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An Unexpected Adventure  by KathyG

Summary: In the spring of 2012, four American children find themselves thrust into an unfamiliar 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 40: Everything is Honey

Gail was glad when the family was called to dine beneath the pavilion, where they were treated to a lovely meal, consisting of a thick stew of vegetables and mushrooms, and freshly-baked brown bread with butter and honey.  They were offered mead, but when it was declined, they were served fresh cold water to go with the meal.  Gail wished that they had the option of iced tea or even hot tea or some other sort of drink, but the water was good, and she'd come to learn over the weeks that wine, ale, and other alcoholic beverages were common here, and there were not very many alternatives once they had left Rivendell.

She had an interesting conversation with Dagna, Beorht's wife, and began to learn what daily life was for women who were not Elves.  It seemed to be, in some ways, similar to what she had experienced in Rivendell, in that the tasks she took for granted at home as being done by machines, or by paying for convenient services, were the same: sewing by hand, cooking over fire, and so on.  But while there were many hands in the household of Elrond, all of them with the experience of hundreds or even thousands of years, women here had to do everything themselves or with only the help of their immediate family.  It reminded Gail of the way people had lived back in the old days in her world, before the invention of labour-saving devices.  Dagna was somewhat privileged by being a healer, and the wife of the head of the clan, but she still did most of the work in her own home, helped only by her daughters.

"Is your life so different, Gail?" asked Dagna.  "You seem so curious about the simplest of things."

Gail blushed and wondered how to answer the woman's question.  If she explained too much, she risked being disbelieved, and it might also seem like she was boasting.  At any rate, she owed her hostess some sort of answer.  "It’s very different where I live.  We live in a very large town—a city—and have many convenient things that make life easier, although perhaps not simpler.  I do not school my own children, for example.  They go to others for that each day.  I purchase most of our clothing from shops.  And we have devices that don’t exist here...well, for example, my stove does not use fire directly."  She shrugged.  "I honestly do not know how to explain much of it to you, Dagna.  Please forgive me, for I don't have the right words."

Dagna laughed.  "That is all right, Gail.  I know, from what Beorht said, that your family comes from far away.  I have travelled, have been to a town before, and I do not think such a bustling and busy sort of life would suit me."

Gail was relieved.  "What is it like being a healer?"

The woman's face lit up.  "It is a joy to be able to help those who are ill or hurt, to bring new life into the world, and to ease the passage of those who must leave this world.  And I confess I do enjoy the respect it brings me.  Men listen to a woman who is a healer, or indeed a woman who is a mistress of her craft.  I find it annoying that they do not listen to women who have only their homes and families to care for."

"Well, even though most women where I live have a…"  She had started to say "job", but realized that it would not mean quite the same thing, and "career" didn't sound right either.  "...a craft or a business of some kind, many men do not listen to women either."  She paused.  "Not Steve, of course.  He's different."

Dagna smiled.  "One's husband usually is," she said.  She glanced to her side, where Beorht, Steve and Radagast were immersed in conversation.  "But then, sometimes we women don't always listen to men, do we?" she added with a smirk.

Gail snickered and glanced at another table, where Kaylee and Megan were happily dining with other children.  Most of them appeared to be between Megan's age, and up to about ten or twelve years old.  She noticed that they were laughing and talking, but were all eating politely.  "The girls seem glad to have found some new children to play with. There were no children at all in Rivendell."

"It is sad.  The Elves seldom seem to have children.  I, myself, have never laid eyes upon any Elf who was not full-grown.  The Elven race seems to be dwindling, and many of them leave to sail away over the sea.”  Dagna shook her head.  “I do not know what it is they seek."

Gail sighed.  "I don't know, either.  They did not seem to like to talk about it much in Rivendell, I noticed."

Just then Kaylee and Megan darted over to their mother.  Kaylee stood and waited until Gail asked her what she wanted.

"May we go play with the other kids?  Oswin...he's that big boy over there...he said it's OK to go play after we finish eating.  He said he would watch us little ones."  She pointed at a tow-haired lad of maybe twelve.

