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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 34: Never Give Up

It had gone from twilight to true night when the army of Ents crept into the upper end of the Wizard's Vale.  It was dark, too cloudy for the Moon to show her face.  Pretty soon, Merry looked about and saw that there was a wood surrounding the whole north side of Isengard.  The only light came from a window, high up in the Tower.

Treebeard and Quickbeam, and a few other Ents, crept round near the Gates.  "Be very quiet," Treebeard said to Merry and Pippin, his voice like a soft rustle of leaves. He turned to Quickbeam.  “You, too, children,” he told Jennifer and Joey, who nodded and then exchanged glances with Merry and Pippin.  The Ents all stood perfectly still and patient until both hobbits and both children could hardly stand it.  But seated as they were upon the Ents’ shoulders, they could feel his tension as he quivered beneath them.  There they stood for what seemed forever.

Suddenly harsh trumpets sounded, a huge racket and stir—the walls echoed with the sound.  Merry's heart dropped right down to his toes.  "We've been spotted!" he hissed.

But no, instead, a great army began marching out: first, wild-looking men, followed by thousands of Orcs—some marching, some riding on Wargs, and some pushing great siege engines.  Some of the Orcs near the end reminded Merry of the squint-eyed Men he'd seen back in Bree.  Trying to keep count, Merry estimated at least ten thousand altogether.

Merry wondered out loud: "Aren't we going to attack them?"

"My business is with Isengard tonight, with rock and stone," Treebeard replied.

But then Merry noticed the huorns were peeling away to the south.  They were after the Orcs, and as time passed, all he could see was the shadow they had created.  He glanced over and saw the children, and then turned toward Pippin, who nodded.  Jennifer and Joey exchanged a look, but did not say a word. Once the army was out of sight, Treebeard put down the hobbits, and Quickbeam put down Jennifer and Joey.  Treebeard went up to the gates and began hammering on them with his fist.  "Saruman!  Saruman!  Come out of there!  Show your face!"

But the only answer was arrows and stones from the walls.  Those couldn't really hurt Ents, and the hobbits and children were safely out of range.  Merry supposed that was why Treebeard and Quickbeam had set them down where they did.  

Merry looked at Jennifer.  "It's about to get nasty," he said, and bent down and began filling his pockets with stones.  Pippin began to do the same, and so Jennifer and Joey did as well.  Merry grinned to himself; a hobbit never had to be without a weapon as long as there were rocks to be found.  They nearly had their pockets filled, when Treebeard and Quickbeam reappeared and lifted them all up again.

Quickbeam, with Jennifer and Joey aboard once more, strode away to where several Ents were near the dam that held back the waters of the Isen.  With Quickbeam watching, the Ents began to work on the supports to the dam, succeeding in breaking the supports.  Water began trickling through the cracks they made.  Suddenly the dam shattered, and many Orcs began to fall to their deaths in the rushing torrents.  But others on the southern battlements began to shoot more arrows; some of those were tipped with fire.

Treebeard shouted, "Break the dam!  Release the river!  Hold on, young hobbits!" Treebeard added, as the water rushed their way.

Quickbeam and his passengers, as well as the other Ents, were hurrying back in their direction.  “Hold on, children!” Quickbeam said.  Jennifer and Joey nodded, and clutched his bark-covered limbs tightly.

Merry and Pippin began to let fly with their stones, nearly all of them hitting an Orc squarely in the head; they could see that Jennifer and Joey were also making good use of their ammunition, as rocks were also flying from the direction of Quickbeam.

Some of the arrows struck Treebeard, but they didn't really seem to harm him.  He swatted at them like they were stinging flies.  Thankfully, he was able to keep all of them from hitting Merry or Pippin.  However, some of them did strike Treebeard in the legs and torso.  Just then Merry heard Pippin yell, "Look out!"  He looked down and saw a figure with a torch—he could not tell if it was an Orc or a Man at the distance, but it was running towards Quickbeam.  A stone flew from the direction of the Ent's shoulder and knocked the torchbearer down, to be swept away by raging waters.  Pippin grinned and yelled, "Good shot, Joey!" though there was not much chance the boy could hear him.

Then Merry noticed Saruman bolting from a small door at the side of the tower.  "He's getting away!" Merry shouted.

Everyone turned, and spotted the wizard as he ran.  One of the Ents moved to pursue him from behind, just as he started to turn and race back the way he had come, since he had been seen.  But the Ent was now between him and his bolthole.  Saruman turned now, and made a desperate run for the main door.

But Quickbeam had noticed, and veered off after Saruman, fairly running on his long legs.  "Oh, hang on, Jennifer and Joey!" he muttered to himself, since he feared they might fall.  Jennifer and Joey clutched tightly to one of his other limbs.  Merry and Pippin were once more riding Treebeard, Jennifer noticed.  At least they were safe with him.

Saruman was racing ahead of the rushing waters and reached the stairs to the tower, but Quickbeam snatched him up at the last instant before Saruman could enter the doors, and before Treebeard could stop him, he strangled the life out of the fallen wizard.

“Jeez!” Joey gasped, as he and his sister watched in horrified fascination.  “Quickbeam sure was mad!”  He shuddered, and hid his face in his sister's side.

Jennifer nodded agreement, wrapping her arm protectively around Joey’s shoulders; she bit her lower lip as she gaped up at the angry Ent.  “I've never seen so much anger...”  Her voice shook.

