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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.

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 Tolkien's 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: We would also like to acknowledge the invaluable help of our beta, Linda Hoyland, another well-known and prolific LotR fanwriter, whose many wonderful stories also grace this site.

Chapter 36: Just One Mistake

Pippin's cry was piercing, shrill, and terrified.  Merry moved Joey aside and tried to grab his cousin, but suddenly he was also pushed aside as Aragorn came rushing toward him, followed by Legolas.  Aragorn threw a blanket over the stone and managed to get it away from Pippin just as Gandalf came up, looking both distressed and angry.

Kevin and Jennifer were wakened by Pippin's scream.  Kevin sat bolt upright, fumbling for his sword at the side of his bedroll.  Jennifer woke breathing heavily, still confused by waking up so suddenly.  Then they looked over to see Joey out of bed, next to Merry and apparently in the middle of the commotion.

"Did Pippin have a nightmare, you think?" Jennifer asked.

"Your guess is as good as mine," her older brother replied.

They started to go over to where Gandalf was attending to Pippin, but Legolas caught each of them by the shoulder.  "Wait," he said.  "Give Gandalf some room."

“So this is the thief!” said Gandalf.   “But you, Pippin!  This is a grievous turn to things!”  He knelt by Pippin's body: the hobbit was lying on his back rigid, with unseeing eyes staring up at the sky.  “The devilry!  What mischief has he done—to himself, and to all of us?”  The wizard's face was drawn and haggard.  "And you, Joey!  Did you look into it as well?"

Too frightened to speak, Joey shook his head emphatically.  As badly as he had wished to look into the round thing with Pippin, something had held him back at the last second, and then when the temptation had almost overwhelmed him, Merry had pulled him back.  Finally, he whispered, "I think it looked at me."  The wizard gave him a sharp look and then turned to Pippin.  Merry was hovering over his cousin, white-faced and angry.

Joey watched as Gandalf took Pippin's hand and bent over his face.  He seemed to be listening for the hobbit's breath.  Pippin gave a shudder after Gandalf's large hand caressed his brow and the wizard whispered something to him.  He blinked slowly and then, with a yell, he sat up and began staring about him at everyone.

“It is not for you, Saruman!” he cried in a shrill and toneless voice, shrinking away from Gandalf.  “I will send for it at once.  Do you understand?  Say just that!”  Then he struggled to get up and escape, but Gandalf held him gently and firmly.

“Peregrin Took!” he said.  “Come back!”

Pippin slowly relaxed, and then with a shake of his head as if clearing it of fog, he fell back into Gandalf's arms.  “Gandalf!” he called out.  “Gandalf!  Forgive me!”

“Forgive you?” said the wizard.  “Tell me first what you have done!”

“I, I took the ball and looked at it,” stammered Pippin; “and I saw things that frightened me.  And I wanted to go away, but I couldn't.  And then he came and questioned me; and he looked at me, and, and that is all I remember.”

“That won't do,” said Gandalf sternly.  “What did you see, and what did you say?”

Pippin shut his eyes and shivered, but said nothing.  They all stared at him in silence, except Merry who turned away.  But Gandalf's face was still hard.  “Speak!” he said.

The hobbit began to speak, hesitantly at first, then slowly his words grew clearer and stronger.  “I saw a dark sky, and tall battlements,” he said.  “And tiny stars.  It seemed very far away and long ago, yet hard and clear.  Then the stars went in and outthey were cut off by things with wings.  Very big, I think, really; but in the glass they looked like bats wheeling round the tower.  I thought there were nine of them.  One began to fly straight towards me, getting bigger and bigger.  It had a horrible—no, no!  I can't say.

“I tried to get away, because I thought it would fly out; but when it had covered all the globe, it disappeared.  Then he came.  He did not speak so that I could hear words.  He just looked, and I understood.

“‘So you have come back?  Why have you neglected to report for so long?’

“I did not answer.  He said: ‘Who are you?’  I still did not answer, but it hurt me horribly; and he pressed me, so I said: ‘A hobbit.’

“Then suddenly he seemed to see me, and he laughed at me.  It was cruel.  It was like being stabbed with knives.  I struggled.  But he said: ‘Wait a moment!  We shall meet again soon.  Tell Saruman that this dainty is not for him.  I will send for it at once.  Do you understand?  Say just that!’

“Then he gloated over me.  I felt I was falling to pieces.  No, no!  I can't say any more.  I don't remember anything else.”

“Look at me!” said Gandalf.  

Pippin looked up straight into his eyes.  The wizard held his gaze for a moment in silence.  Then his face grew gentler, and the shadow of a smile appeared.  He laid his hand softly on Pippin's head.

