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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 32: Wherever You Are

It had not taken them long to enter the foothills of the Misty Mountains, and now they were traveling over the mountains themselves.  More than ever, Steve was glad they had chosen to allow Megan to ride with Mairen.  As their group navigated the narrow single-file path at the edge of a mountain, he was nervous enough on his own; he'd be terrified for her safety if he had his baby in front of him.  There was no conversation right now; Gail was riding behind him, with Mairen and Megan behind her, and Kaylee on her little Barrel behind the Elf-woman.  There was a string of warriors both in front of and behind the little family.  Two of the warriors had gone ahead to scout out a location for them to make camp, and Steve had begun to wonder when they would stop.  He shivered.  It might be near the end of winter here, but at this altitude, it was still pretty darn cold.  Good thing they were all wearing warm cloaks!  Their family had been dressed for early spring, and didn't have any clothing with them that would have been suitable for this kind of climate.  But Elrond had gifted them with these cloaks, which were light, yet amazingly warm, and which also seemed to repel water to a certain degree.  They'd remain dry in all but the worst of downpours.

This must be like traveling through the Swiss Alps! he thought.  The first few nights, they had been in the foothills, and it had been easy enough to find a place to camp, but up here?  He sure hoped they would find somewhere good to stop before it got dark.

Just then, he saw the Elf in front of him hold his arm up, before stopping.  His horse stopped automatically before it ran into the one in front of it. Like all animals trained by Elves, it was exceptionally intelligent.  He leaned forward and patted his mount on the neck.  "Good boy, Loborros."  The big red horse gave a whicker, and leaned into Steve's hand, reminding him of a cat that wanted to be petted.  He rubbed it for a few seconds, before the Elf in front of him turned to relay a message.

"The scouts have found our stopping-place for the night," the Elf said.  "It is about a half a league from here, a cave that is known to Lord Glorfindel.”

"Thank you, Terevor."  A half a league was about a mile and a half, if Steve recalled correctly.  That wasn't far, and he looked forward to stopping for the night.  He gave Terevor a nod, and turned to speak to Gail, so she could pass on the message.

Gail was glad to hear they would be stopping soon.  Riding when you could not converse with anyone except your own thoughts was rather tedious.  Besides, underneath it all, she had a purely physical reaction every time she glanced to her right, and could see the sheer drop below.  She knew perfectly well that her well-trained Calroc was not going to slip.  She thought that if the horses had not been so wonderfully beautiful, like the Elves that bred them, they could have been part goat, since they were so sure-footed.  She had never really been afraid of heights before, but it was such a long way down!

Also, she thought that her legs and her rear end would be glad to stop as well.  Riding around a paddock did not have nearly the same effect on her body that riding hours on end on a narrow trail did.  She turned and looked at Mairen.  Megan, who was seated firmly before her nursemaid, grinned up at her mother.

"Hi, Mommy!  Can I ride with you now?"

"No, sweetie, not yet.  You stay with Mairen.  Mommy's not good enough at riding to take you yet."

Megan gave a tiny pout, but did not argue.  Like Kaylee, her behaviour had improved immensely in the company of Elves.

Gail lifted her eyes to Mairen.  "They are sending a message down the line, that we will stop in about a half a league."

Mairen gave a nod.  "Very well...Gail."  Gail had insisted that since they were traveling together, they should be on a first-name basis.  Mairen was not quite comfortable with that concept yet, but she was consistent once Gail had told her.  "I shall tell Kaylee."

Kaylee had wondered why everyone had stopped.  She wrinkled her nose.  While they were waiting, Barrel had pooped on the trail.  She looked up when Mairen turned around.

"Miss Kaylee, we have only to ride a little longer—half-a-league, if you can remember that.  Will you tell Raendir?"

“OK, Mairen.”  Kaylee smiled, and then giggled.  “Reindeer!”  She gazed intently into her nursemaid's eyes.  “Think maybe we’ll see some stone giants?” she asked hopefully.

“I hope not!” her mother said fervently from up in front of Mairen.  Bilbo had told them all about that battle in the Misty Mountains during his Adventure, and Gail had thought he was making it up, until Elrond had assured her that it was the truth.  But their host had also told her it was not the season for such goings-on in the mountains, and that there were very few of the stone giants left.

