that there have been times since we arrived here when I’ve had a difficult time not questioning the ways of God.  Like now.”  She shook her head.

“I know, sweetheart.”  Steve wrapped his arm around his wife’s shoulders.  “This is hard on us both.  But God has chosen to bring our children here, and us, too.  We’ll just have to trust that He knows what He’s doing, and that He’ll protect us all.  Kaylee and Megan will be safer with us than they would be here in Rivendell, if it’s attacked.  Or Lothlórien.”  Steve silently hid his own doubts from his wife, and silently prayed, Lord, help my unbelief.

Gail nodded.  “I know.  It’s just…”  Her voice trailed off.  After a pause, she added, “At least we’ll see our other children when we arrive there.  They’ll be so glad to see us all.”

Steve smiled.  “They certainly will be.”  He squeezed his wife against his side.

“Now, sweetheart, you need to clean your sweaty self up!”  Gail grinned, as she wrinkled her nose and playfully pushed him away.  “The bell will be ringing soon, to summon us to the dining hall.”  Steve laughed and rose to his feet, followed by his wife.

-oo000oo-

“Hello, Mr. Baggins!”  Steve smiled as he, Gail, and Megan entered Bilbo’s quarters the following afternoon, followed by Lucy.  “Thank you for your invitation to tea.”

“You are very welcome.”  Bilbo’s eyes twinkled.

“Mommy!  Daddy!”  Squealing with joy, Kaylee rushed into the room and leaped into her mother’s arms, and Gail hugged her.  She then hugged her daddy, who chuckled as he hugged her back.  As Kaylee stood back, she smiled at her younger sister.  “Hi, Megan!”

“I hope you’ve been a good girl while you’ve been with Mr. Baggins, Kaylee,” Gail told her.

“She has,” Bilbo assured her.  “As good as gold.  And she’s been a big help to me.”  He told Kaylee, “If you’ll give me a hand with the plates, Kaylee, I will certainly appreciate it.”  Smiling broadly, Kaylee nodded and followed him into the kitchen.  As soon as they had left the room, Lucy obeyed Steve’s command to sit, and Steve praised her warmly, rubbing her head.  A few minutes later, Bilbo and Kaylee returned carrying trays of food, and then they returned for the plates, cups, and silverware.

“Your daughter helped me make our tea,” Bilbo told the McClouds as he poured the tea.  “She made the scones and the cucumber sandwiches, and helped me make the rest.”

“Did you, now?”  Steve turned to Kaylee, his eyes wide.

Kaylee nodded, smiling proudly.  “I made them all by myself!”

Bilbo laughed.  “She certainly did!  I didn’t even have to help her.”

Gail leaned back, shaking her head as she recalled watching her little girl baking the day before.

Steve smiled at her.  “Our little girl is becoming quite a big girl,” he said.

Gail nodded agreement.  “She certainly is!”

Bilbo and his guests took their seats, and then Gail turned to Kaylee.  “Time to ask the blessing, sweetheart.”  She ruffled her daughter’s hair as she spoke.

Kaylee nodded, and then she bowed her head and closed her eyes.  She chanted:

Thank You for the world so sweet.

Thank You for the food we eat.

Thank You for the birds that sing.

Thank You, God, for everything.”

Kaylee raised her head, and they began to eat.  She quickly began to chatter about the things Bilbo had been teaching her in his kitchen.  “Mommy, Daddy, guess what?  The first thing I helped make was mushroom soup!  Mr. Baggins taught me how.  We cooked it in front of the fireplace, and we didn’t even use a can!  And I like mushrooms.  Do you like them, Mommy and Daddy?”  She looked up, and Steve nodded with a smile, but Gail just looked shocked.  Mushrooms?  She was still wondering where her little picky eater had gone.  “And we cooked stuff and baked stuff!  I pared and sliced the cucumbers, and Mr. Baggins just held my hand part of the time.  He says I should never use a knife unless there’s a grown-up around, till I’m older.”

With an approving smile, Bilbo nodded agreement.  “That’s right,” he told her.

Kaylee smiled broadly at him, and then at her mother and father.  “Hey, Mommy, Daddy, guess what?  He made the bread for the sandwiches, but I got to bake the scones!  We put them in a pan and scooped the coals over the top of it.  And you know what?  I got to go to the dairy and watch them make the butter!  Did you know butter here doesn’t come in little sticks?  They let me churn it!”  She smiled broadly.

“Wow, sweetie!  I am so proud of all the things you have learned here.”  In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, Gail still wondered if it was entirely wise for a child so young to do these things, but it was something she was learning to accept.

Bilbo gave her a shrewd look.  “For a child who had never been taught any kitchen skills before she came here, Kaylee has picked them up quite quickly.  I admit that I was shocked that a child of five did not know her way around a kitchen.  In the Shire, children begin to learn safety in the kitchen almost as soon as they learn to walk.”

Gail blushed.  She recognized a rebuke, however mild.  Plainly, the elderly hobbit thought she had neglected Kaylee’s education when it came to cooking.  Aloud, she said, “In our country, it is not our custom to teach such small children around such dangerous things as fires and knives until they are quite a bit older, and even older children don’t always learn such things.  We have much different ways of preparing food than you have here.”