Quickbeam had dropped the body, and he stood there staring despondently.  Slowly, Jennifer and Joey climbed down him and dropped to the steps, standing at his side, both of them very pale and frightened-looking.  Merry thought the Ent might feel a bit appalled at what he’d just done, and he was sure that the two children were shocked.  Treebeard came up beside Quickbeam and gently set Merry and Pippin down.

Around the body a grey mist gathered, and rising slowly to a great height like smoke from a fire, a pale shrouded figure loomed over the Tower.  For a moment it wavered, looking to the West, but out of the West came a cold wind, and it bent away, and with a sigh, dissolved into nothing.  And then something horrid to watch happened to his body: it seemed to have been dead for many years; it shrank, and the shrivelled face became rags of skin upon a hideous skull.   Merry looked at his cousin, who seemed pale.  Pippin was sick from the sight of it, and threw up; so did the children.  Merry, with much effort, swallowed his bile; he needed to keep his wits about him for the younger ones' sakes.

Treebeard stood there staring down at it for a moment, and then said, “Hoom…hrummm…wizards should know better.”  And he lifted a fold of Saruman’s robe and covered him over.  Then he turned and announced to all the Ents, “The wickedness of Saruman is ended.  Now let us see to cleansing Isengard."

But there weren't many of Saruman's troops left, as he appeared to have sent them almost all away to deal with Rohan, but a few dozen Men and about the same number of Orcs tried to bolt.  The Ents caught a few of the Men, but let them go after questioning them.  They killed the Orcs, and the few that did get away ended up running into the huorns.  

Pippin went over and took Jennifer's hand.  Merry went over to where Joey knelt upon the steps, and helped him up and drew him close by the shoulders.

Quickbeam looked down at them, a stricken expression on his face.  "I am sorry!  I put you in danger!"  He sighed and turned away from them all, too ashamed to let them see his face.”

Sympathetically, Jennifer laid a hand on his hand.  “It’s all right, Quickbeam.  You didn’t mean to endanger us, and you did protect us.  Thank you for that.”  Joey nodded agreement.

Treebeard looked down, directly at Merry.  "Find a safe and dry place for the children to rest, as well as yourselves," he said.  "The waters of the Isen will soon run clean and clear out the filth, but it will take many hours before the waters go down.  Walk warily; I am sure there are many holes and much dangerous debris beneath the water."

Merry nodded.  "Pip, watch over Jennifer and Joey; I'll find a safe spot for us to hole up for a while, as Treebeard said.  I'll be back in a few minutes."  When Pippin started to say they should stay together and all look at the same time, Merry shook his head.  He whispered in Pippin's ear, "There are bound to be some very unpleasant sights floating around.  The young ones don't need to see that."

Startled, Pippin nodded.  The water by the steps was already beginning to recede a little, so he gathered Jennifer and Joey to him and led them down a few steps away from the shrouded remains of Saruman.

Merry carefully picked his way down, averting his eyes from the occasional floating body.  Most of the water was still chin-deep to him, and it was easier to swim than to walk in some spots, but he came to a recess in the walls near the tower.  There were partially shattered stairs there, leading up.  The wall above the first landing was broken, but the landing itself was large and seemed stable.  It was the nearest place Merry could find, and there would be room for the four of them to lie down and recover.

By the time he made his way down, the water was only up to his shoulders.  He was exhausted, and was relieved when Treebeard picked him up.  Merry showed him the spot he'd found, and the old Ent carried him back to collect the others.  He then returned them to the place that Merry had found for them.

The two children fell asleep right away, curled together, Jennifer hugging her little brother close.  But Merry and Pippin were wakeful.  A loud growl from Pippin's stomach explained why.  Merry's own insides were also feeling rather empty.

"We need food," Pippin said.

Merry nodded.  With a glance at the two young sleepers, he got up and gave Pippin a hand up.  “So do they,” he said in a near-whisper, so as not to wake up Jennifer and Joey; Pippin nodded agreement.  They quietly and carefully picked their way down the broken steps.  There was an Ent nearby, keeping watch, so they knew the others would be safe.

While some of the waters were going down quickly, there was still a lot of stuff floating around.

Merry picked up a floating basket and tossed out its contents in disgust.  "Good luck trying to find something decent to eat around here.  Probably dead rats and mouldy bread."

Beside him, Pippin had picked up a floating apple.  He looked to the sky for a moment, trying to figure out where it came from.  Suddenly, he saw another and another...

Merry noticed what was happening.  They followed the trail of apples, and then they spied a basket of even more apples.

The hobbits looked with rapt anticipation at a storehouse in the wall near the Gates.

"Saruman’s storeroom!" Merry exclaimed, as they stared into a room filled with boxes and crates.  They began to examine them; obviously, they were filled with food meant for the Men who worked for Saruman, and not for the Orcs.

Suddenly Pippin gave a crow of triumph, and began to laugh and dance about.  Merry turned to see what he'd found: there were two barrels, very familiar-looking barrels!  Longbottom Leaf!  There were the Hornblower brandmarks on the barrels, as plain as plain, along with the year: 1417!

"How did it come here, do you suppose, Merry?" Pippin asked in amazement.

"I can't imagine.  For Saruman's private use, I fancy.  I never knew that it went so far abroad.  But it comes in handy now!"

They cracked open the top of the nearest one.  Merry took a huge sniff of it.  "The finest pipe-weed in the Southfarthing."  The barrel had been well-sealed, and the pipe-weed was dry and clean.

Pippin grinned.  "It’s perfect.  One barrel each."  He stopped.  "Wait.  Do you think we should share it with Treebeard?"  He gave an impish smirk and rolled his eyes.

