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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 Ringsbelongs 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 43: Hellfire, Part 2

In the Tower, Joey and Bergil had delivered their message to Lord Hurin, and after tackling so many stairs, the two boys were both exhausted.  They stopped at one of the large windows looking out to take a breath of air, but it seemed thick and stale even outside.  Just then they heard a terrifying shriek.

"Ai!  Nazgûl!" Bergil screamed in fear and pain, clapping his hands to his ears.  His face was contorted into a grimace.

Joey found himself also assaulted by the shrieks.  They pierced not only his ears and his mind, giving forth a tidal wave of fear, but his heart as well.  He felt cold and despair.  Lord, help me! he silently prayed, over and over.  Gradually the shrieks seemed to be further away, and he pulled together his courage to look once more out the window.

At that moment he caught a flash of white and silver coming from the North, like a small star down on the dusky fields.  It moved with the speed of an arrow and grew as it came towards the Gate.  It seemed to glow, and then he heard a voice calling.

“Gandalf!  Gandalf!  Yay, Gandalf!" he yelled with a broad smile.  "Faster, faster!  Gandalf, Gandalf!” he shouted wildly, as if he was at a track meet cheering for his brother.

But now the dark swooping shadows were aware of Gandalf and flew in his direction.  Joey saw him raise his hand, and a shaft of brilliant light shot up.  The Nazgûl gave a long wailing cry and swerved away; and with that the four others wavered, and then flew off to the East.  For a while, things seemed a little less gloomy.

Joey watched, and he saw the horseman and Gandalf meet and halt, waiting for those on foot.  As he watched he saw another white horse flying from the City over the fields.  It seemed that the rider bore another with him, and he realized it was Boromir and Pippin.  As they joined the others, they all turned back to the City and raced for its walls.  Men now hurried out to them from the City; and soon they all passed from sight under the outer walls, and he knew that they were entering the Gate.  Guessing that they would come at once to the Tower and the Steward, he and Bergil hurried to the Gate.  There they were joined by many others who had watched the race and the rescue from the high walls.

The two boys heard the men yelling, "Open the gates!  Pull!"  There was a huge crowd around them, and they could not easily see.  But they slowly managed to wriggle their way to the front of all those pressing around.

The great gates opened, allowing Gandalf, Pippin, Boromir, Faramir, and the Osgiliath survivors to ride in, nearly a hundred wounded and shocked men.  As Gandalf and Boromir pulled their horses up, Faramir gave an exclamation.  "Boromir!  Mithrandir!" he called.  As Faramir steered his own horse through the crowd towards Gandalf and his brother, he spoke.  "They broke through our defences.  They have taken the bridge and the West Bank.  Battalions of Orcs are crossing the River."

Suddenly Faramir caught sight of Pippin, sitting before his brother.

Gandalf read the surprise in his eyes.  "Faramir?  This is not the first Halfling to have crossed your path?”

Faramir shook his head.  "No."

A look of shocked joy transformed Pippin's face with a smile that made him look younger than he was.  "You've seen Frodo and Sam?"

Faramir nodded, looking somewhat puzzled.

Gandalf and Boromir exchanged a look.  "Where?  When?" Gandalf demanded.

"In Ithilien, not two days ago," Faramir responded.   "Gandalf—they are taking the road to the Morgul Vale."

"And then the Pass of Cirith Ungol…"  It was easy to see the wizard was worried.

"No," Boromir put in, his brow furrowed in consternation.  "That is a name of ill omen!"

Pippin's look of joy was gone; now he looked thoroughly alarmed.  "What does that mean?  What's wrong?"  But he got no answer.

"Faramir,” Gandalf said urgently.  “Tell us everything."

As they turned the horses to head up towards the Citadel, Boromir spotted Joey and Bergil.  "Joey, Bergil, return to the Citadel.  We must stable the horses and see to the wounded first.  Bring word to my father that Faramir has returned, and that we will be there as soon as possible.”

