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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.

Chapter 30: Trust in Me

"Put them down!" cried Jennifer. "Stop it! You're hurting them!" She smacked Treebeard against the legs. Her hand stung, but she did not stop until she had his attention.

Treebeard blinked. "Oh! Oh, my!" His grip loosened immediately. "I am so sorry; I forgot my own strength." He did not put the hobbits down, but shifted his grip to make them less uncomfortable. He stood silently and motionless for so long that they all began to believe that he really was a tree, and they had imagined the whole encounter.

But just as Joey got impatient and was starting to fidget, the Ent spoke up. "Hoom-ha! I suppose there is nothing for it but to take you to my home for the night." He glanced down at the two children. "It is a fair distance in Ent-strides. I do not think your legs could keep up." He transferred Merry and Pippin gently to his wide and sturdy shoulders. "May I carry you?" he asked the children. "I promise not to squeeze you."

Jennifer nodded nervously. Treebeard reached down and picked them up very gently, and they sat upon his palms. He did not close his hands completely, but curled his fingers over them just enough to prevent them from falling.

"I like to climb trees at home," Joey said, smiling, as he looked around.

Jennifer nodded. "We've all done that, except Kaylee and Megan. They're too young to climb trees yet. We have a treehouse in our back yard, too."

"But I do not suppose that your treehouse moves, does it?" Treebeard began to walk, taking long deliberate strides through the trees, deeper and deeper into the wood, never far from the stream, climbing steadily up towards the slopes of the mountains.

Jennifer and Joey laughed. "Nope, it sure doesn't," Jennifer said. "Trees can't walk or talk where we come from. They can't even think. They're alive, but they're not…sen—uh…" She paused for a moment, furrowing her eyebrows in intense concentration and thinking hard. Finally, her face brightened. "Sentient! That's the word."

"That's a big word," Joey muttered.

"And how do you know your trees are not sentient if they do not speak?" Treebeard asked, his voice sounding amused, and both children found themselves wondering about that.

The children and the hobbits fell silent after a while, soothed by the gait which made Jennifer remember being rocked in a rocking chair by her mother when she was little. Treebeard kept on talking—mostly to himself, it seemed—in long sentences, and strings of "hooming" and "humming" and bits of poetry mixed in, and even phrases of Elvish, and pretty soon all four of the weary travelers had dozed off where they sat.

-oo000oo-

Aragorn scoured the forest floor, following the tracks of the hobbits. Legolas followed closely, with Gimli and Kevin close behind and Boromir taking the rearguard. Aragorn suddenly halted, studying the ground closely. "These are strange tracks," he muttered, almost to himself.

"The air is so close in here." Gimli looked about suspiciously. He had never liked the woods, especially after all the stories his father had told him about Mirkwood.

"It does feel rather breathless beneath these trees," added Boromir. Woods did not bother him, although he had never been as comfortable among them as his younger brother. Boromir could cope in the wild well enough. Every warrior had to be able to do so, but he much preferred the comfort of the big city.

Kevin rather liked the strange forest. It was a little stuffy, but also it felt very alive to him. He was used to going deer-hunting in forests with his father, and his family had never much gone in for scary stories. All he wanted was to focus on finding Jennifer, Joey, and the two hobbits.

Legolas looked about the forest, as if feeling it. "This forest is old. Very old. Full of memory." Low groans reverberated throughout the forest.

Gimli gasped and raised his axe. The groans grew louder, and a whispering sound as of a wind though the wind played through the trees, though not even a breeze could be felt. Just then a strong wind blew through the trees, creating an even louder groan. They heard the cries of their horses from where they had tethered them just below the forest eaves.

Kevin froze and looked around frantically. "What's happening?" he cried out. Aragorn laid a comforting hand on the boy's arm. Legolas and Boromir turned and almost ran back; Gimli began to swing his axe wildly.

"Gimli!" Aragorn ordered in a low whisper.

Gimli startled at the sound of his name, and looked over at their leader.

Aragorn gestured at him. "Lower your axe!"

Gimli nodded and lowered his axe reluctantly, as if surrendering.

Boromir's shoulders drooped, and Legolas shook his head. "I can no longer hear their hoofbeats; our mounts are long gone."

Aragorn shook his head. "It is just as well, Boromir; we need to be afoot, and they will find their way back to Edoras. Look!" He pointed to the ground around the stream. "Look! The four of them paused and rested by the stream before they went on. It looks as though Jennifer and Joey took off their boots and continued, barefoot like the hobbits."