“All right!” he said.  “Say no more!  You have taken no harm.  There is no lie in your eyes, as I feared.  But he did not speak long with you.  A fool, but an honest fool, you remain, Peregrin Took.  Wiser ones might have done worse in such a pass.  But mark this!  You have been saved, and all your friends too, mainly by good fortune, as it is called.  You cannot count on it a second time.  If he had questioned you, then and there, almost certainly you would have told all that you know, to the ruin of us all.  But he was too eager.  He did not want information only: he wanted you, quickly, so that he could deal with you in the Dark Tower, slowly.  Don't shudder!  If you will meddle in the affairs of Wizards, you must be prepared to think of such things.  But come!  I forgive you.  Be comforted!  Things have not turned out as evilly as they might.”

He lifted Pippin gently and carried him back to his bed.  Merry followed, and sat down beside him.  “Lie there and rest, if you can, Pippin!” said Gandalf.  “Trust me.  If you feel an itch in your palms again, tell me of it!  Such things can be cured.  But anyway, my dear hobbit, don't put a rock under my elbow again!  Now, I will leave you two together for a while.  But first...

Gandalf turned to Joey.  "You said you thought it looked at you."

By this time, Legolas allowed Kevin and Jennifer to approach more closely, enough to realize that whatever mischief Pippin had been into, Joey had apparently gone along with it.  Kevin scowled at his little brother, and Jennifer shook her head.

Joey hung his head.  By this time, he could see not only Gandalf and Aragorn and Legolas standing around, but also his brother and sister, both of them looking really mad.  And the King and a lot of the Riders were also there.  It was humiliating.  He bit his lip.  "I wanted to see it, too.  I was going to look in it, and I started to, but, well, suddenly it seemed like not such a good idea, and I jerked away.  But I could feel something staring in my direction, and it might have seen me before that."  He bit his lower lip and glanced at Merry.  “Then I was tempted to look in it again, and the temptation was real strong.  So very strong—I almost gave in!  But Merry held me and pulled me back.”  Merry nodded.  “Thank goodness,” Joey added, looking at Merry.  "Thanks, Merry."

Merry just nodded back at him solemnly.

“Indeed.”  Gandalf nodded.  "I know not what warning guarded you from your own folly, child, but I am glad of it.  Pippin suffered horribly in the grasp of the Eye, and I would not have you suffer such things as well.  But if you were so much as glimpsed, then your own danger is increased."

Joey bit his lower lip.  “Does that mean Sauron wants me, too?”

The wizard did not answer, but looked at those around him, and gave Joey into his older siblings’ custody.  "See that your little brother is comforted.  Scolding can come later."  He watched them lead their brother away to the other side of the room, and then led the others in the opposite direction.  “Peril comes in the night when least expected,” he said.  “We have had a narrow escape!”

“How is Pippin?” asked Aragorn.

“I think all will be well now,” answered Gandalf.  “He was not held long, and hobbits have an amazing power of recovery.  The memory, or the horror of it, will probably fade quickly.  Too quickly, perhaps."  He looked at the blanket-covered object in Aragorn's arms.  "Will you, Aragorn, take the Orthanc-stone and guard it?  It is a dangerous charge.”

“Dangerous indeed, but not to all,” said Aragorn.  “There is one who may claim it by right.  For this assuredly is the palantír of Orthanc from the treasury of Elendil, set here by the Kings of Gondor.  Now my hour draws near.  I will take it.”

Gandalf looked at Aragorn, and then, to the surprise of the others, he bowedand gestured at it.

“Receive it, lord!” he said: “in earnest of other things that shall be given back.  But if I may counsel you in the use of your own, do not use it—yet!  Be wary!”

“When have I been hasty or unwary, who have waited and prepared for so many long years?” said Aragorn.

“Never yet.  Do not then stumble at the end of the road,” answered Gandalf.  “But at the least keep this thing secret.  You, and all others that stand here!  The hobbit, Peregrin, and the boy, Joey, above all should not know where it is bestowed.  The evil fit may come on them again.  For alas!  Pippin has handled it and looked in it, as should never have happened, and Joey has come dangerously close to doing so.  Pippin ought never to have touched it in Isengard, and there I should have been quicker.  But my mind was bent on Saruman, and I did not at once guess the nature of the Stone.  Then I was weary, and as I lay pondering it, sleep overcame me.  Now I know!”

“Yes, there can be no doubt,” said Aragorn.  “At last we know the link between Isengard and Mordor, and how it worked.  Much is explained.”

“Strange powers have our enemies, and strange weaknesses!” said Théoden.  “But it has long been said: oft evil will shall evil mar.”

“That many times is seen,” said Gandalf.  “But at this time we have been strangely fortunate.  Maybe, I have been saved by this hobbit from a grave blunder.  I had considered whether or not to probe this Stone myself to find its uses.  Had I done so, I should have been revealed to him myself.  I am not ready for such a trial.  But we have only a little time."

He looked thoughtful, and stroked his beard briefly.  "We must snatch that time.  We have been too leisurely.  We must move.  This is no place now to linger in.  I will ride ahead at once with Peregrin Took.  It will be better for him than lying in the dark while others sleep.  I also think that Joey would be best away from here as well."  He looked at Boromir.