"Their race has very nearly died out," he had said with a sigh.

Kaylee felt bad about that.  She really would have liked to have seen one.  But Bilbo had assured her that the actual experience was not nearly as much fun as hearing about it.

She turned, and carefully repeated Mairen's message to the Elf behind her, who was carrying Lucy before him on his saddle.  It was too scary for Lucy to try running alongside on this narrow mountain path, was what Glorfindel had said.   "Hey, Rudolph!  Mairen says we are going to stop in half of a league." 

She gave the Elf a cheeky grin, and he shook his head with a smile.  She had sung for him the song of a reindeer named Rudolph, mocked and laughed at by the other reindeer because of his red nose, although he was not quite certain why she had decided upon it as an epessë for him.  Still, he could deny the little one nothing, even to be called by such a strange and undignified name.

"Thank you, Miss Kaylee."  He turned to pass the word on.

Kaylee giggled again.  When they did this, it kind of reminded her of the game of Whispers they used to play in class sometimes.  Boy, would she have a lot to tell when she got back to school!

Glorfindel had begun to ride once more, following the scouts.  He knew these trails well, and of the cave they spoke of.  He had sent them ahead to make sure it was still safe.  After the Battle of Five Armies, Master Elrond had sent some of his Elves to secure the cave and make it safe for others who journeyed.  The entrances into the old goblin mines had been well blocked, and the outer cave had been expanded and made into a comfortable way-station.  Thankfully, his scouts had reported that protections had held, and no goblins or wild animals had taken refuge once more in the cave, so they could look forward to a good night's rest in just a short while.

-oo000oo-

On the day after Gandalf and his companions had arrived, a funeral was held for Théodred, Théoden's son, who had been slain in battle while the King was still under Saruman's spell.  Kevin and the others followed the mourners out of the town, where the barrows were for the burial.

Kevin watched.  It was so different from any funeral he had been to before.  It seemed sadder and somehow more dignified than the ones he was used to.  He supposed it was because they did not talk about the Resurrection.  They knew nothing about it, since all of that knowledge was far in the future, likely thousands of years longer than he could even imagine.  But Éowyn sang a beautiful song; it was in Rohirric, so he did not understand it.  But it made tears come to his eyes.

Lord, Kevin silently prayed, I know that Théodred could not believe in You.  That's all way in the future.  But I am confident that You will take care of him.  He paused.  Please take care of Théoden, too!  I know that he doesn't know about what will come, and can't be a believer, but he is a good man.  Please give him something that will comfort him and give him hope.  Please take care of him and help him.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

He wondered what sort of beliefs the people of Rohan had.  He knew the Elves believed in God as Creator, though they called Him Eru, but he thought that the hobbits did not even have any ideas about God.  But maybe he was wrong; maybe some people did, even some hobbits.  Perhaps he would get a chance to talk about it to Gandalf.  If anyone could tell him, it would be Gandalf.

Kevin recalled some of what they had learned about pagan mythology in his history classes and his literature books in his English classes.  The ancient Greeks and Romans had lots of gods, and so did a lot of other past civilizations.  But if he remembered right, even some ancient people believed in the One. I wish I understood more about that; I know some people in the Old Testament were saved.  We never have talked about that in Bible class yet.  I wonder if Gandalf can answer my questions.  He might be able to do that.

When the funeral was over, and as they were heading back to the gates, there was a cry.  He looked up to see several people staring in the distance. He followed their gaze up to a ridge in the distance.

A horse had trotted over the ridge, ridden by two children.  Suddenly one of the children slid off the horse and fell to the ground.

At an order from Théoden, three of his Riders raced to them.  Two of them took the children upon their horses and rode quickly back, while the third slowly led back the exhausted horse.  The children, one, a boy in his early teens and the other a little girl of about eight, were brought in where they could rest and tell their story.  

After being cleaned up by Éowyn and a couple of her serving maidens, they were brought in to sit at a table in the Great Hall and given some food.  They ate ravenously as Éowyn sat by them quietly, gently questioning the children.  Then Éowyn stood up next to them, looking up to where Théoden sat on his throne with Gandalf at his side.

Éowyn said, "They had no warning.  They were unarmed.  Now the Wild Men are moving through the Westfold, burning as they go—rick, cot, and tree."  Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli exchanged concerned glances.

