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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 44: Hellfire, Part 3

It was Gandalf that brought the first tidings.  With a handful of horsemen he came riding as escort to a line of wains.  They were filled with wounded men, all that could be saved from the wreck of the Causeway Forts.

Dame Ioreth had lined all the boys up on the large porch, and as the Healers sorted through the wounded, those most seriously injured were placed on stretchers and carried away, while those who needed attention, but could still walk, followed behind.

Gandalf paused as he helped a man with an injured arm from the wain.  Pippin darted forward, ignoring Dame Ioreth's cry of disapproval.

“Is Faramir come?” he asked the wizard.

“No,” said Gandalf.  “But he still lived when I left him.  Yet he is resolved to stay with the rearguard, lest the retreat over the Pelennor become a rout.  He may, perhaps, hold his men together long enough, but I doubt it.  He is pitted against a foe too great.  For one has come that I feared.”

“Not—the Dark Lord?” cried Pippin, forgetting his place in his terror.  Would that mean Frodo and Sam had failed?  Were they in Sauron's clutches?

"Nay, but one you have met before: the Witch-king of Angmar, who stabbed Frodo upon Weathertop!" was the reply.  "But do not despair, Pippin!  Faramir may still win back to the City yet.  Boromir and Prince Imrahil have ridden out to meet him.  I am needed there more than here,” said Gandalf, throwing himself upon Shadowfax, and rode off at once, and the glimmer of him faded soon from sight.

Pippin backed up and returned to his spot in line; Dame Ioreth gave him a disapproving frown for his forwardness.  Then, as a group of Healers and their assistants began to move into the building, she gestured for them to follow.  She led the boys along the corridor, and up the stairs.  She passed several rooms with open doors filled with cots, most of them unoccupied, and there were Healers and their assistants in each room, busy with their last-minute tasks.  She assigned two or three of the boys to a room, and set them under the authority of the senior Healer in the room.  Bergil and Sador were placed in one room, and in the room across the passageway, she took Pippin and Joey.  As in each case, she stepped in and spoke to the senior Healer.

"Master Seregon, these two boys will be here not only to be of aid to you, but also for their safety.  Make use of them as you need, sir, but do not send them on any errand that will take them off this floor.  We've been that busy, sending all sorts of supplies to every floor where they may be needed, but the boys need to be kept close by and out of danger.  Now these two have worked right hard, and their names are Joey, son of Steven, and Peregrin, son of Paladin.  They are sworn to the Lord Boromir, bless him, and they came with him and the Lord Mithrandir, and you will answer to them if aught should happen to either of them!"

Joey and Pippin exchanged a glance.  They'd heard the other part of her speech whenever she'd left any of the boys in one of the wards.  But the part about Boromir and Gandalf was different.  Pippin hid a smirk, and Joey shook his head, but like the other boys, they stayed silent.

"Once I have finished assigning the boys to their wards, I will be here on this floor once everything's begun."  She gave a shake of her head. "What the world's coming to, I never thought I would see!  The Enemy at the Gate, and a pherian in the White City…”  She looked at Pippin as she spoke.  “...and those horrible wraiths overhead!  Thank goodness the Steward's always insisted on us being prepared!"  She turned to the boys.  "Now the two of you mind Master Seregon and the other Healers!  And do not step foot out of this room, unless you are sent on a task!  Behave yourselves, and do Lord Boromir proud."

"Yes, ma'am," said Joey, feeling butterflies in his stomach.  This was real.

Pippin nodded.  "Yes, Dame Ioreth."

She bustled off with the last few boys to the next ward along the corridor.

Master Seregon looked down at them.  "Lord Boromir and Mithrandir, eh?" he said.  "I daresay there is quite a story behind the two of you.  But there's no time for that now.  Do both of you know how to make a bed?"

Both nodded.  "Yes, sir," they chorused.

"Good!  You would be surprised how many boys your age have no idea how to put sheets on a bed.”  He pointed over to the opposite side of the room, where there were several cots yet unmade.  Each had a folded blanket, a pillow, and a pile of folded sheets upon it.  "You may do them together, as I find sheets go on more quickly with four hands rather than two.  When you are done, I am sure there will be more tasks for your hands when the patients begin to arrive.  Are either of you like to pass out at the sight of blood?"