Their energy renewed by the good news, the two boys turned and went back the way they had come.  Their legs were tired, and Joey knew he would be sore, but it was wonderful to have a good message for once.  Although he could not help but worry about poor Frodo and Sam.  Lord, please take care of them if they are in a dangerous place, he silently prayed.

As they made their way, they were sometimes slowed by cheering crowds, but when the people saw their livery, they would make way.  "Please," Joey said at one point.  "We have urgent messages for the Lord Steward!"

An old man in a cart being pulled by a black mule called out to them. "Come, lads!  I'll give you a ride to speed you!"  Soon they were being driven at a bone-shattering trot over the cobbles.  Two other men ran before it, yelling, "Make way for the Steward's messengers!" 

Soon enough, the driver of the cart dropped the boys at the gate between the Sixth and Seventh Circle.  Smiling, they waved their thanks to the kind driver and the two men who had escorted them.  They hurried past the Guards, who passed them through with a wave, knowing that they had messages for the Steward.  Since they had rested a little on the ride up, they ran all the way to the Citadel doors.  There the other guards allowed them through.

A quick question to the first servant that they saw let them know that the Steward was in his working chambers, and they raced there as fast as their feet would take them.  There was one guard on duty at the door, and as soon as Joey told him they had an urgent message from the Captain-General, he opened the door and sent Joey in, keeping Bergil with him.

Denethor was seated on the other side of a large table, upon which lay many papers and maps.  He was absorbed in looking them over and making marks on them with a quill pen.

Now that it came to it, Joey was a little nervous as Lord Denethor looked up and saw him.  He looked briefly annoyed, and then his face cleared as he realized the child must have been sent by Boromir.

Joey gave a small bow, and Denethor gave a little gesture with his hand.  "You may approach.  You have messages for me from my son?"

Joey nodded and walked closer.  "My Lord Steward," he said, using the tone that he had been taught to present such messages, "my Lord Captain-General Boromir said that I was to bring word to you that Lord Faramir has returned, and that he, Lord Faramir, and Mithrandir will be here as soon as possible, though they must stable the horses and see to the wounded first.”

The Steward's face grew lighter.  He didn't exactly smile—Joey thought that the only time he'd seen the man smile had been when he saw Boromir had come back.  But his face grew a good deal less grim.  "Thank you, Joey.  That is indeed good news.  Since my sons will be soon arriving, you may wait just outside for their return, in case Lord Boromir has any tasks for you to perform."  He noticed Joey's slightly breathless and sweaty state.  He reached across the table and lifted a small bell and rang it twice.  A door at the back of the room opened and a servant came out.

"My Lord?"  The servant stood next to his master and made a brief bow.

"Go and fetch something for Boromir's page to drink, Vorondil.  He will be waiting outside my door."

"Er, my Lord?" interrupted Joey.  "Um, Bergil came with me; he's already outside the door.  He’s thirsty, too."  He wasn't sure it was the proper thing, but he couldn't let Bergil be left out.

Denethor at least did not look displeased.  He glanced up at the servant.  "Bring something for both boys, then, Vorondil."

With a nod, the servant went out, and Denethor dismissed Joey, not waiting for him to leave the room before the Steward was once more concentrating on the papers before him.

Bergil smiled when he saw Joey come out, but then both of them sat down on a bench just across the corridor from the guard at the door.  They silently cooled their heels, and in just a few minutes, the servant returned with a tray that had two tankards on it.  Joey hoped it was not what they called "small beer"; he knew that it was mostly non-alcoholic, but he did not care for the taste.  But he wouldn't complain, because he was really thirsty.  The tankard was cold in his hands, and beads of condensation ran down its sides.  He took a cautious sip, and gave a delighted grin.  "Lemonade!  I didn't know they had lemonade!"

His companion also grinned.  "It is a rare treat!  My father bought some for me on my birthday once."  

They sipped on it, to make it last longer, but were half-finished when they heard footsteps and saw Boromir, Gandalf, and Faramir coming up the corridor, with Pippin trotting at their heels.  Boromir cast them a glance and gave them a nod, and Pippin smiled at them, but no words were spoken then, and all four of them vanished into the chamber across from where they sat.