The little girl—whose name, they had learned, was Freda—looked up at Éowyn and asked plaintively, "Where's Mama?"  Éowyn immediately turned and gave her a hug.

Gandalf turned to the King.  "This is but a taste of the terror that Saruman will unleash.  All the more potent, for he is driven now by fear of Sauron.  Ride out and meet him head-on."  The wizard leaned forward, putting a hand on the arm of the throne; the king looked at him warily.  “Draw him away from your women and children.  You should fight."

Aragorn stood up and faced Théoden.  "You have two-thousand good men riding north as we speak.  Éomer is loyal to you.  His men will return and fight for their king.”  He sat back down and inserted his lit pipe into his mouth.

Théoden rose from his throne and walked to the centre of the Hall.  "They will be three hundred leagues from here by now.  Éomer cannot help us."  He turned to Gandalf.  “I know what it is that you want of me, but I will not bring further death to my people.  I will not risk open war."

"Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not," added Aragorn, removing his pipe before speaking.

Éowyn spun to look at her uncle and Aragorn.  Théoden turned toward Aragorn and said sternly, "When last I looked, Théoden, not Aragorn, was King of Rohan."

Gandalf silenced Aragorn with a look, and then turned back to Théoden.  "Then what is the king’s decision?"

Théoden turned away from them for a moment, concern etched on his face.  After a moment, he said, "We shall make for the stronghold of Helm's Deep.  It has never been breached in time of war."

Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli all exchanged glances with a mutual expression of concern.  Gandalf simply nodded thoughtfully to himself.  Kevin looked at them all, wondering what they knew that he didn't.

Théoden summoned his men and hurried away to begin the preparations for mustering his army and preparing the people of Edoras for an evacuation.  Kevin and his companions watched as the king went off to set his plans in motion.  Gandalf, Aragorn, and Boromir all exchanged a look of dismay.  Gandalf shook his head and looked thoughtful.  "I must go," he said.  "If I hurry, I may yet find a way to avert disaster.  Rohan must be defended."

The wizard put his words to action, and hurried from the Hall and down the steps.  “Helm’s Deep,” Gimli grumbled.  “They flee to the mountains when they should stand and fight.”

Kevin followed his five travelling companions into the stables, with Gandalf hurrying ahead of them.  What was he up to? Kevin wondered.  What were they all going to do?  Were they all going to Helm’s Deep, whatever it was?

"Who will defend them, if not their king?" Gimli grumbled.

"He’s only doing what he thinks is best for his people." replied Aragorn.

"Helm’s Deep has saved them in the past," added Boromir.  "In fact, it has never failed them, and Théoden has no reason to believe that it will not do so now."

Kevin grimaced.  Just as well that Jennifer and Joey aren’t here!

Aragorn and Gandalf approached the stall where Shadowfax awaited his rider.  He looked eager to see the wizard.

"There is no way out of that ravine.  Théoden is walking into a trap.  He thinks he is leading them to safety.  What they will get is a massacre."  Gandalf looked grim as he spoke.  He turned to Aragorn.  “Théoden has a strong will, but I fear for him.  I fear for the survival of Rohan.  He will need you before the end, Aragorn.  The people of Rohan will need you.  The defences have to hold.  I must go to bring the help that Théoden thinks is beyond his reach."

Kevin watched the determination in Aragorn's eyes as he answered Gandalf.  "They will hold."

Gandalf gently stroked the mighty horse’s coat.  "The Grey Pilgrim.  That’s what they used to call me.  Three hundred lives of Men, I have walked this earth, and now I have no time."

Aragorn opened the stall door as Gandalf mounted Shadowfax.  "With luck," Gandalf said, "my search will not be in vain.  Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day.  At dawn, look to the east."

"Go," Aragorn said in a steely voice.   

Kevin found himself jumping out of the way, along with the others as Shadowfax came shooting out of the stall like a bullet.  The mighty horse was out of the stable doors before Kevin could even regain his balance.  For the time being, the remaining Fellowship was without Gandalf, again.  At least this time, they knew they'd see him again.  And thank goodness! Kevin thought.  Still, he couldn't help feeling dismayed.  He had badly wanted to talk to the wizard.  He had questions that he could not ask anyone else.