"My lord, I think that my way, and that of Pippin, is South, to Minas Tirith.  Will you accompany me to the Hall of your father, to help me explain things?  You could bear young Joey along with you."

Boromir took a deep breath.  "I think if you are going to the Citadel, I had best come with you, since my father is not overly fond of you.  Yet if you ride upon Shadowfax, I do not think I can keep up with you, especially with the extra burden of Joey.  My own horse, though a fine Rohirric mount, is not the Prince of the Mearas as is your Shadowfax."

Théoden and Éomer had been listening in, and the two of them exchanged a glance.  "Lord Boromir," the King said, "there is a Meara that might consent to bear you.  Hrimfax is the son of Shadowfax, and we have been wooing him in the hopes he might one day consent to bear Éomer.  He is the only horse in Rohan that might possibly keep up with Shadowfax."

"But we can spare no time in searching for him," said Boromir.

Théoden, Éomer, Gandalf, and Legolas all looked amused.  "Hrimfax has been trailing us for a long time; we travel with his sire, after all.  He followed at a distance when Gandalf went to fetch me and my éored for the battle.   As one of the Mearas, he is not kept confined, and may run as he pleases," said Éomer.  "He also likes to keep track of me, as well.  He has yet to consent to bear me, but he does think of me as his friend."  He put two fingers to his mouth, and gave a shrill whistle.

Soon there was a distant sound of hooves, and at the far edge of the clearing, a beautiful horse appeared.  He stood back warily.  Everyone also stood back out of respect, but Théoden, Éomer, Boromir, Legolas, and Gandalf slowly approached him.

Aragorn, however, walked over to where Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey were.


Kevin found it hard to follow Gandalf's advice.  He really wanted to yell at Joey for pulling such a stupid stunt, even if it had been Pippin's idea.  He clamped down on his tongue, and allowed Jennifer to hug Joey and pet him while he tried to rein in his temper.  But before he had a chance to say anything, Aragorn was tapping him on the shoulder.

"Kevin, I know that you have just been reunited with your brother, but his actions have placed him in danger,” Aragorn said in a low voice.  “He and Pippin need to be sent far from here."

Despite Aragorn’s efforts to keep his voice down, Joey and Jennifer heard him.  They both turned on him, appalled.  “Can—can Kevin and I go with him?  With Joey?” Jennifer asked, holding her little brother tightly against her side.

Aragorn shook his head sadly.  “No, you may not, Jennifer.  Joey and Pippin will ride with Gandalf and Boromir to Minas Tirith.  You and Kevin must stay here with Théoden King and me.”

Joey took a step forward, shock on his face.  “No!” he wailed.  “Not without Kevin and Jennifer.  Please!”

Approaching Joey, Aragorn laid a hand on his shoulder.  “I know you do not want to be separated from your brother and sister so soon after being reunited, Joey,” he said kindly.  “But if they try to accompany you to Minas Tirith, it will only slow all of you down, and time is of the essence now.  It is not safe for you or Pippin to stay here at present.  You will not be alone, Joey; Pippin is going with you, and so are Gandalf and Boromir.  You will be reunited with Kevin and Jennifer as soon as it is safe for you to be with them once more.”

Kevin took a deep, shuddering breath.  His anger toward Joey had been replaced with concern and distress.  “I know, Joey,” he said, his voice shaking.  “I don’t want us to be separated again either.  Especially now.  But we’ll have to be, for the time being.”

“That is right.”  Putting his arm around Joey’s shoulders, Aragorn nodded toward the entrance.  “Come with me, Joey.  A horse is being selected for you and Boromir as I speak.  You may say goodbye to Kevin and Jennifer before you leave.”  Slumping his shoulders, the morose little boy accompanied Aragorn out the door.


Those who had approached the horse stopped several feet away.

Éomer smiled.  "Greetings, Hrimfax, my friend.  I am not here to ask if you will bear me.  Rather, I would ask if you might find my fellow warrior Boromir worthy of you.”  He gestured at Boromir, who tried to look both humble and proud at the same time.

Legolas moved close to the fence and spoke in Sindarin.  Easui, Hrimfax,” he said soothingly.  “Boromir na-milui adan, a ho cin eithel.”*

Hrimfax tossed his head.  Just then another horse trotted over to him.  It was Shadowfax.  He looked at his son until the younger horse looked away.  Then Shadowfax put his own head against that of his get.  They stood there silently, and then Hrimfax approached Boromir and placed his muzzle against Boromir's hand.  Shadowfax followed, and they stood there together.

In just a few moments, they were joined by Gandalf, who had Merry and Pippin by his side, and by Aragorn, who was with Joey and his older siblings.  Pippin was looking downcast, and Merry was scolding him.

Gandalf turned to Théoden.  "We are going to Minas Tirith.  It seems clear that the enemy's next strike will fall there.  Boromir needs to return to his people, and to speak with his father.  It is there that the next blow will fall.  If Gondor calls, will Rohan answer?"