The two boys finished their drinks, and then they carefully placed their tankards on the bench beside them, and began talking quietly.  Joey was surprised to discover that Bergil's mother and little brother had gone away to the countryside to stay with his grandparents long ago, in order to be safe.  "Yes," said Bergil.  "Borlas was not quite two when last I saw him, and now he must be five.  I have not seen him or my mother since they went away."

Joey wondered if he would ever see his own mother or little sisters again, not to mention his father.  It was even possible he would not even see Kevin or Jennifer again, either.  He shook his head free of his gloomy thoughts.  "Well," he said, "I hope when all this is over, they can come back home."

"I hope so, as well," said Bergil.  "I miss them, and I know Ada misses them, as well."

Joey nodded, and the talk turned to other things.  Some minutes later, Gandalf, Boromir, Faramir, and Pippin came back out, and Boromir gestured to Joey and Gandalf to accompany them.  As the two boys leaped to their feet and joined them, Pippin said nothing, but began to trot to catch up, for the tall ones had somehow gotten quite a distance ahead of them.  Bergil and Joey hurried as well, and there was no time for talking.

They came to the main corridor.  Faramir gripped his brother's shoulder.  "I have my orders, brother," he said.  "I must go to see what men I can gather to carry out Father's orders."

Boromir pulled his brother into an embrace.  "Do not go without taking leave of me first," he said.  "Come to me before you go."

"I will," Faramir replied, and he strode away, his face serious.

Boromir punched his right fist into his left palm, and let out a huff of frustration.  "Ever Father pushes him, and does not see that he is as worthy a warrior as I."  He looked at Gandalf.  "Mithrandir, come with me.  I will see if I can get Uncle Imrahil to talk sense into Father—if anyone can, it is he."  He turned to the boys and Pippin.  "Go down to the buttery and get something to eat, and then, Joey and Pippin, you must go to your rest in my quarters.  Bergil, you may go back to your own father, or if he is on duty, then take yourself to the errand boys' quarters in the Houses of Healing."

"Yes, my lord," Bergil said.  All three responded with a short bow, and then headed off to take their meal.

Soon they were all three sitting down to a meal of onion soup in trenchers of bread.  Pippin had an ale, but Bergil and Joey were able to have plain water.  Joey thought with longing of the lemonade they had been given earlier, but said nothing.  It was kind of rare for him to have water since coming to Middle-earth, but the City water was clean.  He turned to Pippin.  “OK, Pippin!  Spill the beans!  What happened in that room?"  He wriggled in anticipation.

Pippin put down his ale and wiped his mouth with his sleeve.  "'Spill the beans'?  I like that.  I'll have to use that when I get back home.  I take it that means you want me to tell you everything?"

Joey nodded, as he had finished his soup, and just taken a big bite of his bread, and his mouth was full.  He took a sip of water.

"Well," said Pippin, "we came in, and the Steward was there with just one servant.  Lord Denethor had us sit down—and if that wasn't a production; I could barely climb up in mine, and it was kind of embarrassing.  The servant poured all of us a goblet of wine; I took a sip of mine, but it was too dry for my taste.  And then he asked Faramir to account for himself…”

At first, Faramir spoke of a battle with Southrons at a crossroads in Ithilien, and of their defeat.

Faramir looked at Pippin.  “But now we come to strange matters,” he said.  “For this is not the first halfling that I have seen walking out of northern legends into the Southlands...”

“I tried to act like I had not already heard this before,” Pippin said, “and Gandalf gave me a subtle nod of approval.”  Joey and Bergil nodded, and Pippin continued…

Faramir unfolded the tale of his meeting with Frodo and his servant and of the events at Henneth Annûn.  At last when Faramir spoke of his parting with the travellers, and of their resolve to go to Cirith Ungol, his voice fell, and he shook his head and sighed.

“I parted with them in the morning two days ago,” said Faramir.  '”t is fifteen leagues thence to the vale of the Morgulduin, if they went straight south; and then they would be still five leagues westward of the accursed Tower.  At swiftest they could not come there before today, and maybe they have not come there yet.  Indeed I see what you fear.  But the darkness is not due to their venture.  It began yestereve, and all Ithilien was under shadow last night.  It is clear to me that the Enemy has long planned an assault on us, and its hour had already been determined before ever the travellers left my keeping."