They followed the trail as it led deeper into Fangorn. It was clear enough that even Kevin could follow it easily. It comforted him to know that his brother and sister were no longer among the orcs, but he felt impatient to find them.

Suddenly, Legolas seemed to sense something, and darted ahead for a better look. "Aragorn, nadennas! Something is out there!"

Aragorn came up behind him. "Man cenich? What do you see?"

"Look!" said Legolas, pointing. "Down in the wood, back in the Way that we have just come. It is he. Cannot you see him, passing from tree to tree? The White Wizard approaches!"

The others gathered closely about the Elf, staring into the dimness of the trees. Kevin followed Aragorn's gaze into the dimness of the woods; as his eyes adjusted, he too spotted what appeared to be a bent old man, leaning on a staff and looking weary. The fellow's head was bowed, and so he hadn't spotted them yet. Kevin held his breath, waiting to see what would happen.

Boromir whispered, "Do not let him speak. He will put a spell on us."

Gimli nodded emphatically, hefting his axe. Kevin, Boromir, and Aragorn drew their swords. Legolas nocked an arrow to his bow, but he did not shoot. He stared intently at the scarcely perceptible figure.

"His cloak is dirty grey, not white," said Aragorn.

"Shoot," urged Gimli. "He must be Saruman!"

"But he may not be anything other than an old man," said Aragorn. "We must not shoot him until we are certain he is a danger."

Reluctantly, Boromir nodded. Kevin was glad that Aragorn and Boromir agreed. He wasn't comfortable with the idea of shooting an old man, even if he might be Saruman.

The old man came in sight, making his way atop the rise. Suddenly, Legolas gave a cry, and launched an arrow. It burst into flame and fell to the ground, nothing but a stick of char and ash. There was a blinding light emanating from the unexpected figure.

"You are tracking the footsteps of two young Hobbits and two children." The voice seemed to echo.

"Where are they?" Aragorn exclaimed.

"They passed this way, the day before yesterday. They met someone they did not expect. Does that comfort you?" The voice seemed to change in timbre. It seemed almost familiar, teasing at the edge of their memories.

"Who are you? Show yourself!" Aragorn shouted.

Slowly the light faded, and there, hung about with a tattered grey cloak, was Gandalf. His beard and hair were snowy-white now, though, and white robes peaked out beneath the old cloak.

The group were astounded. "Gandalf?" said Aragorn in wonder. At last, he stirred. "Gandalf!" he said. "Beyond all hope you return to us in our need! What veil was over my sight? Gandalf!"

"Gandalf," the old man repeated, as if recalling from old memory a long disused word. "Yes, that was the name. I was Gandalf. Yes, you may still call me Gandalf," he said, and the voice was the voice of their old friend and guide.

Legolas knelt. "Forgive me. I mistook you for Saruman."

The others all knelt as well. Kevin could not believe his eyes. It was a miracle—he knew now that he had doubted a little about Gandalf being an angel, but now every bit of doubt was erased.

"I am Saruman. Or rather, Saruman as he should have been." Gandalf's voice was low, almost as though he was speaking to himself.

"But we saw you fall!" said Kevin.

"Through fire and water, I fell," he said slowly. "From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth, until at last, I threw down my enemy and smote him to his ruin upon the mountainside. Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time. Stars wheeled overhead, and every day was as long as a life age of the Earth." He raised his head and looked at his friends directly; his voice grew stronger. "But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. Naked, I was sent back…" He paused and studied each of the others briefly. "…until my task is done."

The companions sat down together. Kevin looked at Gandalf, and said diffidently, "Uh, Gandalf, you look so different. Your hair, your beard? And where did you get the white clothes?"

"I am now Gandalf the White; that is why I wear white, and why my hair is white," the wizard replied. "I lay atop the mountaintop until I was found by Gwaihir the Windlord, Lord of Eagles.

"'Ever am I fated to be your burden, friend at need,' I said.

"'A burden you have been,' he answered, 'but not so now. Light as a swan's feather in my claw you are. The Sun shines through you. Indeed I do not think you need me anymore: were I to let you fall you would float upon the wind.'

"'Do not let me fall!' I gasped, for I felt life in me again. 'Bear me to Lothlórien!'

"'That indeed is the command of the Lady Galadriel who sent me to look for you,' he answered.

"Thus it was that I came to Caras Galadhon and found you but lately gone. I tarried there in the ageless time of that land where days bring healing not decay. Healing I found, and I was clothed in white. Counsel I gave and counsel took. Thence by strange roads I came, and messages I bring to you. To Aragorn I was bidden to say this:

"Where now are the Dúnedain, Elessar, Elessar?