Gail smiled.  "Yes, you can go play.  Just don't wander too far away.  And don't go near the River."

"OK, Mommy!  Thanks!"  She gave her mother a hug, and Megan did the same, before they both darted off.

Dagna was grinning.  "Oswin is my nephew." She pointed at a little girl of about the same age as the boy.  "That is my daughter, Inga.  He is twelve, and she is eleven.  They are used to watching over the younglings.  You need have no worry."

With a nod, Gail watched the gaggle of children running off, Lucy at their heels.  Then she and Dagna rose and followed at a distance to observe them.

Kaylee and Megan ended up chasing their new friends in circles, laughing and giggling; Lucy yipped as she scampered alongside Kaylee’s heels.

“Hey!” Kaylee said, as she suddenly halted.  “Let’s play ring-around-the-rosy!”

The other children halted as well, and Inga stared at her.  “What’s ring-around-a-rosy?”

“It’s a game my friends and I play at school!  We all make a circle and hold hands, and then we dance in a circle and sing the song.  ‘Ring-around-a-rosy, a pocket full of posies.  Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!’  And then we fall.  It’s real fun!”  Kaylee smiled broadly.  “And then, I could show you how to play ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’!”

It wasn’t hard to convince the other children, and so Kaylee and Megan showed them how the first game was played.  As they held hands and danced in a circle, they sang:

“Ring around a rosy,

A pocket full of posies.

Ashes, ashes,

We all fall down!”

As soon as they sang, “down,” which Kaylee and Megan shouted, the children plopped on the ground, laughing.  Then they played the game twice more.  Afterward, Kaylee and Megan taught them how to sing and play “London Bridge is Falling Down,” which they played three times before deciding to quit.

At that point, Oswin shook his head.  "Let's play something different.  I have a hoop!"  He darted off to one of the tents and came out with a large metal hoop and a stick, and the children took turns trying to see who could get it rolling and keep it rolling with the stick for the longest time.

"It looks like a hula hoop," said Kaylee dubiously, after her turn, which was not terribly successful. "I wonder can I hula-hoop with it."  She picked it up and attempted to get it going around her hips, but the metal was too heavy, and it just dropped to the ground before she could get any momentum going.  "I guess not."  The other children laughed at her.

“Well, hey, that’s how we play with hula hoops back home!” Kaylee said defensively.

“Well, that is not how we play with hoops here,” Oswin told her.  "Let's play something else."

"I'll go get my ball," said Inga, “and we can play kick-the-ball."

The rest of the afternoon was spent playing that game, which Kaylee thought seemed kind of like soccer and kind of like softball, and Kaylee and Megan were completely absorbed with their play when they heard: “Kaylee!  Megan!”  The little girls started at the sound of their mother calling them.  “Come on, now, it’s time to eat!”

Kaylee and Megan turned to their new friends.  “See you later!  Bye!”  Kaylee waved her hand and Megan followed suit, and then the two of them darted toward Gail.  Kaylee had not even noticed that the shadows had slowly gotten longer.  She and Megan did have so much fun that afternoon!  There had been no other children to play with since they had entered Middle-earth.

There was no formal evening meal, but there was a large pot of bean soup, and folk would help themselves when they felt hungry.  The small family sat together near the fire; someone had given Lucy a meaty bone to gnaw, and she chewed contentedly on it, while the others ate their soup with the help of chunks of bread.  By the time they finished, a few stars had begun to twinkle in the East.

Kaylee began to sing:

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

How I wonder what you are,

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

How I wonder what you are.”

The family sang a few other simple songs together, and then Steve and Gail settled the girls down in their bedrolls, at which point Kaylee and Megan said their prayers.  Soon the little ones were fast asleep.

The next morning, the new supplies were counted out and packed up onto the extra mounts.  Kaylee and Megan played a little longer with some of the children, and Kaylee talked to Inga.

"Mr. Baggins said Beorn could turn into a bear?"  She turned the statement into a question at the end.

