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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 33: Forest of No Return

Kevin was once more worried.  The entire group of refugees and the warriors had entered their stronghold, and were nearly settled in, and still there had been no sign of Aragorn.  The earlier soothing statements from Legolas and Boromir were now ringing a little hollow.  Something awful must have happened to keep the Ranger so long.  And while Boromir and Legolas were just beginning to show signs of the fears they had for their friend, Gimli was openly expressing his own worries, which did not allay Kevin's feelings one bit.

"Aragorn should have been here long ago!" exclaimed the Dwarf in a voice equal parts anger and fear, and not a little frustration added in.  "Naught could have kept him save something dire!  We should go and look for him!"

"We wouldn't even know where to start!" Kevin snapped, before he suddenly hung his head.  "I'm sorry, Gimli, but I am worried, too."

"Aye, laddie."  Gimli was also abashed.  "We shouldn't be taking it out on one another, no matter how worried we are."  He shook his head.  "And, much as I hate to admit it, you are right.  We've no idea of where to search for him."

Boromir laid a firm hand on Kevin's shoulder.  "Standing about fretting will not be of any use.  I confess that he has surely been overlong in re-joining us; but we should keep busy for now.  At the least, it will take our minds off—"  He stopped at a shout from Legolas.

The subject of their discussion had now come galloping over the hillock before Helm's Deep, and then hurried on to ride over the causeway into the mountain stronghold.

Gimli began to shove his way through the crowd, with Kevin and Boromir close behind.  "Where is he?  Where is he?  Get out of the way!  I’m going to kill him!"  It took the determined Dwarf scant seconds to reach his goal.  He planted his feet and put his hands on his hips, glaring up at his tall friend.  Then he smiled broadly.  "You are the luckiest, the canniest, and the most reckless man I ever knew!  Bless you, laddie!"  He threw his arms around Aragorn, who accepted his affection.

The Ranger stepped away, only to find his path blocked by Legolas, who put his hand on the Ranger's shoulder, looking amused.

"You are late," he said.  He raked his friend with his gaze.  "You look terrible!  Welcome back, mellon nin."

Aragorn laughed.  He looked at Legolas in amusement, and nodded with appreciation.  “Hannon le,” he added, and patted Legolas’s arm.  

By this time, Kevin and Boromir had caught up with the others.  "We thought you might be injured, or even dead," said Boromir.  Kevin kept silent.  The thought had kept crossing his own mind for hours.

"I had to chase that Orc scout almost all the way back to his fellows before I could stop him.  But I finally caught him.  He was not so hard to slay, but the Warg he rode upon was more difficult, and it was a close thing.  I was unhorsed when my mount sensibly bolted to avoid the Warg, and I was afoot for hours catching up with him.  Still, both orc and Warg are disposed of.  He will give no warning now.  But I got a good look at the foe, and then I rode all night to get here.  I have seen our enemies, and I must see the King.  Where is he?"

"Within the keep," Boromir replied.

Aragorn strode off, his friends close behind him.  Approaching Théoden’s chamber, Aragorn threw open the doors and entered the chamber, followed by the others.  He, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, and Kevin all stood before those who were in the room, with Aragorn in front of his friends.  Théoden looked up.

"I have seen the host of the enemy," Aragorn said without preamble.  “It is a great host, one that far outnumbers those we have with us."

Théoden leaned forward, intent.  “A great host, you say?"

Aragorn nodded, his face serious.  "All Isengard is emptied."

The King grew pale.  "How many?"

"Ten thousand strong, at least," Aragorn replied grimly.  Kevin winced, and his eyes widened.  Ten thousand?  He couldn't even imagine that many Orcs!

Théoden stared, incredulous.  "Ten thousand?"

Aragorn nodded.  "It is an army bred for a single purpose...to destroy the world of Men," he grimly completed the bad news.  "They will be here by nightfall."

Kevin shook his head.  Where are machine guns and bombs when you need them?