Gandalf stood up and paced the floor.  “The morning of two days ago, nigh on three days of journey!  How far is the place where you parted?”

“Some twenty-five leagues as a bird flies,” answered Faramir.  “But I could not come more swiftly.  Yestereve I lay at Cair Andros, the long isle in the River northward which we hold in defence; and horses are kept on the hither bank.  As the dark drew on I knew that haste was needed, so I rode thence with three others that could also be horsed.  The rest of my company I sent south to strengthen the garrison at the fords of Osgiliath.  I hope that I have not done ill?”  He looked at his father.

Before Lord Denethor could say anything, Boromir spoke up.  "You did exactly what I would have done."  He looked his father in the eye, daring him to contradict him.

Denethor's look at his elder son held anger.  "Exactly?  All of what Faramir did?  Would you have denied me the Enemy's weapon?"

A deep blush suffused Boromir's face.  "Father, at one time, I was tempted to take the Ring, and even tried to do so, in spite of my oath to protect and aid Frodo.  Thankfully, I was brought back to reason after my madness, and my life was spared that I could make amends for what I tried to do.  If I had succeeded in what I attempted to do, I would not have taken the Ring; the Ring would have taken me.  I tell you this, Father, in all seriousness: the Ring is not a weapon we can wield.  It twists all to madness and despair.  It corrupts the hearts of everyone who tries to wield it.  We should soon become tyrants as bad as the one who sits in Barad-dùr."

Denethor glared at Boromir, but after a moment he sighed and looked thoughtful.  "Perhaps you are right, my son.  And I cannot find fault with a decision you say spared your life to come home to us."  He sighed heavily.  "And yet all my decisions now are wrought with peril: to you, to you—"  He nodded at Faramir then.  "—and to our people, and to me."   He glanced at Gandalf then.  "As for you, Mithrandir, I cannot help but wonder at your own entanglement in these matters."

Boromir shook his head.  "If it had not been for him, the Dark Lord would already possess his prize, and the land of Rohan would lie in ruins, overrun with Orcs, instead of preparing to ride to our defence.  And it would likely already be too late for us and for all the rest of the West."

"Nevertheless, it will take Rohan many days to arrive to our defence if, as you told me, they have just fought a battle in their own land.  And I must give thought now to Gondor and to Minas Tirith."  He turned to Faramir...

“I was surprised when Boromir stood up,” Pippin said.  “He put both hands on the table…”…

“Father!  Faramir has only just returned out of peril, and has yet to rest.  Give this duty to me, I beg of you!”

Sadly, Denethor shook his head.  “I cannot spare you, Boromir.  You are the Captain-General of Gondor, and you are needed to plan the defence of the City.”

Boromir would have protested more, but Faramir interrupted then.  “It is well, Boromir.  I will do this thing if it is what Father wishes.  He is right.  You are the Captain-General; I am simply a Captain of Rangers of Ithilien.”

The Steward looked at Faramir then.  "Thank you, Faramir.  It is not what I wish, but it is what I must do."...

“I noticed that Gandalf did not look quite as angry as he did before,” Pippin continued, “so I supposed that was probably the best outcome possible.  After another moment, we took our leave of the Steward.  I was just glad I didn't have to say anything.  Lord Denethor can be a bit frightful."

Bergil looked slightly shocked at Pippin's forthright speech.  However frightful the Steward might be sometimes, it was not spoken aloud.  Pippin looked down as his now-empty dish.  "I suppose with food so scarce here, it isn't done to ask for seconds," he said.  He stood and picked up his dishes to return them to the kitchen.  "Come on, Joey, we have our orders."  He turned to Bergil.  "I suppose we will see you tomorrow, then, Bergil.  Give our best to your father when you see him.  I guess tomorrow is going to be a grim one."

At this reminder of the fighting to come, both Bergil and Joey looked dismayed.  But Bergil set out to find his father, and Pippin and Joey headed for Boromir's quarters.