Merry gave a lopsided Brandybuck grin.  "No.  No.  Dead plant and all that.  Don’t think he’d understand."  He leaned into Pippin.  "Could be a distant relative." he said, putting a conspiratorial finger aside his nose.

Pippin smiled.  "I get it.  Don’t be hasty."

Merry whipped out his pipe.  "Exactly."  He lowered his voice to imitate the Ent.  "Bah-hrum!"

The two of them began to laugh.  Finally, Merry said, "Let's take a look round."  This guard tower seemed to have been used by Men, and was fairly clean and in decent shape.  After a few moments of exploration, he told Pippin, "Let's go and fetch Jennifer and Joey, and bring them here.  There is some dry firewood in the inner storeroom, and a place where we can start a fire, get everyone dry and warm."

His cousin nodded, and they made their way down.  They found the two children still sleeping where they had left them, and woke them gently.  "We've found a better place," said Pippin, as he roused Joey.  "And there's real food."

Merry asked the Ent standing guard to carry them back there; as tired as he was, he was sure the others were just as exhausted.  The Ent, one they'd heard called Beechbone, obliged.

Jennifer seemed pleased at their discovery; Joey was too tired to even be curious.  Merry bustled about and started a small fire, and filled a kettle with some clean water from a barrel he'd found, while Pippin searched for the means of a simple meal—some day-old bread, some cheese, and some apples.  Merry'd also found some dried herbs in a small jar.  They weren't the freshest, but he steeped some chamomile and mint in the water when it boiled to make tea.  He thought it would help the children to have something hot to drink.

Joey ate a little cheese and an apple, but fell asleep before he'd taken more than a bite or two of the bread.  Jennifer just barely managed to eat her apple and drink her tea, and then she snuggled up with her brother to sleep again.

Merry and Pippin kept watch outside the entrance, Pippin pulled out his pipes, somehow still safe after all their trials, and they settled in with a smoke, as content as two hobbits could be in such a place, though they missed their other friends.

The two hobbits were finally at the point of going back in and sleeping themselves when there was the sound of a rider coming swiftly up the road.  Merry and Pippin lay quiet, and Treebeard hid himself in the shadows under the arch of the Gate.  Suddenly a great horse came striding up, like a flash of silver.  It was already dark. but they could see the rider's face clearly: it seemed to shine, and all his clothes were white.

Pippin just sat up, staring, with his mouth open.  Merry found himself gaping at the approaching horseman as well.  Jennifer and Joey hurried outside, apparently awakened by the sound of hooves, and stared at the approaching horse and rider.  “What on earth…?”  Jennifer’s voice trailed off as she and Joey joined the hobbits, crouching next to them.

The rider stopped.  Peering down at Pippin, he said, "Get up, you tom-fool of a Took!  Where, in the name of wonder, in all this ruin is Treebeard?  I want him.  Quick!"

“Gandalf!” Pippin cried out.  He and Merry leaped to their feet.  Jennifer and Joey did the same, and gaped up at the old friend they had not expected to ever see again.

“Gandalf!  You’re alive!” Jennifer gasped.

He smiled at them, a twinkle in his black eyes.  "I do seem to be," he said dryly.  "And I am most pleased to see the four of you alive and hale.  But I am in much haste; where is…"

But Treebeard heard the wizard's voice and came out of the shadows at once; and there was a strange meeting.  Gandalf obviously expected to find Treebeard here; and Treebeard might almost have been loitering about near the gates on purpose to meet him.

When Treebeard came up, he said, “Hoom…hrummm…Gandalf!  I am glad you have come!  There was a wizard to manage here.  I must tell you that Saruman is no more!”

Merry was surprised to see how sad Gandalf looked at this, considering all the trouble Saruman had caused, but the wizard shook his head and said, “I know; I felt his passing.”  Then he muttered some words in a strange language, and pointed his staff at the body, still covered at the steps.  Merry was surprised that Gandalf could see it there—he scarcely could make it out, and he already knew it was there.  But, after all, Gandalf was a wizard.   There was a flash of white flame, and when it cleared, Saruman’s body was gone, with not even any ashes to show where it had been.

Then Gandalf turned to Treebeard and said, “Treebeard, I need your help.  You have done much, but I need more.  I have about ten thousand Orcs to manage."

'"Huorns will help," said Treebeard.

Jennifer watched as Gandalf went off with Treebeard to talk.  They spoke for a short time (Jennifer was sure the Ent would have found it a very hasty conversation!).  The four companions simply stared at one another.  Gandalf!  He was alive! 

After a while, Gandalf came back to the hobbits and the children, leading Shadowfax.

“Gandalf!” Joey squealed as he jumped off the rock fearlessly into the wizard's arms.  Laughing, Gandalf wrapped the little boy in his embrace, and then, setting Joey down, he extended them to include Merry and Pippin, who had scrambled quickly down after Joey.  Jennifer followed a little more slowly, dazed in wonder at seeing Gandalf alive.

“I am glad to see you,” he told Joey.  “All of you,” he added, as he scanned Merry, Pippin, and Jennifer’s faces.

He looks as if he’s relieved, Jennifer thought.  Heck, he is relieved!  I can tell.  He even seems…  She thought.  ...uh, merry!  Or almost, anyway.  She leaned into him for her own embrace, taking a deep breath of the smell of wool and horse and some other pleasant scent she could scarcely identify, that was purely Gandalf.