Théoden turned away slowly, considering.  Finally, he walked resolutely from the hall.  "Let them come!" he said grimly.   All of them headed down the stairs towards the lower part of the keep.

“I want every man and strong lad able to bear arms to be ready for battle by nightfall," the King commanded Gamling as they went.  Gamling went to carry out Théoden's order, while Théoden, along with Aragorn and the others, continued onto just outside the main gate.  They looked out on the stone pathway leading into Helm's Deep.  He addressed his plan.  "We will cover the causeway and the gate from above.  No army has ever breached the Deeping Wall or set foot inside the Hornburg!"

Gimli snorted, and expressed doubt at the strategy.

"I have fought many wars, Master Dwarf.  I know how to defend my own Keep."  Théoden turned and walked back into the Keep.

Aragorn, Boromir, and Legolas followed.  Gimli lagged behind, looking put out.  Kevin glanced at the Dwarf.  "I don't think Théoden liked what you said."

The Dwarf shrugged.  "He has never encountered an army like this one will be, lad.  But he puts too much faith in this Keep."  He started to walk after the others.

Kevin followed them, thinking he certainly hoped Gimli was wrong.  Again, he wished that the weapons of warfare from his own world were available to defeat this approaching enemy.  An atomic bomb would wipe them all out!  But then he realized, And it would wipe us out, too!  Maybe the bomb itself wouldn’t kill us, since we’d use it on Saruman’s army long before it ever got here, but the radiation sickness would.  Maybe a rifle or a machine gun would be nice, but I guess bows and swords will have to do.

Then he winced as his rational thoughts caught up with his mood; here he was wishing for horrible weapons to kill with.  He was learning to be a warrior, but somehow his thoughts made him feel ashamed.  Yet he knew they would have to kill the enemy; they had no choice.  What was he turning into?  Kevin shook his head and hurried to catch up with the others. 

-oo000oo-

The refugees were quickly organized into taking their belongings and what supplies they had down into the caverns.  Kevin was among those helping the elderly and infirm to get into the caves.  He was carrying one end of a litter and a Rohirric warrior the other end, as they carried an elderly man into one of the caves.  He kept ranting that he could stay out and fight if only someone would give him a sword.  Beside him, Boromir was carrying two very young children.  Their mother walked at his side, carrying a third.  The children were crying, and Boromir was trying to comfort them as he walked.  Aragorn was assisting an old lady, and Gimli and Legolas were helping to carry supplies.

Down in the cavern that was their destination, Éowyn was in charge, putting everything and everyone in order, making sure that families were together, and that those that had the youngest of the children were in the centre.  She directed all who came to put their belongings at the far side of the space.  Her face was grim.  However, she had everything under control, though she looked frustrated.  She looked over as the new arrivals came in, and saw Aragorn.

"Aragorn!  Aragorn!"  She pushed her way through the throng towards him.  She was clearly angry.

"I’m to stay with the women in the caves," she exclaimed.

Aragorn nodded.  "That is an honourable charge."

"To mind the children, to find food and bedding when the men return.  What renown is there in that?"  Éowyn was furious.

Aragorn reached for her reassuringly. "My lady, a time may come for valour without renown.  Who, then, will your people look to in the last defence?"

"Let me stand at your side." Éowyn begged.

"It is not in my power to command it."  Aragorn was sure that she knew only her uncle could countermand the charge she had been given, but she was too overwrought to think of it.  He turned away from her.  She looked after him, unmoved.  He turned back.

"You do not command the others to stay!  They fight beside you because they would not be parted from you.  There was desperation in her voice.  "Because they love you!"

Aragorn stood before her, looking at her silently.  She averted her gaze.

She blushed.  "I am sorry."  She pushed past him and followed the people into the caves.

Kevin felt sorry for her; it was clear she had a crush on Aragorn.  But he knew that Aragorn was deeply in love with Arwen.  He sighed.  Maybe someone should tell her.