-oo000oo-

The next morning, Boromir shook Pippin and Joey awake early.  It didn't even seem like morning; it was still very dark.  "The Enemy is preventing the light from shining here, with his smokes and sorceries," Boromir said.  “But it is still dawn, even though we cannot see it.  I have had breakfast, such as it is, sent to the room.  There is bread and butter and tea on the table over there.  Eat quickly.  We are to see my brother off on his mission."

They followed his orders, and soon enough were trotting behind him to keep up.  They followed him out to the courtyard, where Faramir and his men were already mounted.  Boromir's servant already had Hrimfax ready.

“Faramir,” Boromir called.  Faramir dismounted and handed the reins to a nearby servant.  As soon as he had approached his brother, Boromir turned to Pippin and Joey.  “You have already met Pippin, Faramir, but I should like to introduce Joseph, son of Steven, otherwise known as Joey.”

With a shy smile, Joey bowed slightly and raised his hand.  “Hi.  At your service.”

Smiling, Faramir patted his shoulder.  “Well met.  It is a pleasure to meet you, Joey.  My brother has already told me about you.”

He glanced back toward his horse, and then turned back to Joey.  “I shall look forward to getting acquainted with you, Joey, but right now, I must leave on my mission.”  Joey nodded, and Faramir turned and mounted his horse.

Boromir mounted his own horse, and then looked down at Pippin and Joey.  "You may follow us down to the streets to join in the farewell.  But I shall be very busy this day.  Once we are gone, you are both to report to the Houses of Healing, and there you will join the errand lads in making yourselves as useful as you can.  I know that I can depend upon you to do as you are told, and to keep yourselves safe.  Pippin, watch over Joey."  Exchanging a glance with Joey, Pippin nodded.  Joey bit his lower lip and took a deep breath, looking from Pippin to Boromir, and then to his brother.

Faramir looked down from his horse.  "My brother speaks very highly of you both.  I am pleased to have met you, Pippin and Joey, and hope that we will have more time someday to speak together.  Pippin, I know that your kinsman was much concerned over you; he would have been glad to know you are still safe, and had he known I would see you, I am sure he would have sent word.  See that both of you stay that way."  Joey and Pippin nodded.

Just then, a tall shadow fell from behind them, and from the smell of tobacco and wool and sunlight, the two knew Gandalf was there.

The wizard looked up at him.  "Be safe, Faramir.  I am uncertain as to the wisdom of your father's order."

Faramir looked down.  "He is doing what he thinks best.  He does not spare himself, either."

"I know that, too.  May the Valar watch over you."  He raised his hand in benediction, and to Pippin's eyes, he appeared to shine a little beneath the dim sky.

Faramir gave a signal, and his men began to move forward.  Boromir rode beside his brother at the head of the company.  They rode slowly, for the streets were steep, and they wished to spare the horses as much as possible for the ride beyond.  Joey and Pippin walked alongside with Gandalf, and as they walked, many other people joined in: soldiers who were not on duty, some of the tradesmen and craftsmen who had not fled the city, and most of the women who had remained behind.  Many of them had flowers that they strewed in the street in front of the departing warriors.  But their faces were solemn; there was no cheering, for all knew that Faramir and his men were riding into dreadful peril.  Some people were openly weeping, for Faramir was much beloved in the White City.

By the time they reached the Fifth Circle, Joey and Pippin had lost sight of both Faramir and Boromir.  Gandalf put his hands on their shoulders.  "I believe you both have orders from your liege to go back to the upper levels, and I must return that way as well, for Lord Denethor will need my assistance at the Citadel."

He left them at the entrance to the grounds of the Houses of Healing, where they caught sight of Bergil embracing his father, who was about to go on duty.  As Beregond strode away, Bergil caught up with them.