"He was right," Inga said.  "He was my great-grandda!”

"Soo…um…"  Kaylee furrowed her eyebrows and twisted her mouth as she tried to think how to ask her question.  "Can your daddy do that, too?"

Inga looked at her, but said nothing for a long moment, and Kaylee thought the other girl might be mad at her.  "Why do you not ask him?  It is not my place to say."

"Oh."  Kaylee did not say anything else after that, and soon enough Inga seemed to forget all about it.  But the question would not leave her mind.

But soon the horses were all loaded up, and they were ready to go.  The McClouds were pleased to learn that Radagast was going with them, at least for part of the way.  All of the family watched curiously as the wizard harnessed up the huge rabbits.

Pretty soon it was time to say farewell to the Beornings; they would remain at the ford for a few days, for others would come to trade with them.

After Beorht and Dagna had farewelled her parents, Kaylee found herself standing in front of the large man.  She gathered up her courage and blurted, “Are you a bear?”  Kaylee tilted her head as she looked up at Beorht.

“Kaylee!” Gail admonished, and then looked at Beorht apologetically.

“It is all right,” Beorht assured her.  He looked down at Kaylee, and then crouched in front of her.

"Do I look like a bear?" he asked gently.

"Umm...no.  But are you a bear sometimes?"

He raised one eyebrow, and shook his head in amusement.  "Little one, that I will not answer.  It is a secret only those who are part of my family may know."

"Oh.”  Kaylee bit her lower lip.  “I'm sorry."

He laughed and ruffled her hair.  "There is nothing wrong with asking questions, little one, but you should be satisfied with the answers you get."  He stood up and smiled at Steve and Gail.  "Your daughter is a curious and clever child."

Steve laughed.  "Thank you.  She's been full of questions ever since she learned to talk."

Gail gave Kaylee a mildly disapproving look.  "I think our daughter has listened to too many of Bilbo Baggins' stories!"  She would once more have to speak to Kaylee about asking personal questions.  She had been doing much better about that while they were in Rivendell, but now with the excitement of meeting new people, Kaylee had slipped back a little.

Beorht laughed again, this time more heartily.  "If she has been in the company of Master Baggins, then it is no wonder that she is curious.  He, too, was curious and clever and full of questions.  I did not meet him during his first visit to my grandfather, but when he and Gandalf returned from their adventure, I met him then.  I was only a child at the time, and he and Gandalf spent much of the winter at his house, when the whole family came together to celebrate the turning of the year."

Kaylee giggled.  “Bears like honey!  Do you like honey?”

Beorht’s eyes twinkled.  “So do little girls, I am told!  Yes, I like honey, but that proves nothing.”  The others laughed.

“All right, Kaylee, that’s enough,” Gail admonished.  “It’s time for us to leave, and to say goodbye to these kind people who have hosted us.”

“That’s right,” Steve agreed, and took Megan’s hand.

Glorfindel summoned Amdir and Egnil and sent them off to scout ahead, and they trotted away and were soon lost to view as they topped a rise in the road and travelled down the other side.

Megan got to ride with her father again, and Kaylee mounted Barrel all by herself.  They would be riding South, with the Anduin River flowing along at their left side.  The road was not paved in any way, but had been worn down by the passage of many hooves and feet over the years.

“Bye!”  Kaylee twisted her upper body to wave goodbye to the Beornings.  They waved back and were soon lost to sight.

It was a pleasant sunny day, though there was a slight chill in the air.  The view of the river was only occasionally obstructed from their view by the occasion copse of alder or willows; on their right, to the West, there was a large green verge, that seemed to be nearly thirty or forty-five feet wide, or about two or three rods, as Glorfindel said.  Radagast drove his sleigh over that grassy boundary, rather than on the firmer track on which the horses passed.  Beyond that, pines and other evergreen trees dotted the rolling landscape up to the foothills of the Misty Mountains over which they had recently come.

Steve watched in fascination the oddly hopping gait of Radagast's sled-rabbits.  They were easily keeping pace with the horses.