Legolas had moved to Aragorn's side.  "She is young and fierce, and trained as a shieldmaiden.  I worry for her."

"As do I," Aragorn answered.  "But there is naught we can do.  She is subject to her uncle's commands.  He is King here." 

-oo000oo-

Joey was bored, uncomfortable, and ready to stretch his own legs.  But here he was, sitting on Treebeard with Jennifer, Merry, and Pippin; the Ent was walking and walking.  He wished he knew what was going on.  He tried amusing himself by imagining himself telling his friends about all this.

In his imagination, he was surrounded by all his buddies, and they were listening to him in amazement.  "There we were, me and Jennifer and two hobbits being carried along by this huge talking tree…"  But his daydream was interrupted by an exclamation from Merry, who gave a shout and pointed behind them.  

"What's that?" cried the hobbit.

The rest of them turned to look behind, and jaws dropped as the Ents began emerging from the forest and walking towards Treebeard.  The other Ents followed them for a while, until they stopped in a wide grassy dell within a ring of leafy trees, mostly oak and alder.

Joey was awestruck at the sight of all these huge creatures.  There were so many different kinds, like different kinds of trees.  He saw some with as few as three fingers on their hands, and others with as many as nine.  They were of varying shapes, too.  They were almost like a walking forest all by themselves.  But he could see by their eyes that they were all related to Treebeard.  “Whoa!” he gasped.  “Look!"

“I’m looking, Joey!”  Jennifer gaped at the Ents.  “It’s—it’s…”  Her voice died down as she shrugged and shook her head.

The two children and the hobbits stared as the various Ents gathered together in a circle around Treebeard.  Soon the assembly began to talk, at first in a slow and low murmur, but gradually growing louder until they were chanting loudly in a rhythmic language none of the four could understand.  At first, it sounded pleasant, but after a while Joey began to grow bored.  He fidgeted a little, and Jennifer gave him a very light thump on the shoulder, like when he fidgeted in church.  But then Pippin muttered, “I wonder what the Entish is for yes or no.”  He yawned.

Merry and Jennifer glared at the younger hobbit, though Joey had to swallow a laugh, butTreebeard was immediately aware of him.

“Hm, ha, hey, my Pippin!” he said, and the other Ents all stopped their chant.  “You are a hasty folk, I was forgetting you; and anyway it is wearisome listening to a speech you do not understand.  You may get down now.  I have told your names to the Entmoot, and they have seen you, and they have agreed that you are not Orcs, and that a new line about hobbits shall be put in the old lists.  We have got no further yet, but that is quick work for an Entmoot.  You can all stroll about in the dingle, if you like.  There is a well of good water, if you need refreshing, away yonder in the north bank.  There are still some words to speak before the Moot really begins.  I will come and see you again, and tell you how things are going.”

He set them all down, and Joey found it a great relief to have his feet on solid ground once more.  The hobbits bowed to Treebeard, and a split-second later, Jennifer and Joey did as well.  Joey thought the Ents looked like they were laughing at them.

They walked towards the western side of the dingle and climbed up the path that seemed to be there.  There was a big hedge with an opening in it.  There were trees and more trees, climbing up a mountain.  On their left, they could look to the south and watched the forest below them grow distant. It seemed to end at the horizon with a bit of green that might have been the plains of Rohan.

“I wonder where Isengard is?” said Pippin.

“I don't know quite where we are,” said Merry; “but that peak is probably Methedras, and as far as I can remember the ring of Isengard lies in a fork or deep cleft at the end of the mountains.  It is probably down behind this great ridge.  There seems to be a smoke or haze over there, left of the peak, don't you think?”

"What's Isengard like?" asked Joey.  “That’s where the Orcs were taking us, wasn’t it?”

“It sure was,” Jennifer said.  Turning to Merry and Pippin, she asked, "And can the Ents really do anything about it?"