“Ah, yes!  I have heard of some of them.  Soups that are in a can, and little circles of grain that come from a box.  I am afraid we have no such wonders here.”  There was a mild touch of sarcasm in his voice.  He clearly thought his food was superior to the convenience foods of their own world.  Truthfully, Gail had to agree.  The food here was some of the best she had eaten in her life.

“But the food here is sooo good, Mommy!”  Kaylee bounced slightly.  “Sometimes I even help the Elves in the big kitchen, but not with knives, ‘cause theirs are too big for me.  But they make everything from scratch!”

Gail looked at her husband.  She could feel amusement coming off him in waves.  Clearly, he approved of these lessons.  But she still did not feel quite so complacent about it.

But the excellent tea continued, and the conversation was guided (mostly by Steve) to some of Kaylee’s other new skills, such as sewing and learning to ride.  And Gail had to admit to herself that the food was superb—even the cucumber sandwiches (and Kaylee would not even touch cucumbers at home) and the scones, which were so similar to biscuits at home, as she had discovered.

When the meal ended, Kaylee asked Bilbo if she could help with the washing up.  Gail quickly grabbed her chance.  “Only if Mr. Baggins will let me help as well!”

“Certainly!” Bilbo said cheerfully.  “And Kaylee can teach you the Dwarves’ washing-up song,” he added, chuckling.

Kaylee giggled, and picked up a stack of saucers.  “The Dwarves sang this song when they visited Mr. Baggins!” she announced, and began to sing.

“Chip the glasses and crack the plates!

Blunt the knives and bend the forks!

That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates—

Smash the bottles and burn the corks!”

Steve stood up, laughing, and kissed his wife on the head.  “I’ll see you later, dear!” he said, and left.

Gail picked up a tray with the teapot and tea things and followed her daughter into the kitchen, where she saw the old hobbit preparing a pan of dishwater, and recalled her first glimpse of the tiny and old-fashioned kitchen the day before.  Kaylee continued to sing the comic song that she had begun, to Gail’s amusement.  “Surely the dwarfs didn’t make the mess described in that song!” she said, when the little girl had finished.

Bilbo laughed.  “No, they didn’t.  They were just teasing me because I was so nervous that they might damage something in my smial.”  Smiling, Gail shook her head.

Later, as Steve and Gail watched Kaylee and Megan playing in the grass, Lucy cavorting with them, and Mairen sat near the little girls, watching them, Steve asked, “Well, did you thank Mr. Baggins for his dangerous lessons for our baby?”

“Megan’s the baby now.”

Steve gave her a sideways look.  “Gail, you know what I mean.”

“Of course, and yes, I did.  He is clearly a good teacher, and his kitchen is adorable.  I am beginning to think maybe I am a wee bit overprotective after all.”  She blushed.

“You think?”  Steve grinned.  Gail snorted, and then looked at the little girls for a moment.

“Well, our little girl has certainly matured, and for the better, I must admit.”  Gail smiled fondly down at Kaylee, who was roughhousing with Lucy.  Megan sat near her sister, playing with the grass.

“She certainly has, hasn’t she?” Steve agreed.  “I’ll say it again, Gail: it seems like only yesterday that she was so clingy.  In fact, it was only a few days ago that she was, in our world!”  He shook his head incredulously.  “She has become so much more independent and confident than she used to be.”

“I know.  She really has.”  Gail shook her head in wonder.  “And she has learned so much!  The elves and Mr. Baggins have taught her so many skills—cooking, sewing, horseback riding, even tying her shoes—and now she is so eager to teach them all to Megan.”  Smiling, Steve nodded agreement.

Gail bit her lower lip.  “I have to admit, though, that I did have real concerns about Mr. Baggins teaching her to use a knife, or to work around a fire.  She’s only five years old, Steve, and knives and fires are dangerous.  But under the circumstances, I guess it’s wise that she learn how to be safe around them.  And at least Mr. Baggins has made it a requirement that she only use a knife when there’s an adult present.”  She shook her head again, this time at her realization that circumstances were actually making it necessary.

Steve nodded agreement.  “I agree.  With an adult to watch over her and make sure that she treats knives and fire with respect, as Mr. Baggins does, Kaylee should be safe enough in the kitchen.  We’ll have to do that, too, when we go home, and before then, while we’re on our way South.”

Gail smiled ruefully and shook her head.  “Well, at least I’m getting the same lessons, too, now.  Pretty soon I will catch up to my five-year-old!”

Steve laughed.  “Both of us are going to be learning things that every kid in this world already knows.”

Gail shook her head.  “Isn’t that the truth?”  She looked at Lucy.  “And you know, Lucy has learned a great deal, too.”

Steve nodded agreement.  “She certainly has.  It won’t be necessary, I don’t think, to enroll her in obedience school, because she’s already learned it here.”  He looked thoughtful.  “Of course, that depends on whether she remembers it when we go home.”

Gail grimaced.  “If she’ll just remember her housebreaking, I’ll be happy.”

Suddenly, the dinner bell rang, and she raised her voice.  “Kaylee, Megan!  It’s time to go inside.  Time for supper.”  Kaylee and Megan scampered toward their parents, with Lucy heeling next to Kaylee, and the three of them entered the building.





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