Théoden nodded.  "I will begin the muster.  But it may take days to call in all of my people."

At that moment a shadow fell over them.  It seemed as though the moon suddenly vanished.  Joey gave a cry of fear, but he was not alone—so did many of the Riders.  He shuddered, as it seemed to become cold, and he felt a terror like he had never known before.  He gasped and looked up to see a giant winged shape fly past the moon.  It whirled around, and then flew away as fast as it had come.  The stars seemed to pale before its shadow.  Then it was gone.

Gandalf was gazing up, his arms out and downwards, stiff, his hands clenched.

“Nazgûl!” he cried.  “The messenger of Mordor.  The storm is coming.  The Nazgûl have crossed the River!  Ride, ride!  Wait not for the dawn!  Let not the swift wait for the slow!  Ride!”

He sprang upon Shadowfax's back, and Aragorn swept Pippin up, placing him in front of the wizard.  Boromir also mounted Hrimfax quickly, and after a Joey had received a very quick hug from Jennifer, Kevin handed him up to sit in front of Boromir.

"Behave yourself, Joey, and stay safe," he ordered.

Joey nodded, biting his lower lip, and Hrimfax shot off right after Shadowfax, as the four of them rode into the night.

He could faintly hear Jennifer call after him, "We love you, Joey!" but her voice was quickly gone, and he had no breath to call back to her.

Joey could not help the tears that threatened him.  He and Jennifer had only just gotten their older brother back, and now he had to leave both brother and sister behind.  Now he was separated from his whole family!  His parents, Megan, Kaylee, everyone!  Why had he been so stupid as to go along with Pippin?  He was just thankful that he had not stared directly into that thing, though he still wondered why he had not at the last second; what had held him back from doing so?  At least, when he had been so strongly tempted again, to the point where he had been almost overpowered by it, Merry had grabbed him and pulled him back, but the first time, something in Joey’s heart had hindered him from looking into that ball, or whatever it was called.


“A beautiful, restful night!” said Merry to Aragorn.  “Some folk have wonderful luck.  Pippin did not want to sleep, and he wanted to ride with Gandalf—and there he goes!  Instead of being turned into a stone himself to stand here forever as a warning.”

Kevin and Jennifer looked at one another.  It sounded as if Merry was just as annoyed with Pippin as Kevin, at least, was with Joey.  Although I wouldn’t really want Gandalf to turn my little brother into a stone, Kevin thought.  I’m mad at him for what he did, but not that mad!  Aragorn looked amused.

“If you had been the first to lift the Orthanc-stone, and not he, how would it be now?” the Ranger said.  “You might have done worse.  Who can say?  But now it is your luck to come with me, I fear.  At once.  Go at once, all of you, and bring anything Pippin or Joey left behind.”  Nodding, Merry and the remaining children did as they were told.

Please, God, Kevin silently prayed, as he gathered his things and stored them in his backpack, protect Joey and Pippin!  And Boromir and Gandalf, too.  He paused.  Thank You for protecting my little brother from looking into that stone!  Thank You for stopping him from doing that.  Please keep protecting him, Lord.


Gandalf and Boromir were gone, and the thudding hoofs of the two Mearas were lost in the night, when Merry, Kevin, and Jennifer all came back to Aragorn.  Merry had only a light bundle, for he had lost his pack at Parth Galen, and all he had was a few useful things he had picked up among the wreckage of Isengard.  Kevin and Jennifer had their packs, which already hung on their backs.  Hasufel was already saddled.  Legolas and Gimli with their horse stood close by.

“So, six of the Company still remain,” said Aragorn.  “We will ride on together.  But we shall not go alone, as I thought.  The king is now determined to set out at once.  Since the coming of the winged shadow, he desires to return to the hills under cover of night.”

“And then whither?” said Legolas.

“I cannot say yet,” Aragorn answered.  “As for the king, he will go to the muster that he commanded from Edoras, three nights from now.  And there, I think, he will hear tidings of war.  But for myself and any who ride with me, we shall take the swiftest way to Dunharrow, and thence to Minas Tirith beyond.”

The word had come down that Théoden King was riding for Dunharrow.  All of the refugees from Helm's Deep had already been led to Dunharrow by the Lady Èowyn.  It was there that the rest of the muster would gather.  It would be a slower ride, as they had such a large group of riders.

Merry was up at the head of the line, having mounted a stocky pony, alongside King Théoden, to whom he had impulsively sworn fealty less than an hour ago.  And so were Aragorn and Legolas and Gimli.  Haleth was among the Rohirrim who were riding with the King at the van, and Kevin rode alongside him.  Jennifer had taken her place next to that of her brother.  It had seemed to take forever to get everyone organized, but just when Jennifer was about to burst with impatience, the horns were blown, and the orders were given to head out.  Jennifer put her mind to riding, something she had far less practice with than the knife-fighting.  Fortunately, the Rohirrim had chosen a gentle mare for her when they had learned that she was still a beginning rider.