Merry shrugged, but he described what he knew of the layout of Isengard from what Gandalf had told them, and from the maps he'd studied back in Rivendell.  “But I have an odd feeling about these Ents: somehow I don't think they are quite as safe and, well, funny as they seem.  They seem slow, queer, and patient, almost sad; and yet I believe they could be roused.  If that happened, I would rather not be on the other side.”

Pippin agreed, and Jennifer nodded.  "I think Ents are probably stronger than they look,” she said.  “A whole lot stronger!  And I don't think they are all quiet and gentle, either."

“As big as they are?  I’ll bet they’re plenty strong!”  Joey shuddered.  “But they won’t hurt kids, will they?”

Jennifer shook her head.  “No, Joey.  They won’t hurt us, or the hobbits, either.”  Merry and Pippin nodded agreement.

"I am sure we are safe from the Ents, at least," added Merry, "at least since they now know that none of us are Orcs!"

They all turned back towards the clearing.  The little dingle was a pleasant place.  There was a fountain with a small pool, and the grass was soft and nice.  They drank some of the water, and Joey thought the water was some of the best water he had ever had, but then all the water had been since they came into the forest.  They were tired, and the voices of the Ents kept on going in the background, soothing and remote.

"I wonder where Frodo is now," said Pippin wistfully.

"With Sam," answered Merry, "which means he's being taken care of.  But as to his location now, I don't have a clue."

"I sure wish Aragorn would come find us," added Joey.  "I miss him a lot."

"And Kevin," added Jennifer.  "I hope Kevin is sticking with Aragorn and the others, and is safe, too."  She looked at her brother.  "Maybe we should pray for them?" She wasn't sure how the hobbits would take that.  She'd learned that hobbits didn't really seem to understand what religion even was, let alone what it was like to worship and serve and love and have fellowship with God, and they couldn't say the sort of prayer they usually did, because they could let slip what Gandalf had told them not to.

But Merry smiled at them.  "If you think it will help, you go right ahead, Jennifer.  You, too, Joey.  Even though Pip and I don't really know much about it, we do know about the Powers in the West.  Not like Bilbo and Frodo did, but a little bit from their tales.  I am sure Someone will hear you."

Jennifer and Joey held hands and bowed their heads.  “Please, God,” Jennifer prayed in a low voice, “protect Kevin and Aragorn and Boromir and Legolas and Gimli.  And please, God, especially protect Frodo and Sam; they’re all alone out there, and they’re in danger.  Please give them Your guidance, and surround them with angels to protect them all the way to Mordor and back.  And please protect Merry and Pippin and Joey and me.  And let us all be together again soon, please.  Thank You.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”

“Amen,” Joey echoed.  He added, “And please, God, let us kids all be with Mom and Dad again, real soon!  And Lucy, too.  Amen.”

They sat quietly for a while longer, and Joey was about to drop off to sleep when they suddenly realized that the Ents had fallen silent.  After hearing their voices for so long the quiet seemed odd.  They looked up andsaw Treebeard coming towards them. with another Ent at his side.

“Hm, hoom, here I am again,” said Treebeard.  “Are you getting weary, or feeling impatient, hmm, eh?"  He urged them to be patient a while longer, as there was still much for the Ents to decide.  Then he introduced his companion.  “Bregalad is his Elvish name.  He says he has already made up his mind and does not need to remain at the Moot.  Hm, hm, he is the nearest thing among us to a hasty Ent.  You ought to get on together.  Good-bye!”  Treebeard turned and left them.

Bregalad stood for some time surveying the hobbits and children solemnly; and they looked at him, wondering when he would show any signs of “hastiness”.  He was tall, and seemed a bit younger; at least his voice sounded younger to Joey.

“Ha, hmm, my friends, let us go for a walk!” he said.  “I am Bregalad, that is Quickbeam in your language.  But it is only a nickname, of course.  They have called me that ever since I said yes to an elder Ent before he had finished his question.  Also I drink quickly, and go out while some are still wetting their beards.  Come with me!