“The Orcs hurt Merry and Pippin and Joey,” she said softly so that only he could hear.  “They whipped them.  Pippin fainted just before they were captured, and Merry was knocked out.”

Gandalf nodded, sorrow in his eyes.  “They whipped you, too,” he said.  Jennifer nodded, biting her lower lip.

"But Gandalf," she said more loudly, "where have you been?  And have you seen the others?"

"Wherever I have been, I am back,” Gandalf said.  “Yes, I have seen some of the others.  But news must wait.  This is a perilous night, and I must ride fast.  But the dawn may be brighter; and if so, we shall meet again.  Take care of yourselves, and keep away from Orthanc!  Good-bye!"  He swung back up on his great horse with nearly as much grace as an Elf and galloped off, his hair and beard billowing behind him.

After Gandalf left, Merry and Pippin went back into the storeroom to take a nap.  Jennifer occupied herself with going through the stores of food, to see what they actually had.

Joey went outside and sat down in front of the door; he was perched quite high, and began to amuse himself with throwing some of the stones left from his pockets into the water below, being very careful not to hit any of the Ents who were wading about.  When he got bored with that (and had run out of stones), he stood up and climbed on some of the rubble to reach the top of the wall and gaze out on the plains, which were misty up near to Orthanc, but clear further out.  He was thus the first one to spot the horse racing in their direction.

He scrambled down and poked his head into the storeroom.  "Someone's coming!" he shouted.

Jennifer looked up from her task, startled, and Merry and Pippin woke up at once, their hands on their swords, which had been placed right next to them as they slept.

Merry stood up.  "Who is it, Joey?" he asked.

Joey shrugged.  "Don’t know.  It was too far away for me to see who it was, but he was coming quickly!  It's not Gandalf coming back.  This horse is dark."

The other three followed Joey back out, and up to the spot where Joey had been standing.  They gazed out on the tiny figure of the rider, still beyond the haze of steam and fog.  "He's probably about two miles off," said Pippin.  "He will likely be here in twenty minutes."

Merry nodded.  "Joey, will you climb down and go let Treebeard know someone's coming?"

Joey grinned and nodded.  "Sure!"  He carefully descended the damaged part of the stairs, but hurried quickly once he had reached a part that was safer.

The rider was still a couple of furlongs off when the horse slowed down, clearly winded nearly to exhaustion, and the rider disappeared into the mist.  They could still hear the clop, clop of the horse's hooves, though.

Treebeard had followed Joey up to the gate; the the other three came down to join him and await whoever this person might be.  He was pale and had lank dark hair.  When he came out of the mist and suddenly saw all the ruin and wreckage in front of him, he sat and gaped, and his face went almost green.  He was so bewildered that he did not seem to notice Treebeard and the hobbits and children at first.  When he did, he gave a cry, and tried to turn his horse round and ride off.  But Treebeard took three strides, put out a long arm, and lifted him out of the saddle.  His horse bolted in terror, and he grovelled on the ground.

“I am Gríma,” he said.  “I am a friend and counsellor of the king, and I have been sent with important messages from Théoden to Saruman.”

Exchanging a glance, Jennifer and Joey rolled their eyes and snorted.  This man’s claim did not ring true!  Jennifer shook her head.  “Yeah, right!” she muttered under her breath.

'"No one else would dare to ride through the open land, so full of foul Orcs," the one who called himself Gríma continued, "so I was sent.  And I have had a perilous journey, and I am hungry and weary.  I fled far north out of my way, pursued by wolves."

Treebeard looked at him, and he flinched.  "Saruman is dead.  He is no more."

The fellow struggled.  "Then let me go away!  My messages are useless now."

"They are indeed," said Treebeard.  “Gandalf said you might turn up, and if you did, you were not to be allowed to roam about and cause more mischief.  You may wait in the Tower, until he decides what to do with you.”

Gríma wanted none of that, but Treebeard gave him no choice, so he floundered through the dirty water, and managed to get inside the Tower.  “He looks for all the world like a drowned rat,” Merry whispered, smirking.

Grinning, Jennifer and Joey nodded agreement. ‘He sure does, doesn’t he?” Jennifer whispered back.  Joey snickered.

Treebeard had watched until the fellow went inside the tower and the huge doors closed behind him, and then he turned.  "Well, he has gone in," he said when he returned.  "I saw him crawling up the steps like a draggled rat.  Now I must go and wash myself clean of the slime.  I'll be away up on the north side, if anyone wants to see me.  There is no clean water down here fit for an Ent to drink. or to bathe in.  So I will ask you two lads and you children to keep a watch at the gate for the folk that are coming.  There'll be the Lord of the Fields of Rohan, mark you!  You must welcome him as well as you know how: his men shall be fighting a great fight with the Orcs.  Maybe, you know the right fashion of Men's words for such a lord, better than Ents.  There have been many lords in the green fields in my time, and I have never learned their speech or their names.  They will be wanting man-food, and you know all about that, I guess.  So find what you think is fit for a king to eat, if you can."   Jennifer, Joey, and the hobbits exchanged glances and nodded, and Treebeard left them.

-oo000oo-

Kevin stood there in the cave, watching the people, hundreds of the Rohirrim.  The women were tearfully saying farewell to the men at the entrance.  Old men and young boys were being separated out.  He was near Aragorn, who was looking through a pile of swords as they were being passed out to the new soldiers.

He saw Aragorn giving a disdainful look at one of the old swords, and tossing it aside in disgust as unfit for use even in these circumstances.  "Farmers, farriers, stable boys.  These are no soldiers."