The ride was slow and mostly silent; it was hard, she found, to concentrate on staying on a horse and keep up a conversation, so mostly she just listened to Kevin and Haleth talking.  Maybe, someday, if she ever lost her fear of falling off, she'd be able to talk and ride as well.


Kevin was pleased with the improvement in his riding skills.  He'd practiced quite a bit in Rivendell, but all of the people in Rohan rode so naturally.  They had all been very generous with their tips on how to improve his riding (even though it was clear to him that they thought it very odd that he had never learned to ride as a child).

He and Haleth talked for a while as they rode.  His Rohirric friend had cheered up immensely at the thought of going into another battle, and talked with great enthusiasm of all the Orcs he hoped to kill.  That was something that Kevin found strange—he knew his friend still grieved his father, and he knew that Haleth had been just as traumatized by the fury and chaos of the battle in Helm's Deep, but it didn't fit with him being so excited about another battle.  But it seemed like all the Rohirrim he had met felt that way.  They were a warrior culture, and he was only just beginning to realize what that meant.

Like the Vikings, he thought, remembering his history lessons at school.  They were warriors, too!  Another warrior culture, just like the Rohirrim.  But the Rohirrim don't pillage or burn.  That's what the Vikings did, and that’s what Orcs do, too.

"I look forward to avenging my father," Haleth said.

Kevin shook his head.  "I'm not really looking forward to fighting again.  But that’s what we have to do, to keep people safe, so we will.  I really don't like killing, but they don't seem to care about peace, so I guess there is no way around it."

Haleth looked at him in surprise, and then his expression changed to a thoughtful nod.  "You are like the Lord Aragorn," he said.  "You are a brave warrior who does his duty, but you do not like the slaying."

Kevin smiled gratefully.  "That's high praise.  Thanks.  I can't think of anyone in Middle-earth I would want to be like, besides Aragorn.”  He paused.  “He sort of reminds me of my own father.  He was a warrior, too, when he was young, for a few years; that was before he got married.  I miss him, and I hope we’ll be able to see him again soon."  He didn’t say anything about his father having gone to college after his deployment, but before his marriage.

Before Haleth could respond, several of the Rohirrim behind them raised their voices in a song.  It sounded more like a chant than the songs Kevin was used to, but it was very interesting to listen to.  Haleth joined in, but Kevin just listened.  He didn't know any of the words, but he liked it very much.  It would be a long time before they stopped.

Suddenly, there was a pounding of hooves, as one of the scouts came galloping up.  Kevin saw him thunder past as he rode right up to the King and Aragorn.

“My lord,” he said to the king, “there are horsemen behind us.  As we crossed the fords I thought that I heard them.  Now we are sure.  They are overtaking us, riding hard.”

Théoden at once called a halt.  The Riders turned about and seized their spears.  Aragorn dismounted, and drawing his sword he stood by the king's stirrup.  Éomer and his esquire rode back to the rear.  Kevin saw Merry draw aside, and though he stayed upon his pony, he carefully drew his small sword.

Kevin looked at Haleth, who had dismounted as Aragorn had.  He took a deep breath.  "Here we go again, Lord," he prayed under his breath.  He dismounted, drew his sword, and tightened his belt.

The moon had been hidden behind the clouds, but the clouds passed and now it was visible again.  And soon they could hear the sound of hoofs, and they could see the moonlight shining on the armour of the approaching groups.  They could not make out how many.

When they were some fifty paces off, Éomer cried in a loud voice: “Halt!  Halt!  Who rides in Rohan?”

Kevin saw that Jennifer was looking nervous.  "Jen!  Go over there—"  He pointed to a spot behind them, back near the waggons where most of the women and all the children were.  "You aren't a good enough rider to fight from horseback."  Actually, he didn't want her fighting at all, if he could help it, but he wasn't going to say that to her, since it would put her back up.

She nodded, relieved, and very carefully guided her mare back to the place where Kevin had pointed.  She was willing to fight for her family if she had to, but she wasn't sure that she could control her horse while doing so.

The pursuers brought their steeds to a sudden stand.  A silence followed: and then in the moonlight, a horseman could be seen dismounting and walking slowly forward.  His hand showed white as he held it up, palm outward, in token of peace; but the king's men gripped their weapons.  At ten paces the man stopped.  He was tall, a dark standing shadow.  Then his clear voice rang out.

“Rohan?  Rohan did you say?  That is a glad word.  We seek that land in haste from long afar.”

“You have found it,” said Éomer.  “When you crossed the fords yonder you entered it.  But it is the realm of Théoden the King.  None ride here save by his leave.  Who are you?  And what is your haste?”

“Halbarad Dúnadan, Ranger of the North I am,” cried the man.  “We seek one Aragorn son of Arathorn, and we heard that he was in Rohan.”

“And you have found him also!” cried Aragorn.  Giving his reins to Merry, he ran forward and embraced the newcomer.  “Halbarad!” he said.  “Of all joys this is the least expected!”