"Good day," he said.  "I will show you where we go to await our orders from the Healers."  He led them to one of the long marble buildings.  There were wide porches with high, arched columns.  By the centre building was a large bench against its wall beneath one of the porches, and about a dozen other boys were sitting on them, ranging in age from one who appeared younger than Joey to their early teens.  They greeted Bergil warmly, and looked at Joey and Pippin curiously.  Bergil introduced them, but Pippin and Joey could not really recall all the names, so many of them sounded the same, and all ended in "son of someone".

They were saved from a round of questions by the others when a stern-looking woman, wearing a chin-cloth and a veil over her practical grey gown, came out.  She pointed a finger at Joey, Pippin, Bergil, and three other boys, and signalled them to follow her in.

She led them through a wide corridor, and into a large room.  There were several other people there.  "You will be needed to fetch and carry—water, food, linens, blankets, whatever you are told to fetch."  She called out to a young woman who was sitting on a chair, tearing white cloth into strips and putting them in a basket.  "Morwen!  Are those bandages ready?"

"The first one is full, Dame Ioreth!"

Dame Ioreth looked down at Joey.  "Take that basket of bandages to the laundry."

"Yes, ma'am.  But I don't know where that is."

"Go back to the corridor, all the way to the end and out the door.  You will see the building on the right.  You can't miss it—the steam will be coming from it."

Joey nodded.  He got the basket, and went on his way, looking as he passed through the open doors and windows, at all the bustling people.  They were all scurrying about, busy with one task or another.

He wished he could ask Bergil or Pippin.  But there was the door, and there was the laundry—he could indeed see the small building with tall pipes of metal coming out the roof, and loads of steam surrounding the building, like a fog.  He could also smell the scent of herbs and soap.  He entered with his basket.

"Oh!" exclaimed an elderly woman, her grey hair limp from the steam.  "Here are more bandages!"  She took the basket from Joey without a word and passed it to one of the other women there, busy at a large stone basin.  "Here!  Firiel, bring me that finished basket!"  A girl about his own age brought him a basket of dry and folded cloths.  "Take these back along with you, lad," the elderly woman ordered.  He had no chance to say anything before she shooed him out the door.  It felt good to get back out of all the steam, and it cooled his face as it evaporated.  He took a deep breath and then trotted back the way he came.

He entered the room, and noticed Pippin and Bergil were both gone.  The lady in charge—Dame Ioreth, if he remembered rightly—gave him a smile.  "Good lad!   Now—"  She handed him an armload of what seemed to be clean sheets.  "When you go back out the door this time, turn left along the portico, and take the first stairs you come to.  It will take you up to a landing.  Go through that door, and you will find a linen room there.  Put them on the shelves there—"  She stopped abruptly as another boy returned with another basket, this one empty.  He was the youngest one Joey had noticed before.  "Ah!  Sador!  Here, lad, take these and go with—I am sorry, but I do not know your name," she said to Joey, as she piled Sador's arms with another pile of sheets.

"I'm Joseph, son of Steven, but you can call me Joey.  I am Lord Boromir's page.  He sent me here to help today."

She beamed.  "Our Lord Boromir is so thoughtful."  She looked again at the younger boy.  "Go along with Joey, here, Sador, and help him find the first linen room."

Once more Joey found himself in the corridor.  At least he had someone to talk to.  As they walked along, Joey said, "How old are you, Sador?"

"I'm almost nine.  Well, at the beginning of winter, I will be nine.  My brother is in the Tower Guard, but our parents are dead, and we have no kinfolk in the outer lands.  So, I stay here and help."

Joey almost laughed.  Almost nine?  He was barely eight and a half, Joey thought smugly.  But it was awful that he had no parents and had to stay here mostly alone.  He'd observed enough to know that Sador's brother would not have much time to spend with his little brother.  If he lived in Portland, we’d be in the third grade together, he thought.  I could teach him baseball if we went to school together.

Sador looked up admiringly at Joey.  "Are you really Lord Boromir's page?"  They went out through the big doors at the back of the building again, and Joey followed him as he turned left, and they walked along the wide porch until they saw a staircase running up.

"Yes.”  Joey nodded.  “I came from the North with him on his journey, with my brother and sister and a bunch of other people.  When Boromir and Mithrandir came to Minas Tirith, they brought Pippin and me with them."