Gimli snorted.  "Most have seen too many winters."

"Or too few," said Legolas sadly.

"They are younger than I am," Kevin said glumly.  "And I don't feel nearly as prepared as I should be, even though you've been training me."

Aragorn looked at him.  "You are younger than I would care to see in battle, but you are more prepared than these boys.  And you have courage, I know.  Think of your siblings.  They are depending on you, though you are separated by distance."

Sighing, Kevin nodded.  I never expected to have fought in a war when I haven’t even graduated from high school yet!  Aragorn patted his shoulder and then glanced across the steps.  Kevin followed his gaze.

A boy, maybe a year or so younger than Kevin, stood at the edge of the steps,nervously holding a sword.  He looked at Aragorn and Kevin briefly before he turned his face away.

Aragorn looked over at him and held out his hand.  “Give me your sword.”  Slowly, the boy walked over to Aragorn and handed over his sword.  Aragorn took it.  Kevin watched intently, looking from Aragorn to the other boy.

"What is your name?" Aragorn asked.

"Haleth, son of Háma, my lord," the boy answered.

Aragorn nodded.  "I know your father.  He is a fine warrior."

"The Men are saying that we will not live out the night.  They say that it is hopeless…"  Haleth looked embarrassed to mention his fear, and Kevin felt sorry for him.

Aragorn stood and looked at the sword.  He gave it a few swings and held it before him.  He looked at Haleth.  "This is a good sword."

Aragorn handed the sword back to Haleth, who took it gingerly.

"Haleth, son of Háma…" Aragorn said, leaning down to him and laying a hand on his shoulder, "...there is always hope."

He strode off, but Kevin stayed behind, and moved over next to Haleth.  "Aragorn's a good man, and a great warrior," he told Haleth.  "If he says there is hope, then you can depend on him.  He's taught me everything I know—which isn't much yet—but I feel safer, knowing what he's shown me."

"Could—could you teach me some of the things he has shown you?" the boy asked nervously.

Kevin was startled, but he nodded.  "Sure.  Why don't we go and find some place with fewer people and more room?"

Haleth looked grateful.  "My father has been showing me a few things, but he is often away, since he is in Théoden King's éored and has to stay in Meduseld for much of each year," he said, as the two of them walked off to find a spot where they could practice.  "I have to stay behind on our holding, to help my mother and sister, so he does not have a lot of time to teach me."

"Well, I haven’t been learning for long," Kevin answered.  “But Aragorn and Boromir are really great warriors and good teachers, and so are Legolas and Gimli."

Just a short distance from the cavern's entrance was a small opening that led into a storage cave.  There were boxes of supplies and piles of weapons around the edges, but the centre of the room was open enough for the two boys to be able to practice.

Kevin realized that Haleth was probably almost as good as he was; they were both beginners, after all.  But Haleth was much more frightened and nervous.  Kevin was as well, but somehow, he felt much calmer—part of it was that he had already participated in an actual battle, and part of it was that he had left things up to the Lord.  Thy will be done, he prayed before he fought.  It helped a lot.  But he did not know how to explain this to Haleth without talking about things that hadn't happened yet, and wouldn’t happen in Haleth’s lifetime.  Instead, he just said a little silent prayer for Haleth himself.  Lord, please take care of my new friend, and help him to be calm and brave in battle.  And please, God, protect him.  He’s just a boy, younger than me.  Please keep him alive and safe!

They were just getting into the rhythm of sparring when suddenly they were interrupted by the loud sound of a horn.

"Is it the enemy already?" exclaimed Haleth.  The two boys rushed out of their makeshift practice room, and encountered Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and some of the Rohirric warriors speeding towards the sound as well.

They followed, and came towards the gate.  The Guards were opening the gate, so it could not be orcs.  Kevin and Haleth could see outside the Keep, to the causeway approaching the Gate.

An army of Elven warriors was marching up the causeway into the Hornburg.  To Kevin's joy, he could see Haldir at their head.  They must be from Lothlórien! he thought.  The Rohirric warriors looked upon them in wonder and excitement.  Then Théoden King walked down the steps of the Hall, staring in surprise.

The Elven troops marched in with perfect precision, with Haldir in front.  He stopped and with a subtle signal, all the others stopped in unison.

Facing the King, Haldir bowed as Théoden gazed on in astonishment.  "How is this possible?"

Haldir straightened his back.  "I bring word from Elrond of Rivendell, and from the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood:  An alliance once existed between Elves and Men.  Long ago, we fought and died together."

Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, all of whom had put on their chainmail armour, and Kevin appeared at the head of the stairs.  Haldir looked up to them and smiled.  "We come to honour that alliance," he said.

They descended the steps to greet him. Haldir reached out with a soldier's clasp; a beaming Aragorn began to return it, but then grabbed the Elf in a huge embrace.  Haldir appeared taken aback, but hugged him back lightly.  "Mae govannen, Haldir.  You are most welcome."

Haldir extended his greeting to the other members of the company.  When he reached Kevin, he arched a brow.  "I see you are still in one piece, young Stevenion."  He glanced around.  "Where are your younger siblings and the hobbits?  Are they in safety with the other women and children here?"

Kevin shook his head.  "No, I am afraid we became separated.  It's a long story, but I'll tell you about it after the battle."

The Elf chuckled.  "I like your confidence, and look forward to your tale.  But now I must speak with the King of Rohan, and with Aragorn."  Smiling, Kevin nodded.