He reached down and took Joey with one long-fingered hand and Pippin with the other.  Jennifer and Merry followed alongside.  Joey noticed he had six fingers on each hand, and his barkish skin did not feel rough.  His hand was warm and comfortable, and made Joey feel safe.

They walked together for a long time.  They sang and laughed as they went.  Quickbeam laughed a lot, whenever he saw something pleasant, even if it wasn't funny.  They stopped a lot—at streams, to drink and splash in the water, and sometimes it seemed as if Quickbeam stopped to talk to trees.  Once, Joey and Pippin had a water fight at one of those streams.  Sometimes Quickbeam would sing to some of the trees, which Joey found odd, but nice.  Quickbeam was definitely weird, Joey thought, but in a good way.

It was evening when they came to his home.  It wasn't much, except a moss-covered stone set upon turves of soft green grass, with trees growing in a circle all around it, and just like Treebeard's house, there was a spring and water to drink.

Even though they'd walked a long way, they could still hear the voices far away, of the Entmoot.  But they listened to Quickbeam telling them stories, and about how the Orcs had destroyed his home and cut down his special trees.  It was a very sad story, and it brought tears to Joey's eyes.  He blinked them away.  He wasn't a girl, after all!  But he felt very sorry for Quickbeam, and could understand why he hated the Orcs so much.  Next to him, Jennifer took a deep, shuddering breath and bit her lower lip.  Tears glistened in her eyes, as well.  Soon, Quickbeam began to chant. 

“O Orofarnë, Lassemista, Carnimírië!

          O rowan fair, upon your hair how
white the blossom lay!

          O rowan mine, I saw you shine upon a
summer's day...”

The four of them gradually fell asleep to the sound of the soft singing of Bregalad, that seemed to lament in many tongues the fall of trees that he had loved.

Joey thought the next two days were awfully boring.  They hung around with Quickbeam, but they pretty much stayed at his home.  They mostly just sat around, and the hobbits and Jennifer didn't even seem to want to talk.  The weather was colder than it had been, and all there was to listen to was the sound of the Entmoot in the far distance.  Even if they could hear the words, it didn't matter, because they couldn't understand them.

At one point, Pippin was bored enough that he and Joey had a stone-throwing contest, but Pippin was so much better at it than he was that it wasn't even that much fun.  And there was nothing to eat but a few little crumbs of lembasand some Ent-draught.

The third day was windy and grey, but just as the sun came up, the voices from the Ents got louder and louder.  The sound of their anger made Joey feel scared.  He'd thought the Ents were friendly, but they sure didn't sound like it now.  Quickbeam had moved to the far end of his dell, nearer to the voices, and he listened intently, looking northward hopefully.

Everything suddenly went completely quiet.  Joey found he was holding his breath, and he let it out in a shuddering sigh.  Jennifer took his hand and squeezed it; Joey leaned against her.  Merry had his arm around Pippin's shoulders as they waited.

There was a great crash, and then: "RA-HOOM-RAH!"

The trees began to bend as if a high wind was passing through the forest.  And then a marching music began like solemn drums, and above the rolling beats and booms there welled voices singing high and strong. 

         “We come, we come with roll of drum:
ta-runda runda runda rom!
 

         “We come, we come with horn and drum:
ta-rûna rûna rûna rom!”

The Ents were coming.  Quickbeam picked them all up and began striding towards the voices. Soon they saw the other Ents, with Treebeard at their head.  They all looked really scary and determined.

Treebeard saw them coming.  “Hoom, hom!  Here we come with a boom, here we come at last!  Come, join the Moot!  We are off.  We are off to Isengard!”

When Quickbeam came alongside Treebeard, he allowed Merry and Pippin to move over to the other Ent.  It meant that they would be more comfortable; since they were the lightest, they'd been on the higher, less-sturdy limbs.  Jennifer and Joey stayed on Quickbeam’s limbs.