It took longer than Kevin thought it would, for all the talk of urgency, to arrange the evacuation of the city.  In fact, even though the citizens of Edoras were under orders to take only necessary provisions, the preparations took all day to complete.  But at sunrise the next morning, the first wains of evacuees began heading out.  Warriors rode up and down the lines of women and children and the elderly.  Lady Éowyn was in charge, and she kept the refugees in order.

Those who were mounted rode slowly, so as not to outpace those in wagons or on foot, but some rode ahead as scouts.  Kevin was definitely not one of those, although Aragorn and Legolas were.  They had been gone quite some time, in fact, although several Rohirric scouts had returned.

Kevin was beginning to feel anxious.  He turned to Boromir, who was riding beside him.  "Shouldn't Aragorn and Legolas be back by now?"

Boromir shrugged.  "Perhaps, but scouting can take a while.  If they find anything of importance, I am sure at least one of them will report back."

"It just makes me worry about them a little," Kevin confessed sheepishly.  He expected the warrior would laugh at him.

But Boromir just nodded, although he had an amused smile.  "You have a good heart, Kevin McCloud.  But those two are seasoned warriors and skilled trackers.  Do not fear for them."

Somewhat relieved by Boromir's words, Kevin nodded, and the two rode in silence for a while.

Kevin guessed that it was about another hour, when Theoden gave the signal to halt for a brief respite, so that those on foot could rest a while.  He took the opportunity to dismount and stretch and walk about a little.  Kevin wandered up to the front of the line, hoping to maybe hear what the King was talking about.  He wanted to know what was going on.

Just as the King was about to give the order to resume their journey, Legolas came riding up.  He rode straight to where Théoden was speaking with Éomer.  Kevin stood near them and could overhear his report.

"Aragorn and I came across two orc scouts.  I slew one with my bow, but the other got away.  Aragorn went after it, to ensure that it cannot report our position.”  The King nodded, and Legolas continued.  "He said to go ahead.  He will find us after he eliminates the danger of the scout reporting to the enemy."

"Very well.  He knows where are going."

Kevin bit his lower lip.  Aragorn knew what he was doing, Kevin knew, but it was so hard not to worry!  If only someone could have gone with him, to watch his back when he fights that orc, he thought.  Please, God, protect Aragorn!  Amen.

At that point, the King ordered them all to continue onward, and Kevin mounted his horse.  For a long time, he rode in silence.  His thoughts kept returning to Aragorn, and he kept attempting to beat back the worry that kept surging in his gut.

“Kevin?”

Startled, Kevin turned to notice Legolas riding alongside him.  The boy smiled sheepishly.  “Sorry.  I keep thinking about Aragorn.”

Legolas nodded.  “And worrying about him.”

Kevin grimaced.  “Yeah, to be honest.  He's all alone, Legolas!  What if he runs into some orcs?”

Legolas nodded agreement.  “Yes, he is, Kevin, but it is not the first time he has acted alone.”

Kevin bit his lower lip.  "I'm sure it's not."

"Would you care to hear of his most recent such adventure?" the Elf asked.

Kevin raised an eyebrow and tried to imitate Pippin's expression when the subject of stories came up.  "Would I?" he asked.  “I sure would!”

Legolas laughed and then began.  "It was some years ago, when Gandalf asked our friend to track down the creature Gollum, for he much desired to speak with the wretched beast.  Thus began one of Aragorn's less delightful and more lengthy tasks…"

Legolas' tale of the hunt for Gollum was quite exciting and interesting, and the Elf successfully kept Kevin’s mind from worry as they rode.

Still, the longer they rode without any sign of Aragorn's return, the more Kevin's worry returned.  And he could not help but fear that perhaps something had happened to their friend.  It was difficult; he had two more people to worry about besides his brother and sister and Merry and Pippin.  And Frodo and Sam, too.  He wasn't used to having so many he cared about in so much danger.  It didn't help that there were no easy ways to communicate, as there were back home.

They rode for a very long time. Legolas said they'd been riding for forty leagues, at least.  No wonder I'm getting sore; that's almost a hundred and twenty miles, Kevin thought.  He noticed that Gimli looked really tired, too.  Wonder if Dad got tired like this, when he went off to war years ago?  I guess he rode in jeeps or tanks back then, but still, I'm sure it was really tiring anyway.  Just riding in a car for hours at a time can get tiring, too.