"Who is Halbarad?" Haleth asked Kevin, as they slowly sheathed their weapons, relieved that they didn't need to fight right now.

Kevin shrugged.  "I don't know.  I never saw him before.  But he seems to be good friends with Aragorn, so at least they aren't enemies!"

“All is well,” said Aragorn, turning back.  “Here are some of my own kin from the far land where I dwelt.  But why they come, and how many they be, Halbarad shall tell us.”

“I have thirty with me,” said Halbarad.  “That is all of our kindred that could be gathered in haste; but the brethren Elladan and Elrohir have ridden with us, desiring to go to the war.  We rode as swiftly as we might when your summons came.”

“But I did not summon you,” said Aragorn, “save only in wish.  My thoughts have often turned to you, and seldom more than tonight; yet I have sent no word.  But come!  All such matters must wait.  You find us riding in haste and danger.  Ride with us now, if the king will give his leave.”

Théoden was indeed glad of the news.  “It is well!” he said.  “If these kinsmen be in any way like to yourself, my lord Aragorn, thirty such knights will be a strength that cannot be counted by heads.”

"Are the children McCloud among you?" Halbarad asked.

Kevin's head jerked up as he heard his last name.  He walked towards those at the front, leading his horse.  Haleth followed.

They heard Aragorn's answer.  "Kevin and his sister, Lady Jennifer, are among us.  Young Joey has travelled ahead to Minas Tirith with Gandalf and Boromir."  Aragorn spotted Kevin coming up next to him with Haleth.  "Haleth, of your courtesy, would you please go to the rear, and bring forward the Lady Jennifer?"

Haleth gave a quick nod and jumped on his horse, riding swiftly back towards the group of women and children and waggons.  It was only seconds before the youth returned, with Jennifer riding behind him.

Halbarad smiled at Jennifer, as Haleth helped Jennifer down from the horse.  Haleth was blushing furiously.  Jennifer came forward to stand at her brother's side.

"Lord Kevin, Lady Jennifer, I bring you messages from Rivendell.  From your younger sister Kaylee, I am to present to you many hugs and kisses.  I hope you will permit me to give you those verbally?”  His eyes twinkled.  Kevin and Jennifer exchanged amused glances, and Aragorn and Théoden, who were listening, chuckled.  Halbarad continued, “And I am to say that she misses you very much, but she is trying very hard to be good while you are gone.  You are not to worry about her."  He grinned as Kevin, Jennifer, Aragorn, and Théoden all laughed in response to Halbarad’s message from Kaylee.

“Did Kaylee really say all that?” Jennifer asked him, grinning.

"She did, indeed.”  Halbarad chuckled.  “I also have messages from the Lady Arwen for each of you."  He looked at Jennifer.  "Unto you, Lady Jennifer, she had this to say: 'Your path lies with that of the Dúnedain, daughter of a far land.  Do not allow yourself to be left behind, though that path may be a dark and dangerous one, for you will be needed at the end of it.'   These were her exact words."  He turned to Kevin. “And unto you, she says, 'Son of the West, your own road is that of the horsefolk.  Among the Rohirrim, you have made friends, and your place is by their side.  Do not fear separation from your kin.  You shall all be reunited ere the end.'”  Kevin and Jennifer exchanged an uneasy, apprehensive glance.

Aragorn stood listening, his face both anxious and slightly forlorn.  It was clear that he was wondering what word his beloved had sent to him, if any.  Halbarad arched his eyebrow, and gave a brief nod, as if to indicate such a message would be a private one, delivered later.  Aragorn's face lit up, and he gave a nod in return.  So long as he knew his lady had word for him, he could wait to hear it.

Jennifer and Kevin were no longer listening, though.  They were looking at one another in dismay.  "It sounds like we might split up again, Jen," Kevin said.  "I don't like the sound of that."

"But Lady Arwen has what they call foresight, among the Elves.”  Jennifer scratched her lower arm.  “I think she knows what she's talking about."  Kevin made a face, and Jennifer smiled ruefully.  “I know.  I don’t want to leave you, either.”

All around them, the others were getting ready to mount up and ride on.  Kevin looked at Haleth.  "I guess the two of us should ride with the rest of the King's guard.”

Jennifer nodded and looked around.  "My horse is over there, but I’m supposed to stay with Aragorn.  That's what the message said.”  

Aragorn glanced over at her.  "Jennifer, I do not think you will be able to keep up with the rest of us if you ride alone."  

Just then someone came up behind them.  "Lady Jennifer?"

They turned.  It was one of Lady Arwen's brothers. “Would you mind riding with me?"

Jennifer nodded, but looked embarrassed.  "I'm sorry, I can't tell which brother you are."

He smiled at her.  "I am Elladan, the eldest."