"I wonder just how fast those things can go?" he murmured, more or less to himself.

Glorfindel heard him anyway.  He laughed, and called out to him, "How fast can those bunnies of yours go, old man?"  He already knew, but he enjoyed tweaking the eccentric Istar.

“Fast enough that I can outrun an orc!  Or a pack of orcs!” Radagast said, smiling broadly.  “I’ve done it before.”

"Of course, you have," the Elf shouted.  He turned and winked at Steve.  "Actually, I know very well how fast they go, and he is quite right: they can outrun orcs when they have to."

"How well do you know him?" Steve asked.

"Not so well as I know Mithrandir," Glorfindel replied, "but I have spent some time with him.  He is a droll old fellow, who likes to make people think he is slightly mad.  But make no mistake, he is a wise and canny person for the most part.  And, like Mithrandir, he hides the greater part of his power.  But he loves animals better than Elves or Men or Dwarves, and although he is one of Yavanna's servants, he speaks the tongues of birds.”  He shook his head.  “Sadly, like Mithrandir, he placed too much confidence in Curunir—or Saruman, as he is known this side of the Sea.  But he will not be fooled again."

"'Tongues of birds'?  Are birds able to speak here?" Steve asked, more than a little startled at that revelation.

"Only the Great Eagles," was the answer.  "They are a Free People, and are servants of Manwë, and some among them can speak with the tongues of Men.  Other birds are beasts like any other, although all beasts have voices that can be understood by those who try to listen."

"I see."  Steve wasn't entirely sure he did, but thought he was at least beginning to learn.

They rode nearly fifty miles that day, stopping only briefly from time to time, to rest the horses or have a bite to eat, and let the children stretch their legs and run about.  After one of those stops, Radagast invited Kaylee and Megan to ride in his sleigh for a while; the little girls quite enjoyed the ride, and one of the elves led Barrel.  They stopped and made camp just before sunset, and Kaylee and Megan spent some time playing with Lucy and petting the sled-rabbits.  Lucy, for her part, seemed slightly intimidated by the rabbits.  When she had first encountered them back at the camp, she had stood at a healthy distance and barked at them, but would not get closer to them.  They were half-again larger than she was.  Now, she no longer barked at them, but would still not get close to them at all.  The first evening, when Radagast freed them to graze upon the virge, one of the largest of them curiously hopped in Lucy's direction.  She tucked her little tail as best she could, and ran to Steve, where she stood behind him.  The rabbit, for its part, lost interest and began feasting on some early dandelions.

Megan darted toward it and crouched by its side to pet it.  “Pitty rabbit,” she said, smiling, as she rubbed its fur.  Its nose twitched nonstop as it ate the dandelions.  Giggling, Kaylee crouched by one of the other rabbits to pet it.

The next day passed in much the same fashion, but on the third day, Glorfindel began to get worried.  "I would think that Amdir and Egnil would have returned to us by now," he said to Radagast and Steve, as they stopped to have their midday break.

"Do you suppose they have run into trouble?" Steve asked, frowning.

"They are capable warriors," Glorfindel said, not really answering the question.

-oo000oo-

Amdir was pleased with their progress.  He and Egnil had been able to ride more swiftly unencumbered by pack horses, ponies, and the Edain and their small children.  More than halfway to Lorien now, tomorrow they would turn back and report to Lord Glorfindel.  So far, they had found no trouble.  There was always the ominous presence East of the River, but they had encountered nothing untoward on this side so far.

"I think we may be able to turn back and report at daybreak," said Egnil, echoing Amdir's own thoughts.

Across the river, Mirkwood remained visible, although the forest eaves had drawn eastward, and the first of the trees were a little over twenty leagues away at this point and were little more than a dark edge on the horizon.  Amdir asked, "Why do we not take a rest here, on the north side of the Ninglor, and turn back in the morning?  The horses could use the rest, and I, for one, have no wish to ride through the Laeg Ninglorin* at night."

Egnil nodded.  "That is a place of ill-omen.  I agree, it is not a place to travel at night."