"Pippin?" asked Sador, as they reached the top of the stairwell.  The landing was wide, and a couple of big doors like the ones on the first floor opened in.

“Yeah.  Pippin.”  Joey nodded.  "He's the hobbit, um…fera-neth?—who came here with Boromir and Gandalf.

Sador's eyes grew wide, and he looked impressed.  “Come, now, I will show you a shorter way back to where we came from,” Sador said.  “I am sure Dame Ioreth will have more errands for us."

Sador led Joey to another staircase a little further along the corridor, and it was, indeed, a shorter way, but not by that much.  And yes, there were more errands.

And more errands.  Joey was running his feet off.  Sometimes other boys went with him, and sometimes he went on his own, but only once did he and Pippin have the same errand.  Twice he saw Bergil in the room, but they did not go out together.  He thought he might drop if he had to take one more message or bring one more basket of bandages or one more pile of sheets.

Fortunately, when he returned to what he thought of as the “errand room” after fetching some herbs and medicine from the Herbmaster to one of the rooms where the Healers were working with the patients, Dame Ioreth told them to sit down.  Some bread and cheese and water had been sent to the boys, who sat on the benches or the floor where they could eat a simple lunch.  Joey was getting somewhat weary of just bread and cheese, but he'd been in Middle-earth long enough not to complain at getting any food at all.  But he couldn't help wishing for a glass of milk and a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, for a change.

It’ll be a relief to get back home, where I’ll have some real food again!  Joey grimaced and took a bite of his bread.

“Joey!”

The young boy looked up and saw Pippin standing in the doorway.  With a broad smile of delight, he raised his hand in greeting and then patted the floor next to him.  Pippin approached him and Bergil and Sador and, taking some bread, cheese, and water, sat down on the other side of Joey, between him and Bergil.

Joey swallowed his bread and then turned to Pippin.  “Pippin, this is Sador.”  He pointed at the boy on his other side; leaning forward, Sador nodded.  “Sador, this is Pippin.  His real name is Peregrin.”

“Hello, Sador,” Pippin said.

“Pippin.”  Sador smiled.  “It is a pleasure to meet you.”

He broke off as he heard a clamour at the door, and Dame Ioreth rushed out of the room.  "What's going on, I wonder?"

Most all the boys were wondering the same thing.  Several rushed to the big windows at the front of the room, and those who looked out said, "Wounded!  They are bringing in the wounded!"

The windows were crowded, and there was no chance the four of them would get a look out of them.  Bergil stood up and gestured.  "I have a notion," he said.  "Perhaps we can see some of the battle over the garden wall."  He rushed out of the room, and the other boys followed, including Joey.  Pippin hesitated briefly; he was not sure he wanted to watch the battle, or that it was a good thing for the young boys to see it.  But he went on, for Boromir's last command to him had been to watch out for Joey.  He quickly caught up to them, and raced after him as Bergil raced through the maze of buildings and the herb beds.  The stone wall was too high for them to see over, but several sturdy trees were espaliered against it, and Bergil quickly scrambled up one, while each of the others took another tree.

Pippin blinked.  The City was even higher than he realized, and the figures on the battlefield looked like so many living toys.  He saw a glimpse of shining white—Gandalf, he knew it must be!  There were many other figures following him, and he saw a blue banner.  Towards him, many other men were fleeing from the frightful winged Fell Beasts with the horrible Nazgul.

“They have taken the wall!” Bergil cried.  “They are blasting breaches in it.  They are coming!  Where is Faramir?' he added in dismay.  “Say not that he has fallen!”

"NO!" shouted Sador.

Pippin leapt down from his perch.  "Come along, lads!  This was a bad idea.  If there are wounded coming, they will need all the help they can get."

-oo000oo-

A/N: On Thursday, April 25, DF had an accident in her kitchen, and suffered second-degree burns all over her right side and arm.  Because of this, we will be going to an every-other-week posting schedule for a while, so she can have more time to heal.  And we will keep it there until we are able to get ahead of our posting schedule again, and don't have to worry about being pushed for time.






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