"Thank you, Elladan; yes, I would be glad to ride with you."  She smiled broadly, relieved that her lack of riding skills would not be a problem.  She turned and hugged her brother, before he could mount his horse.  Haleth had already mounted his.  "I'll see you later, Kevin."

Elladan lifted her up onto his horse, and then gracefully leapt upon his horse's back, with Jennifer seated behind him.  There was no saddle, so she had to keep her arms around his middle.  The horse she had been riding was tied to one of the waggons, and her belongings, which had been secured behind her saddle, was passed to Arwen's other brother, Elrohir.  He secured it to one of the spare mounts which carried his own things.

Aragorn rode to the front of the Dunedain with Halbarad on his left and Elrohir on his right, and Elladan and Jennifer rode to the right of Elrohir.  In front of the Dunedain and behind them rode Théoden King and his éored.

Then the Riders set out again, and Aragorn for a while rode with the Dúnedain; and when they had spoken of tidings in the North and in the South, Elrohir said to him:

“I bring word to you from my father: The days are short.  If thou art in haste, remember the Paths of the Dead.”

“Always my days have seemed to me too short to achieve my desire,” answered Aragorn.  “But great indeed will be my haste ere I take that road.”

“That will soon be seen,” said Elrohir.  “But let us speak no more of these things upon the open road!”

And Aragorn said to Halbarad: “What is that that you bear, kinsman?”  For he saw that instead of a spear he bore a tall staff, as it were a standard, but it was close-furled in a black cloth bound about with many thongs.

“It is a gift that I bring you from the Lady of Rivendell,” answered Halbarad.  “She wrought it in secret, and long was the making.  But she also sends word to you as well: The days now are short.  Either our hope cometh, or all hopes end.  Therefore I send thee what I have made for thee.  Fare well, Elfstone!

And Aragorn said: “Now I know what you bear.  Bear it still for me a while!”

Halbarad laughed, and Aragorn looked at him, puzzled.  Still laughing, Halbarad lifted his purse from within his tunic, where he wore it on a cord about his neck, and held it out toward his cousin.  “While Lady Arwen was making this banner I bear, little Kaylee made this token for me.  It contains a stone that she gave me, that she had brought from her homeland.  So, I, too, have a lady's favour!”  Aragorn, Elladan, and Elrohir laughed.

Jennifer could hear Kaylee's name, but not the rest of what Halbarad had said, but Elladan had heard clearly, and chuckled.  He turned and told her what Halbarad had said.

She smiled.  That was such a Kaylee thing to do!  Except that the Kaylee she knew didn’t know how to sew.  Out loud, she said, “How could Kaylee have made that for Halbarad?  She can’t sew!”

Aragorn looked at her.  “Apparently, Arwen has been giving her sewing lessons, Jennifer.”

Jennifer looked thoughtful.  “Yeah, I guess she has been, huh?  She must have started that after we left.”  She paused.  “I wonder what else Kaylee’s been learning in Rivendell?  Besides learning to ride, that is.”


Glorfindel turned and gestured the McClouds nearer.  "May I present to you Steven McCloud of Ore Gon, his wife Gail, and their youngest daughters, Kaylee and Megan?"

Kaylee was staring at Radagast in fascination, but Megan retreated behind her mother, though she, too, was staring at the Brown Wizard.  The jay upon his shoulder was chittering into his ear, and he shook his head impatiently.  "Very well!  Very well!  Off with you, then."  He turned to Steven and Gail.  "Jays!  So impatient.  He wanted to go off home to his wife, as she is about to nest.”  He placed his hand over his heart and bowed ever so slightly.  "So very nice to meet you, Steven and Gail.  I am Radagast the Brown, at your service."

The other man also repeated Radagast's gesture.  "Beorht, son of Beorn, at your service," he said.  He looked up at Glorfindel.  "It is good to see you again, my Lord Glorfindel.  We had word that you were travelling south on an errand of great importance concerning the coming war.  Yet we see you journey with young children?  And a dog?"  His eyes rested on the little girls, and then on Lucy, curiously.

"We are going to find our older children," Steve said.  "We didn't want to split the family up any more than it already was."

"I understand," Beorht replied.  His gaze returned to Glorfindel.  "Lord Glorfindel, we have the goods and supplies that your scouts indicated would be needed for your journey to the Golden Wood."

"My thanks, Beorht.  The things that Master Elrond has sent for trade are on the pack horses."

"That is excellent news.  Our healers will be most pleased, for the medicines of Rivendell have no rival."  He turned and called out, "Dagna!" 

A tall blonde woman walked over and joined them.  "This is my wife, Mistress Dagna.  She is the chief healer of our clan."  He introduced her to the newcomers, and she acknowledged them with a dignified nod of her head.  Then he said, "The medicines from Lord Elrond have arrived, so you may take charge of them now."

"That is good news, husband!  Our stores of Elvish medicines have begun to run low, after the winter."

"The medicines should be fair trade for our supplies on this journey, Mistress," Glorfindel said.  "But I know that Master Elrond is eager to obtain more of your people's excellent honey, and is willing to trade more of the medicine in exchange."