The two Elves allowed the horses to graze, as they sat down for a quiet conversation, but it was just at moonrise that they began to grow uneasy.

"I am unsettled," said Amdir.

Egnil nodded.  "The horses are uneasy, as well!" he added, as he stood up. There was a whickering from the two animals, who had startled up from their grazing near the riverbank.

Just then they both heard the whistle of arrows.  Egnil flung himself to the ground, but Amdir was struck in the shoulder.  Egnil grabbed his bow and returned two arrows in quick succession in the direction from which the other arrows had come.  From across the Anduin, there was a horrid scream, followed by guttural exclamations.  The horses had bolted downriver.

"Yrch!" Egnil exclaimed in disgust.  He turned to his partner.  "How badly are you wounded?" he asked.

With a mild curse, Amdir wrenched the arrow out.  "If it be not poisoned, I shall be well, but I will not be drawing a bow anytime soon."

"We are a-foot, now," Egnil replied, reaching down to take the arrow from Amdir.  He held the head of the arrow up and sniffed it.  "I smell no poison on it," he said.  He bent down and tore the sleeve from the wounded Elf's tunic, which he began to use to bind up the other's wound.

"Well, we do not know if any orcs remain, or if they all fled, but doubtless they will bring back reinforcements.  We cannot remain here.  South, or north?"  Amdir winced as the makeshift bandage was fastened about his shoulder.

"Towards Lothlórien, I think," was the reply.  "Though we risk the Laeg Ninglorin, we shall be headed towards a haven.  Orcs avoid the Lady and her Lord, and give a wide berth to their land."  Egnil helped his companion to his feet.  "If we go slightly to the west a few rods, there is a spot where the Marchwardens have laid stepping stones into the Ninglor.  They are set just beneath the surface, but we shall only risk wet feet.  Who knows, once we get into the Laeg Ninglorin, we might find our wayward horses."

-oo000oo-

Glorfindel grew increasingly uneasy the next day, as the group continued its journey.  Egnil and Amdir should have reported back by now.  He hesitated to send anyone else ahead to meet them, but he was beginning to think that it might come to that.  They would after all need to go through the treacherous ground South of the Ningloruin.

Memories of his previous excursion through that area began to come into his mind…

Glorfindel had been patrolling the southern bounds of Imladris, awaiting word of the arrival of Isildur when the word came, in the form of two worn and frantic warriors coming up the approaches into the valley.  One of them was Ohtar, Isildur's squire, who collapsed weeping at Glorfindel's feet.  "I obeyed, my Lord, I obeyed," he sobbed over and over.

The other man was not in much better shape; they were both distressed at having been sent from their king's side.  Glorfindel raised them up and gave them to drink and pieced together the sad story: an ambush by Orcs near the Anduin, close to the mouth of the Ninglor.  It was clear that Isildur did not hope to come away alive from the encounter.  His older sons were with him, and in like peril.  He had entrusted Ohtar with the shards of Narsil within its sheath, and the order to deliver it to the Queen Annanis* at Rivendell, where she dwelt with their youngest son, Valandil.

Glorfindel took them back to the Last Homely House to give the sad news to Master Elrond and to the Queen.  He had then been tasked to take a band of warriors down to the Laeg Ninglor—the Gladden fields—where the ambush had taken place and seek for survivors or for the bodies of the slain.

Glorfindel arrived to find that Thranduil and his warriors were ahead of him, for word had been sent to Lasgalen of the battle, and being closer, he had arrived all the sooner.  They had recovered several of the slain, including Isildur's sons Círyon and Araton, but they had yet to find the bodies of his eldest son Elendur, or of Isildur himself.

It was a gruesome and grief-filled search.  They finally found Elendur, his body hacked by the Orcs, and nigh unrecognizable save for his armor and the clasp of his cloak.  Those had been gifts to him from Master Elrond himself, and being of Elven-make, were not despoiled.  Orcs loathed the touch of things that had been wrought by the Eldar.  Of Isildur himself they found no trace at all...