Why do thy kinsfolk wander afar?

Near is the hour when the Lost should come forth,

And the Grey Company ride from the North.

But dark is the path appointed for thee:

The Dead watch the road that leads to the Sea.

"To Legolas she sent this word:

"Legolas Greenleaf long under tree

In joy thou hast lived. Beware of the Sea!

If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,

Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more."

Gandalf then turned to Boromir and smiled at him. "She sends you this word, Boromir:

"Silver horns sound clear and cold, atop the tower walls:

'What news of Boromir the Bold, long away from his father's halls?'

Son of Gondor, you shall soon be homeward bound,

and your honour once more found.

Comfort your sire and beware of fire."

Boromir looked up sharply, hope in his face, and he nodded.

"Kevin, son of Steven, here are the words she sent to you:

"Son of the west, the time has come to put away childish things.

Don the full armor of righteousness, and gird yourself with truth.

Into battle, you shall be born on eagle's wings.

Take up the warrior's way, and put behind your youth."

Kevin furrowed his eyebrows as he nodded. "Wonder what that means," he mumbled.

Gandalf fell silent and shut his eyes.

"Then she sent me no message?" said Gimli and bent his head. Kevin thought he seemed very sad that she had seemingly forgotten him. Legolas tried to comfort his friend, but Gimli was having none of it.

But Gandalf raised his head and opened his eyes, jarred out of his thoughts by Gimli's reactions. "Your pardon, Gimli! I was pondering the messages once again. But indeed she sent words to you, and neither dark nor sad.

"'To Gimli son of Glóin,' she said, 'give his Lady's greeting. Lock-bearer, wherever thou goest my thought goes with thee. But have a care to lay thine axe to the right tree!'"

"In happy hour you have returned to us, Gandalf," cried the Dwarf, capering as he sang loudly in the strange dwarf-tongue. "Come, come!" he shouted, swinging his axe. "Since Gandalf's head is now sacred, let us find one that it is right to cleave!"

"That will not be far to seek," said Gandalf, rising from his seat. "Come! We have spent all the time that is allowed to a meeting of parted friends. Now there is need of haste. We must leave at once."

Kevin looked startled. "We have to find Jennifer and Joey and the hobbits!"

Gandalf shook his head. "They are safe now," he said. "They are in the care of Treebeard, and he will keep them from harm. They will be better off with him; our ways are more perilous."

"Treebeard?" asked Aragorn.

"The guardian of this forest. One of the Ents, the Shepherds of the Trees. The Ents are going to be in for a surprise. They are going to wake up and find out that they are strong."

He stood up and began to walk briskly back the way they had already come. "Merry and Pippin and the children are quite safe. In fact, as I said, they are far safer than you are about to be. One stage of the journey is over; another begins. We must travel to Edoras with all speed."

Gimli looked indignant. "Edoras? That is no short distance!"

"We hear of trouble in Rohan. It goes ill with the king," added Aragorn, and Boromir nodded agreement. Puzzled, Kevin looked from him to Gandalf.

Gandalf stopped. "Yes, and it will not be easily cured. It helps that you are among us, Boromir."

"How might that be, Gandalf?" asked the Gondorian.

"You are known in the court of Meduseld. It should help to have you there when we speak to the King," the wizard replied.

They had come back to the edge of the forest and were looking over the land before them, wide and empty. "It is going to be a long walk," said Aragorn with a sigh.

"I shall not walk. Time presses." Then lifting up his head Gandalf gave a long, piercing whistle. It echoed off into the distance. He whistled again. As the echo died out, a neigh answered him. A magnificent white horse galloped towards Gandalf over a nearby hill, followed by the others' runaway steeds. Gandalf smiled. "Shadowfax. He is the lord of all horses…and has been my friend through many dangers." Gandalf walked up to Shadowfax and stroked his neck.

The others looked on in amazement, and more than a little relief.

"That is one of the Mearas, unless my eyes are cheated by some spell," murmured Legolas.

Boromir shook his head in surprise. "Not merely one of them—this is Shadowfax, chief of the Mearas, prince of horses. How did you come by him, Gandalf?"

"Théoden King gave him to me as a much-begrudged price for leaving Rohan, after I escaped from Saruman." He vaulted upon the horse's back in a movement far too lithe and graceful for an old man. "Come, we are burning daylight! We must get to Edoras as soon as we can."

The rest of them mounted, although save for Legolas, not quite so gracefully. They turned their backs to Fangorn, and began to gallop across the plains.






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