Kevin was really exhausted as twilight began to fall, and the group began to near the Westfold.  They approached a green valley which lay between the mountains; it narrowed into a gorge that led into the place the Rohirrim called Helm's Deep.  They rode on and on, the way growing steep and narrow, until they were surrounded by high cliffs.

There it was: Helm's Deep, its mighty walls pierced only by a wide culvert through which a stream passed, flowing into a gully beyond.  Over a stone causeway they passed to the gate.  There were stone walls rearing up all around, immensely high, almost boxing them in.  Horns sounded from the riders, announcing their approach, and the wide gates opened to let them in.

-oo000oo-

Jennifer woke to the sound of voices.  It seemed that Merry and Pippin were already awake and talking with Treebeard.

"...You have brought me a bundle of news and no mistake," Treebeard's gruff voice was saying.  "You have not told me all, no indeed, not by a long way.  But I do not doubt that you are doing as Gandalf would wish.  There is something very big going on, that I can see, and what it is maybe I shall learn in good time, or in bad time.  By root and twig, but it is a strange business: up sprout a little folk that are not in the old lists, journeying with children from a strange and distant land.  Behold the Nine forgotten Riders reappear to hunt them, and Gandalf takes them on a great journey, and Galadriel harbours them in Caras Galadhon, and Orcs pursue them down all the leagues of Wilderland: indeed they seem to be caught up in a great storm. I hope they weather it!”

"And what about yourself?" Merry began to ask the Ent.

Jennifer sat up and ran her hair through her fingers.  “Good morning,” she interrupted.

"Good morning," rumbled Treebeard, distracted by her awakening.  "I hope that you slept well."

She nodded, and then glanced over to where Joey was still sleeping hard, his head pillowed by his own hands, which were clasped beneath his cheek.  A fond smile crept across her face as she gazed down at her slumbering little brother.

The Ent offered her another bowl of water, which she drank thirstily, and then splashed her face a bit with what was left in the bottom.  The Ent didn't seem to notice, as he had continued his conversation with the hobbits, telling them that he had not heeded much about the earlier wars of Elves and Men.  "...I am not altogether on anybody's side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me: nobody cares for the woods as I care for them, not even Elves nowadays.  Still, I take more kindly to Elves than to others: it was the Elves that cured us of dumbness long ago, and that was a great gift that cannot be forgotten, though our ways have parted since.  And there are some things, of course, whose side I am altogether not on; I am against them altogether: these—burárum…”  (he again made a deep rumble of disgust)  "...these Orcs, and their masters."

Jennifer shuddered.  "Orcs are awful!" she said.  "They are the worst thing I've ever dealt with."  That was an understatement.  Jennifer sometimes wished she could use some stronger language.  It was hard to think of words bad enough to describe orcs without cussing, and she couldn't do that.

Pippin did, though his cussing was pretty mild.  "They are bloody monsters, is what they are!"

Merry jabbed his cousin in the side with his elbow, and gestured at Jennifer with his head.

Pippin blushed.  "Sorry, Jennifer."

"That's all right, Pippin."  She really didn't think of that as a cuss word, but it was pretty strong language for a hobbit, she guessed.

Treebeard agreed that the orcs were monstrous beasts, though he added that the creatures of shadow had not troubled him much when they were far away.  "But Saruman now!  Saruman is a neighbour: I cannot overlook him.  I must do something, I suppose.  I have often wondered lately what I should do about Saruman."

The Ent spent a few moments, seemingly muttering to himself about Saruman and the Orcs, and then finally he stopped abruptly.  Treebeard raised himself from his bed with a jerk, stood up, and thumped his hand on the table.  The vessels of light trembled and sent up two jets of flame.  The Ent's deep green eyes seemed to flicker with anger.

“I will stop it!” he boomed.  “And you shall come with me.  You may be able to help me.  You will be helping your own friends that way, too; for if Saruman is not checked Rohan and Gondor will have an enemy behind as well as in front.  Our roads go together—to Isengard!”

Merry and Pippin gave a cheer, and Jennifer did, too, which finally wakened Joey.