It was not a time that Glorfindel recalled with any pleasure, and though he knew he would be returning to that area now and faced it with a warrior's aplomb, he did not take any joy in the prospect.

Steve had been watching their leader.  Glorfindel had been very quiet, and Steve could not help but wonder if something was wrong.  When they all stopped for the mid-day meal, he went over to where he saw Glorfindel and Radagast talking.

"Is something wrong?" he asked them.

"I have been worried about Egnil and Amdir.  I should have heard something from them by now," the Elf replied.  “It has been over three days since they left us, and they should have since returned with news.”

"I was just telling Lord Glorfindel that I will see what I can find out," Radagast said.

Steve looked at him in surprise.  "What can you do?" he asked.

The dishevelled old wizard gave him a lopsided grin, and held out his arm, and then he looked up at the sky and made a series of highly accurate bird calls into the air.  "I have sent for one of my friends," he said.

After a moment, they heard the flapping of wings, and a rather large thrush settled on Radagast's upraised arm and looked at him with its bright eyes.  Radagast looked at it, and made another series of bird sounds.  It cocked its head, and then launched itself back into the sky, flying rapidly south.

"He will find us with news," Radagast said.  "We can continue South after the horses have rested, and he will go look for your Elves."

"Thank you, Aiwendil,” Glorfindel said.   “I am most grateful for your help."

Steve re-joined Gail, the girls, and Mairen, and they had a light meal.  Kaylee and Megan ran and played with Lucy after the meal had ended, and Steve reported what Glorfindel and Radagast had told him.

“It’s been four days, now, since the scouts left us, and Glorfindel’s getting worried,” he told Gail.

"Do you think there is some sort of danger?" she asked.

Steve grimaced.  "Gail, we have been in some risk of danger ever since we left Rivendell.  But we agreed that we could not just wait for our other children to come back.  Who knows when that will be?"

"I know.”  Gail shook her head.  “But sometimes I wish we had left Kaylee and Megan there.  I know you said they might also be in danger in Rivendell, but…"  Her voice trailed off.

Steve wrapped his left arm around his wife’s shoulders.  "Sweetheart, there’s no use in second-guessing our choices.  We can't turn back now.  We'll just have to trust in the Lord to help us, and to work things out."

She reached for his right hand, and the two of them prayed silently for help, and for their children, and for peace of mind for themselves.

-oo000oo-

In the heart of Lothlórien, Galadriel turned from her mirror.  She had long ago learned to discern the visions in the water, and while it was unwise to trust in them too much, as she had told Sam and Frodo, there were times when they could also guide action.  This, she sensed, was one of those times.

She went to seek out her husband.  "Celeborn, my love, as you know, Elrond is sending a party to us from Rivendell.  Glorfindel is leading the group, and two of his scouts have run into trouble in the Gladden Fields.  They are a-foot, and one is injured.  They have no way of sending news to him, and they need succour."

Celeborn nodded.  "I will send Rumil with a group to intercept them and give them aid," he said.

"And I shall use ósanwe to let Glorfindel know that we have done so."

-oo000oo-

A/N: The Ninglor is a tributary of the Anduin, and it flows from the Misty Mountains slightly north of Moria.  Laeg Ninglorin is the Gladden Fields, the place where Isildur was ambushed.  We are using Karen Wyn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle-earth for locations. It seems clear from the accounts of the death of Isildur in Unfinished Tales that the Gladden Fields extended to both sides of the Anduin, although evidence suggested that Isildur perished closer to the Western bank of the river.  While the account says that some men living nearby did try to help and also sent to Thranduil, who also came, that Ohtar was sent to Rivendell.  It seemed logical that Glorfindel would lead any who were sent from there.

*After careful search, we found no canonical name for Isildur's wife.  However, consensus seemed to indicate it would be based on Quenya rather than Sindarin.  We found the name "Annanis" on q u e n y a  l a p s e p a r m a (http://www.elvish.org/elm/names.html).  It means "Gift".

 





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