The army of Elves made a perfect left face, and stood at attention before the King of the Rohirrim for his review.  Haldir bowed before him.  "We are proud to fight alongside Men once more."

Smiling his thanks, Aragorn turned to Kevin.  “It is time for you to put on your armour, Kevin.  The enemy will soon be here.”  He took Kevin to the armoury to be fitted out.

-oo000oo-

Kevin stood on the battlement, wearing the armour that Aragorn had selected for him.  It consisted of a leather hauberk with chain mail sleeves, and a metal collar called a gorget around his neck.  They had not been able to find any elbow or leg armour that would fit him, though.  He also had a leather cap with iron band around it, since they hadn't found a helmet in his size.  He glanced down at his temporary attire.  Sure is different from what soldiers have to wear in my time!

Haleth, who was wearing armour similar to Kevin’s, had gone to fight near the King, alongside his father, but Kevin remained with Aragorn, who was with the Elves.  Legolas and Gimli were slightly further on, with the Rohirric archers, and Boromir was helping to command those who would be guarding the Gate.  Kevin looked around.  The spot where he stood with Aragorn was packed with Elves.  Beyond, on either side, the battlements were crowded with the warriors of Rohan.

He felt somewhat nervous—not a bad, worried nervous, but the sort of nervous alertness that Boromir had told him was necessary to keep ready, and to protect himself and others.  "Fear serves you, not the other way around,” Boromir had told him.  “If you have no fear at all, you will quickly be wounded or killed.  But do not let it overcome you.  Let it help to guide you into keeping your eyes open and your weapon at the ready."  Kevin supposed that made sense; after all, he supposed that just like righteous anger, there could also be a righteous sort of fear.

He could easily see over the wall in front of him through the crenels (which he'd been told was what those slits in the walls were called), but it was dark and windy, and difficult to see what was out there.

Suddenly, there was the flash of lightning and a crack of thunder, and it began to rain.  Kevin's eyes grew wide as he saw the Orc army off in the distance, approaching.  It seemed endless, rows and rows of the creatures.  A whole sea of enemies!

Kevin took a deep breath.  If there was ever a time to remember the Scriptures that he had memorized back at Rivendell and Lothlorien, this was it.  A psalm sprang to memory.  “Lord, how many are my foes!” he whispered.  “How many rise up against me!   Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’‘  But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.  I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.  Arise, Lord!  Deliver me, my God!  Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.”  He paused.

Psalm 3.  Parts of it anyway, Kevin thought.  He whispered, “Please, God, arise and deliver us all!  Please be our shield.”

Feeling stronger, Kevin took another deep breath in and out, steadied his stance, and waited.  A supernatural peace flooded his being, but he stayed alert and ready to fight.  I’m so glad Jennifer and Joey and Kaylee aren’t here!  And Merry and Pippin, he thought.  At least they’re safe.  He bit his lower lip.  I wish I knew that Frodo and Sam were safe, too!  Beside him, Aragorn was striding along the Elven archers.  Aside from Haldir, few spoke Westron, and none of them well, so Aragorn was helping the March Warden to command them.

I wish I knew what Aragorn was saying!  Kevin shook his head.  Lady Galadriel was right.  Tonight, I do have to don the warrior’s way, and put behind my youth!  But what did she mean about me having to ride on eagles’ wings?

He did not understand the orders, but that did not matter.  He felt that the warriors from Lothlórien probably didn't even need orders, since they were so experienced.  But Aragorn knew what he was doing.  He kept his gaze on the approaching enemy.  But suddenly they stopped.  He could hear one of them roar, and they all began to pound their spears on the ground, and to chant harshly.  Kevin had to suppress an urge to laugh.  He was suddenly reminded of a football game and the crowd singing, "We will, We will Rock You!"  The humorous image made any of the fear that the display was supposed to instil evaporate.

Everyone seemed to be ready, Men and Elves, with their weapons in their hands or their arrows ready.  Aragorn yelled, "Dartho!", one of the Elven orders that Kevin did understand—it meant "Hold!"

But someone either did not hear the order, or perhaps they simply could not hold the arrow, because Kevin suddenly saw one speeding from another part of the wall, and found one of the Orcs in the front line.  It fell over, either dead or wounded.  The Orc commander gave a mighty roar, and the host charged.  

Suddenly everything erupted into chaos.  Arrows were flying from the battlements, raining down on the Orcs below.  Kevin was not an archer, though.  He was among those who waited with their swords drawn for the inevitable attack on the walls.  He was breathing in and out, remembering that the Lord was with him.  He was still nervous, but not as afraid as he had thought he would be.  The supernatural peace that had filled him before kept hold of his heart, enabling him to stay clear-headed and alert.

Ladders began to be raised against the outer walls.  Kevin was among the many who shoved them back, pushing the ladders away.  He could not help but wince at the sight of the creatures falling to their deaths.  But not every ladder was pushed off, and then at one place and then another, the Orcs began coming up between the merlons onto the battlements.

Kevin barely heard Aragorn's order of "Swords!  Swords!", for the blood was roaring in his ears, and the sounds of screams from wounded Men and Orcs was louder than he'd thought it would be.  But his sword was already drawn.  He saw that the Elves around him had done so as well.

The battle raged on, and Kevin had no room for thought.  He just allowed his body to remember what he had been taught, and fought as best he could.  More and more ladders were being brought, and more and more Orcs kept on coming, like a mighty tide.  Kevin had not even noticed that Aragorn was no longer at his side.  His vision was limited to the enemy in front of him.  At one point, he was barely able to stop himself when one of the Elves bumped into him.  Thankfully, both of them were able to stop themselves from attacking each other, and the Elf's quick reflexes saved him from one of the Orcs who had tried to sneak up when they were distracted.