"What's going on?" he asked sleepily, yawning and stretching.

Treebeard strode to the archway and stood for some time under the falling rain of the spring. Then he laughed and shook himself, and wherever the drops of water fell glittering from him to the ground they glinted like red and green sparks.  In the meantime, while the old Ent stood and thought, Jennifer and the hobbits filled Joey in on much of what Treebeard had told them.

They sat and waited for their host in the cool of the morning, while Joey had a drink of the refreshing water, and wondered among themselves what Treebeard was planning.

Suddenly, the Ent lifted his head, and gave a mighty call, sounding almost like a giant horn.  The sound seemed to be echoed back at them over and over...until they realized that it was not echoes at all, but other Ents responding to Treebeard's call.  He turned to his guests.  "Now, my small friends, we go to Entmoot!"  He lowered his arms, so that the hobbits and children could climb up to ride upon him once more.

“Where is Entmoot?” Pippin ventured to ask, once they had arrayed themselves on him as they had the day before.

“Hoo, eh?  Entmoot?” said Treebeard.  “It is not a place, it is a gathering of Ents—which does not often happen nowadays.  We shall meet in the place where we have always met: Derndingle Men call it.  It is away south from here.  We must be there before noon.”

And with the four of them settled in place, Treebeard set off, and Jennifer could have sworn his pace was somewhat hastier than it had been the day before.  She could hear him occasionally repeat his call, and hear answering replies as they went.  Jennifer had a feeling that they were headed for something momentous and altogether dangerous, and not only for them, but hopefully for Saruman as well.

I hope it will be! she thought.

-oo000oo-

It had not taken the travellers very long to reach the small cave.  The Elves had somewhat enlarged it in the process of making it safe from any future orc intrusion over the years since Thorin Oakenshield and Company had spent that eventful stormy night there.  They had also taken care to keep it provisioned with dry firewood.  An Elf named Amdir was tasked with starting a fire, while Raendir and his friend Cenion retrieved some of their foodstuffs from the packhorses.

Kaylee took it upon herself to entertain Megan, who was inclined to be cranky after sitting in front of Mairen all day.  “London Bridge is falling down, Falling down, falling down.  London Bridge is falling down, My fair lady,” Kaylee sang to her little sister, who soon laughed and joined in.  Since there were no other little children to play the game with in the way that it was supposed to be played, Kaylee and Megan played it as they would ring-around-the-rosy.  The two took hands and danced around in circles, falling to the ground at the end of that verse.  “Take the keys and lock her up, Lock her up, lock her up.  Take the keys and lock her up, My fair lady.”

Kaylee sang another song or two, and soon Megan had settled next to her, leaning against her older sister, and sucking her thumb.  Kaylee looked up as the grown-ups finished arranging the campfire.  Lucy was wandering around, sniffing the cave floor, and begging absent-minded pats on the head from the various Elves as they went about their tasks.

“Now’s when I could use some frankfurters,” Gail said.  “And some hot dog buns!”

Steve laughed.  “Me, too, and some marshmallows, too!  I would welcome a s’more to snack on, myself.  But we’ll just have to make do without those till we get back home.”  Gail nodded.

Glorfindel sat down against the wall of the cave.  He smiled at Kaylee and Megan, who ventured to sit next to him.  “Well, little ones,” he said, “it is much more comfortable for us than it was for Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Dwarves, when they tried to camp here, is it not?  And fortunately, we do not have to worry about goblins as they did!”

Kaylee giggled.  “Bilbo said it was raining, and that’s why they had to sleep in this cave,” she said.  “What’ll we do if it rains?”

Glorfindel leaned against the cave wall.  “Well, Miss Kaylee, it depends.  As for tonight, we are already in the cave and will be warm and dry if it does start to rain during the night, save for Egnil and Thenor, who shall be on watch outside tonight.  If it decides to rain while we are riding, we will either keep going and ride through the rain, or we will look for other shelter to stay in until the rain is over.  Either way, we will likely get a little bit wet, unfortunately.  As Bilbo often says, adventures are not always pony rides in May sunshine!  And he is right.  You may be sure that your brothers and sister have long since found that out.”

An amused smile crept across his face.  “But unless we have to sleep in the rain, at least we will not have to worry about getting wet in our beds!”  He shook his head.  “Not as I once did.”