All the Ents had begun to chant: 

“To Isengard!  Though Isengard be ringed
and barred with doors of stone;

 Though Isengard be strong and hard,
as cold as stone and bare as bone,

We go, we go, we go to war, to hew
the stone and break the door;

For bole and bough are burning now,
the furnace roars—we go to war!

 To land of gloom with tramp of doom,
with roll of drum, we come, we come;

To Isengard with doom we come!

          With doom we come, with doom we come!”

Joey twisted his upper body around to see what was happening.  “Whoa!” he gasped.

“What, Joey?”  Jennifer furrowed her eyebrows as she peered at her little brother intently.

“Look!”  Joey pointed behind them.  “Walking trees!”

Jennifer turned to look, expecting to see more Ents, and her mouth dropped open.  “I don’t believe it!” she whispered.  “Where’d all those trees come from?  They weren’t there when we started off!”  They obviously were not Ents!

Shaking his head in response, Joey stared behind them.  The slopes that were now behind them had been bare for the most part; now they were covered with trees!  Moving trees!  “Just like in The Wizard of Oz and `H.R. Puf'n'stuf’,” he said.  “I wish Kaylee could see this!”

Jennifer grinned.  “You almost expect to see a talking scarecrow or a tin man next, don’t you?”

Joey laughed.  “Yeah, really!  Or a talking lion!”  He shook his head violently.  “You think they talk?  You know—like the Ents?”

Jennifer shrugged.  “You know, Joey, I just don’t know.  Unfortunately, we don’t have time to go to them and find out.” l  She glanced up at their host.  “Let’s ask Quickbeam.”

Joey turned to Quickbeam.  “Hey, Quickbeam!  See those walking trees?  Do they talk, too?”

"Not in the voices of Men or Elves or Ents.  They can mutter among themselves, sounding like the wind in the leaves.  But they are always angry, the huorns.  Some say they are trees that have grown Ent-like, and others that they are Ents that have grown tree-like.  For myself, I believe they are both; they are from the deepest parts of the Forest and do not have any love for those that go on two legs, but as for Orcs, they hate themand will be glad of the chance to take their revenge."  His voice deepened almost into a growl.  "As will I, those bárarum-hoom-hom-rahroom…"

Joey tilted his head, looking up at Quickbeam.  “You mean, those trees are gonna go to war, too?”

"They are wild, the huorns; I do not think you could call what they will do 'war'.  They go for revenge."

“Revenge against the orcs?” Jennifer asked.

"What else?" answered the Ent.  "For what they have done among the trees, the cutting, hacking, biting, burning...what else but revenge?"

Turning backwards, Joey waved at the huorns.  “Hi!” he shouted.  Turning back to Quickbeam, he asked, “Do you think when this is over, the huorns would like to play with me?”

"I would not attempt it, young Joey. l  They are all angry at heart, and as I said, they have no love for any who go on two legs."

Joey bit his lower lip, a troubled look in his eyes.  “Oh.”  He paused.  “Even kids like me?  I wouldn’t hurt them.”

“They probably don’t know how to play anyway, Joey,” Jennifer added.  “And the way Quickbeam talks, it doesn’t sound as if they care how old we are.  I think maybe they are more like wild animals than people.”

Joey made a face.  “This place sure isn’t like the Hundred-Acre woods in Winnie-the-Pooh!”

Jennifer laughed.  “Nope, it sure isn’t.  But at least the Ents are our friends.  They’ll protect us from the huorns.  And the Orcs!”

They had come near the top of the ridge, and the Ents were no longer singing.  Night fell, and there was silence: nothing was to be heard save a faint quiver of the earth beneath the feet of the Ents, and a rustle, the shade of a whisper as of many drifting leaves.  At last they stood upon the summit, and looked down into a dark pit: the great cleft at the end of the mountains: Nan Curunír, the Valley of Saruman.

Night lies over Isengard,” said Treebeard.  Exchanging a glance with Jennifer, Joey shivered.






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