And then there was a sound Kevin never had expected to hear in Middle-earth: an explosion!  Somehow, the enemy had explosives!  Then he recalled the stories of Gandalf's fireworks: where there were fireworks, there was gunpowder!  But he'd thought only wizards had them...oh.  Duh!  Saruman was a wizard, too.

The sound had also startled everyone else, and there was a brief lull in the fighting where he was.  He had completely lost track of Aragorn and Gimli, whom he had briefly seen earlier.

What on earth is going on? Kevin wondered.  What’s happening?  Frantically, he scanned the surrounding area.

His brief instant of inattention cost him.  There was a hard blow to his back, and it knocked him down.  He rolled several feet and came up hard against the wall.  He was only out of it briefly, but it hurt to breathe, and though he knew he needed to, it was difficult for him to focus enough to stand back up.  Fortunately, he had been knocked into a small alcove in the wall, and was unnoticed by both the enemy and his allies.  He struggled to his feet, and heard Aragorn's voice, shouting orders in both Sindarin and Westron to retreat.

He looked around and saw the Elves gathering to leave, and made his way towards them.  He could see Haldir easily, and heard Aragorn coming their way.

Haldir was accosted by one of the Orcs, and was making short work of it.  But just then Kevin saw what the Elf could not: another of the big Uruk-hai had risen from where it had been down—perhaps wounded or knocked out briefly, as Kevin had been.  It was sneaking up on Haldir as he was engaged with the other one.

Without even thinking about it, Kevin ran two steps and raised his sword up to block the blow.  It was a hard one, and his arm was numbed by it, but the delay was just enough to allow Haldir to turn and finish the Orc off.  He turned and locked eyes with Kevin, and gave him a brief nod of thanks, gathering Kevin in with the rest of the Elves into the retreat.

Aragorn caught up with them, and together they all made their way down into the Keep, where Théoden was fighting with his personal éored and Boromir.  They could hear the rhythmic booming of the Orcs assaulting the gate with a battering ram, and then a horrid crash as the gate smashed under the assault.  They ran faster down the steps and saw that the gate had been breached. There was one soldier impaled on the jagged end of the battering ram.  There was arrow fire, and then Boromir and Théoden were fighting fiercely with the Orcs who were trying to clear the narrow opening and get inside.

There was the loud clash of close weapons, and as the group came into the line of sight, they saw Théoden injured as he saved Gamling from a fierce Uruk-hai.  Boromir leaped into the gap and shouted to Gamling, “Protect the King!”

Kevin found himself swinging his sword wildly as they tried to cut through to the gate.  They were nearly there, but would they be in time to stop the onslaught?

Théoden was breathing heavily as he leaned against a wall.  The injury did not seem serious, thankfully, but he was looking discouraged until Aragorn fought his way to the King's side.  "Hold them!" he shouted.

“How long do you need?” Aragorn called back.

Théoden took his sword in hand.  "As long as you can give me."

Aragorn nodded and looked around.  "Gimli!"

Aragorn and Gimli headed towards a side gate.  Kevin started to follow, but Aragorn shook his head.  "You are needed here, Kevin!"  And then the two were gone, and Kevin found himself defending himself from an Orc that seemingly appeared from nowhere.  The creature struck so hard that Kevin would have gone down, but Boromir was suddenly there, and with a mighty stroke, he parted the beast from its head.  He gave Kevin a brief grin and then turned back to the gate.

Théoden observed Aragorn and Gimli from above the gate.  He turned back to his men.  “Shore up the door!”

A group of soldiers began to carry beams to dam up the door against the ocean of enemies outside.  They worked feverishly to shore up the gate.  Kevin grabbed one end of a large broken beam, regardless of who had the other end, and hurried to help.  As the onslaught slowed (Kevin assumed because of Aragorn and Gimli on the other side), they finally were able to secure and reinforce the gate.  He hoped that the two of them were all right, and was relieved when he saw Théoden put his head through a crack and give the order: "Gimli!  Aragorn!  Get out of there!"

Théoden drew back, and a final board was shoved in place at the crack, to seal it off.

Almost as one, the fighters drew a deep breath.  Kevin looked at Boromir.  "Thank you," he breathed.  Boromir smiled at him and gave Kevin a slap on the back, but did not say anything.  Instead the big man turned to help with the injured.  Kevin looked around to see if he could help also, and was alarmed to see Haleth.  He was huddled against a wall, his face on his knees.  Kevin rushed over to him.

"Haleth!  Are you all right?"

The other boy lifted a tear-ravaged face.  "My father!  He was hit by the ram, and before I could make my way to him, the Orcs…"  He stopped briefly and gasped, "They...they cut him to pieces!"

Boromir saw Kevin awkwardly patting Haleth on the back, and went over.  He heard what the boy had said.  "Lad, your father was killed by the ram before they began to maim his body.  He would have felt nothing."

But Haleth just looked up at him blankly.  Kevin nodded to show Boromir he'd stay with the other boy and try to help him.  As Boromir walked away, Kevin drew Haleth to him by the shoulders, and felt him give way to sobbing.  Kevin just stayed with him, holding him, not saying anything, but silently praying for Háma and all the others who had died defending Helm's Deep.

Then the order came from Théoden and Gamling: "Pull back!  Pull back!  Pull back from the Gates!"