"We shall speak of that later, my Lord," Mistress Dagna replied.  "The medicines of Rivendell are unrivaled in the North, and we are always glad to get them."

Glorfindel summoned Olon from among the warriors, and sent him with Mistress Dagna to get the medicines.  Gail watched with interest as the healer walked away.  This was the first mortal woman Gail had met since their arrival in Middle-earth, and she was curious.  She hoped that she would get a chance to talk to Dagna later.

"We have a meal being prepared," Beorht told them, "but it will be a little time yet until it is ready.  Perhaps your family would like to explore the camp?"

"I would be honoured to accompany you, Master Steven," said Radagast.  

"Very well," Glorfindel said.  "Master Beorht and I have business to discuss."  The two of them walked off together, leaving the McClouds alone with the wizard.

The old wizard winked at Kaylee and Megan.  Megan gasped and once more retreated behind her mother, though she peered out and stared at Radagast, but Kaylee grinned at him.

"Are you like Gandalf?" she asked.

He laughed.  "You are a very perceptive child!  Indeed, Gandalf and I are kindred, in a way."

"Does that mean you’re an angel, too?"  Her grin was even wider, now.

Steve and Gail exchanged a glance.  Angel?

"In a manner of speaking," Radagast said.  "I, too, came as a messenger from Valinor, but my errand is somewhat different than his."

"Oh, OK."

“And so, your name is Kaylee?” Radagast asked.  “And your sister’s name is Megan?”  He looked down at the three-year-old as he spoke.

Kaylee nodded, smiling.  “Uh-huh.  That’s our names.”  Kaylee turned toward Lucy.  “And that’s Lucy.”  Her eyes grew large.  "Something is moving in your clothes!"

"Tsk, tsk, tsk."  He reached his hand into his robes, and came out with a squirrel in his hand.  "Now, now, Chatter!  You are supposed to be sleeping."  He set the small animal down at his feet.  It sat up on its back legs and began chittering at him in a scolding sort of way, before it gave a flip of its tail and darted off.

Radagast looked up at the McClouds.  "He was cold, so I was letting him have a small nap.  He was unhappy at leaving the warmth of my robes.  Now, I believe that I am to be showing you about our camp?"

He turned and meandered off, the McClouds following after.  "Over there is the pavilion where the day meal will be served in a short while.  The pavilion on the other side of it is the kitchen."  Indeed, Steve and Gail noticed a big fire, being tended by several people, and delicious smells coming from it.  "And in that tent are the foodstuffs and other supplies which the Beornings have made ready for your journey."  Steve and Gail looked at one another and nodded.

Steve noticed an odd contraption, constructed of rough wood.  It reminded him of something, but he was not sure quite what...and beyond that...what on earth?  Suddenly, Lucy started barking.

Daro, Lucy!  Hush,” Steve ordered.  Lucy stopped barking.  Steve set her on the ground.  “Sit!”  Lucy obeyed.  “Good dog,” Steve praised her, bending over to rub her head.  Lucy licked his fingers.

“Look, Mommy!  Look, Daddy!  Bunny rabbits!” Kaylee squealed, pointing ahead.  Gail looked that way and gasped.

“Those have got to be the biggest rabbits I have ever seen!”  She turned toward her husband, and then whirled as Kaylee rushed toward the rabbits.  “Kaylee!  Be careful!”  To her horror, Megan dashed after her sister, and the two delighted little girls began to pet the rabbits.

"Do not fret, Mistress Gail,” Radagast assured her.  “My sled rabbits will not harm the children."

Steve stared at Radagast.  Sled rabbits?  He had never heard of such a thing!  But now that the girls were not in earshot, he had another question to ask.  "What did Kaylee mean by 'angel'?"

"Why as to that, you would know more than I, for that is a word from your home.  But I get a sense of its meaning.  I think that it may mean a Messenger of Eru?  The Powers in Valinor, who are also servants of the One Who Made All, sent five of us here to help the free people of Middle-earth.  We were to bring hope, and courage, in the fight against Sauron.  In addition, I was also tasked by Yavanna with healing some of the hurts caused to nature.  Saruman, of course, has betrayed us and fallen.  Of our other brethren, those two ventured to the far East, and we do not know their fates."

Steve and Gail looked at each other.  “Who’s Yavanna?” Gail asked.

"She is sometimes known as the Giver of Fruits, the Vala tasked by the One with nurturing living things."

Steve and Gail looked at one another.  This didn't sound like anything they'd ever heard before.  And how could this rather dishevelled-looking old man be an angel, of all things?  They would need to talk this over later.  For now, they would just have to keep it in mind.  It was time they joined their daughters, since it would soon be time for lunch.  Radagast led them toward his sled rabbits.


[A/N:  *Legolas’ words mean "Easy, Hrimfax, Boromir is a kind man, and will treat you well."  From the Website, "Fun Translations: Sindarin".]

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