“Really?”  Kaylee snuggled up against him, and Glorfindel took Megan on his lap.  “When?”  Kaylee gazed up at him, wide-eyed, and Megan stuck her thumb back in her mouth.

Glorfindel wrapped his arm around Kaylee.  “Once, a very long time ago, when I was still living in Valinor.  I was living in the palace of King Arafinwë in Tirion with his son, Finrod.”  He shook his head.  “I had just awakened in my own bed when I saw Finrod standing over me, holding a bowl.  And do you know what that naughty elf did, Miss Kaylee, Miss Megan?  It turned out that that bowl was filled with water, and he dumped it all over me!”*

Kaylee giggled again, and Glorfindel laughed.  “Yes, it is funny, Miss Kaylee.  I can laugh about it now, but I certainly could not laugh about it then.”

Steve had his arm around Gail, and she leaned into him.  "That reminds me of a similar trick I pulled on Ryan when we were kids,” he said.  “But I rigged it so that he doused himself with the water."

Kaylee looked up at him with wide eyes.  "How did you do that, Daddy?"

He grinned at the memory.  "I filled a bucket with water and perched it up on top of the headboard of his bed.  Then I tied a string to the handle and the other end of the string to his big toe.  Then I tickled the bottom of his foot!"  He laughed out loud.  "He kicked right out and knocked the bucket over and woke up with a yell!  It completely doused him and his bed with water.  Unfortunately for me, the empty bucket then hit him in the head.  The racket all woke your grandma and grandpa, who came in to see what was going on.  They were not at all happy at being woken so early in the morning, Kaylee, and your grandma was really mad about the lump on Ryan's forehead.  Not to mention being mad about the wet bed and my brother's wet pajamas!  I was in big trouble over that one, let me tell you!  It was the end of my practical joking, anyway."

All of the Elves had a hearty laugh over the story, and then Avorn saw fit to mention some of the trouble that Elladan and Elrohir had caused, when they were very young.  Kaylee giggled, but her parents shook their heads.  “It would appear that children are children wherever you find them, whether they’re humans or elves,” Gail said, and Steve nodded agreement.

Soon, the food was ready, and the group assembled around the campfire.  Kaylee and Megan sat next to their parents, with Megan sitting between Kaylee and Gail.  “Megan, why don’t you ask the blessing?” Steve asked her.

Nodding, Megan took her sister’s and mother’s hands and bowed her head.  She chanted:

“T'ank You for the world so s’eet.

T'ank You for the food we eat.

T'ank You... "

Megan paused briefly, her face scrunched up as she tried to recall the words.  Kaylee leaned over and whispered in her ear.  Megan grinned, and quickly finished.

“...for the birds that sing.

T’ank You, God, for ev'yt’ing.

Jesus' name, A-Men!"

Raising her head, she grinned up at her parents, who nodded their approval.  “That was very good, Megan," her mother said, ruffling her youngest daughter's hair.

Mairen brought over wooden bowls of stew, warm and steaming, and plates of flatbread.  Everyone ate with a hearty appetite after the long day's journey, and before she had even finished, Megan fell asleep with a piece of bread still in her hand.

Steve carried her to the corner of the cave where the little family was to sleep.  Their bedrolls had already been laid out for them by the solicitous Elves.

“I am really glad goblins aren’t gonna get us!” Kaylee announced.

The others laughed.  “I really am, too, sweetheart,” her father agreed, as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

“And now, it’s time for dreamland, Kaylee,” Gail added.  Steve nodded agreement.

Kaylee lay down and snuggled next to her sister, soon asleep as well.

Steve and Gail sat by them, their hands joined as they said a silent prayer together, before they, too, sought their beds. Gail soon was breathing softly in slumber, but Steve was awake for a little while, thinking of the journey ahead, and saying another silent prayer for his older children.

-oo000oo-

A/N: *Glorfindel’s anecdote about his dousing by Finrod can be found in Chapter 19: “Return to the Maze” (http://storiesofarda.com/chapterview.asp?sid=5080&cid=21120) of Elf, Interrupted: Book One: Glorfindel Redux (http://storiesofarda.com/chapterlistview.asp?SID=5080), by the late Fiondil, which is posted on on this Web site.





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