Kevin heard a sound of cheering on the battlements above, and realized that Aragorn and Gimli must have been pulled to safety.  He stood up and helped Haleth to rise, and they began to follow the retreat from the Gate.  If it were assaulted again, there would be no shoring up.

The remaining defenders had retreated to the Keep and barred the door.  Their reprieve was brief.  They heard the crashing of the gate from its second onslaught, and they could hear the Orcs overrunning the stronghold.

After Kevin had given Haleth some water to drink, Gamling had come to speak to him; he had been a close friend of Hama, and his words helped put some heart into the bereaved son.  Now Haleth had recovered his nerve, his grief turning to anger.  He and Kevin were helping to barricade the door, and then they would draw their swords together and fight once more.  Kevin once more felt confident that somehow things would work out right, even if they were killed.  Although for Mom and Dad’s sake, I sure hope it won’t come to that! he thought.  They don’t even know where we are.  They wouldn’t have any way to find out I’m dead, or bury me.

Across the room, he could see Aragorn and Théoden speaking; they were clearly debating what to do next.  He could not hear what they said, but he saw Legolas standing with his head cocked, indicating that the Elf was eavesdropping.

Suddenly, Théoden's stance straightened, and his face cleared.  He made a gesture that Gamling understood.  Gamling came over to them.  He picked Haleth and three or four other Rohirric warriors.  "Go!  Your job is to get the women and children clear of the caverns and into the mountains beyond.  Tell Lady Éowyn she is to lead them, and you will fight the rear-guard."

Haleth looked like he wanted to argue.  Angry over his father's death, he wanted to be in the thick of the fighting.  Kevin could tell what he was thinking by the expression on his face, and put his hand on Haleth's arm.  "Your mom and sister are in those caves," he whispered.

Clearly, Haleth had not remembered that.  He looked at Kevin.  "Thank you!" he said, and after clasping Kevin's wrist in a warrior's handshake, he went with the others on his appointed task.

"Can I go with them?" Kevin asked, loath to part with his new friend.

Gamling shook his head.  "You are under the command of Lord Aragorn.  I may not set orders to you, nor permit you to leave without his say."

Kevin sighed, but nodded.  There was another sickening crack at the door.  He drew his sword and went to stand next to Boromir and other warriors.  But Legolas was smiling, and he had his knives in hand.

After what seemed like forever, Kevin noticed a faint ray of light illuminating the room.  He looked around.  The rays of dawn could be seen through the window.  It’s morning! he thought.  Have we really been fighting all night?

Another blow at the door sent some of the men who were barring it to the floor, but they quickly scrambled up to hold it once more.

Kevin glanced over to see Théoden put his hand on Aragorn's shoulder.  Gamling rushed over and went to the smaller door that led to the caverns where the horses had been stabled.  Then Kevin saw Gimli climb up a stairway leading to a giant horn, the one he had been told was the Horn of Helm Hammerhand.  The ram hit again, but not quite as hard.

Théoden's voice rang out: "Fell deeds awake...now for wrath...now for ruin and a red dawn!"  He placed his helm upon his head and, drawing his sword, held it high.

Gimli blew on the horn, and it sounded a deep blast across the depths of Helm's Deep.

There was a brief silence.  The Orcs had stopped the pounding.  Perhaps, thought Kevin, they think that horn is some sort of strange weapon.  But the silence was broken by noise from another direction, as Gamling and a couple of the stablemen led forth the horses.  All of the Rohirrim, Aragorn, Legolas, Boromir, and Kevin quickly mounted their horses.  Gimli kept blowing the giant horn.

But now there was another crack—and the door gave way.

Théoden held out his sword.  "Forth Eorlingas!" he called.

They charged out of the hall, straight through the broken door, trampling the hapless Orcs, who were attempting to come in over the rubble, down as they rode.  Even the horses seemed to appreciate what they were doing.  Kevin's own horse reared up and gave an extra stomp on one of the Orcs.  The horses blasted out of the Hall under the standard of Rohan.  They charged down the road of the Keep, slicing through stunned Uruk-hai as they rode.

Gimli continued blowing on the horn, sounding its low blast through the keep.  They poured through the main gate and down the causeway, knocking Uruk-hai off the narrow walkway as they did.  They fought bravely, as if it were their last stand.

Kevin saw Aragorn look up, and followed his gaze.  Between two massive boulders in the light of the dawning sun, a white horse reared on the horizon.

It was Gandalf, shining white in the brilliant blaze of the rising sun!

They looked up and cheered.  Suddenly, beside Gandalf, another figure appeared.  It was Éomer!  He raised his sword high, and they could hear his voice ring out: "Rohirrim!"

A large group of riders emerged from behind the rise.

The Uruk-hai moved into position to receive this new threat.  They readied their lances before them.

Gandalf and Éomer led the charge down the ridge toward the waiting throng of Uruk-hai, plunging precipitously down the hillside in a move that would have been fatal for riders less skilled than Rohirrim.  Gandalf blazed brighter than the sun itself, a blast of light coming from the tip of his staff.  All around him, the Riders had levelled their spears.

The light had momentarily blinded the Uruk-hai, giving the Rohirrim the first strike to overrun them.  They were no match for tons of heavily armoured Men and horses, and those who were not ridden down began to break and run...

...right into the midst of a dense forest that blocked their way.  A forest Kevin could have sworn was not there when he had arrived.  Whoa! he thought, gaping at the thick clumps of trees.  Where did that come from?!  That wasn’t here before!  How on earth did that forest get here?  Trees can’t move!






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