Both of them went pale, and then Pippin blushed a bit.  "Well, sir, it does make me feel sick a bit, but I can keep it down if I need to, unless, well...unless I'm the one who causes it."

The healer nodded and looked at Joey.  "I think I will be OK, sir," he said.  "But I've never seen very much blood.  Just cuts and scrapes and stuff.”  He and his siblings had had, of course, their share of childhood injuries, but nothing serious that he could recall.

"If either of you feels sick or faint once the wounded come in, go sit on the floor out of the way, and put your head between your knees until it passes.  We will be very busy, with no time to deal with it."

"Yes, sir," said Pippin.  Joey was quiet, but nodded.  He was worried; would he have the courage to help when the time came?

Master Seregon turned away, and Joey and Pippin went over to the nearest of the beds that needed to be made up.  Pippin moved the blanket and pillow and one of the sheets to the bed next to it and began to unfold the remaining sheet.  Joey looked puzzled.  "Isn't that the top sheet?" he asked.

"What difference does it make?  They are both the same."  He gave a sniff of the sheet.  "I love the smell of clean linen.  My sister Pervinca and I used to always make up the beds after laundry day, when we lived at Whitfurrow.  But now the servants make all the beds."

Joey was about to ask where was the elastic, and then realized there was no such thing in Middle-earth.  He took the other side of the sheet, and imitated Pippin as the hobbit efficiently tucked in the corners of the bed tightly.  Pippin watched him.

"You need to push the fold in tightly at each corner.  The sheets mustn't come untucked.”

Joey redid the last fold, and Pippin grinned and picked up the other sheet.  The rest of the bedmaking went as Joey was used to, and soon it was all neatly done.  They moved onto the next one, and then the next; soon they had made up the nine remaining cots in the ward.  They were somewhat tired, and noticed a young woman drinking a ladle of water from a pitcher on a table in the corner.  They went over, and she smiled and offered them a drink.  Joey had gotten used to drinking out of the same thing as other people; it still bothered him some, but he had learned not to say anything about it.  But he was still a bit awkward with a ladle.  Some of it dribbled down his chin, and he blushed and said, "Sorry!" as he wiped his hand across it.

"You did a good job with the beds," she said.  "Do you know how to roll bandages?  Most of them are done, but I have two baskets left over there."

Joey grimaced.  He was only used to putting on Band-Aids.  He shook his head.

"I do," said Pippin.  "I sometimes used to help Mistress Poppy, the Healer back home, with that."  He turned to Joey.  "It's not hard; I can show you how to do it."

"Well, good," said the young woman.  "If you will finish up those, then I will be able to get the rest of the herbs ready."  She walked away, clearly already thinking of her next task.

Pippin took one of the baskets as they knelt on the floor, and then took up one end of a clean cloth, and began to roll it up snugly.  Each piece was about three inches wide and about five feet long.  Joey watched him for a couple of minutes, and then began to do the same.  He had learned a lot since he had come to Middle-earth, and one of them was that he could find out how to do a lot of things just by watching.  It wasn't like he always had to have lessons on some things.

The two of them were quiet.  They both felt solemn, and it was not a time for chatter, as Joey called it, or a "chin-wag", as he had heard the hobbits say.  Their minds were on their loved ones and friends, and their safety.  Joey found himself silently praying.

Please, God, Joey prayed, protect them!  Please protect them all, and me and Pippin, too.

Pippin pointed at the baskets.  "They are going to be needing these, aren't they?"

Joey took a deep, shuddering breath.  “They sure will!”  They also need some antiseptic to kill the germs, he thought.  Without that, some of their wounds are liable to get infected!

Pippin sat down, his back to the door, so that they could not watch, as more and more patients were being brought in and taken to the cots.  But they could not help but hear their moans or sobs or even screams of pain.  Joey followed suit, and they went back to their tasks.

When they had finished, they stood up.  Master Seregon and the young woman were busy with a patient, so were all the other Healers and assistants.  No one was free to tell them what to do.  But they wanted to help.

"What can we do?" Joey asked.

"Lots of things," Pippin said.  "First off, let's go over and wash our hands.  Mistress Poppy always insisted on washed hands in the sickroom."  By the hearth was a ewer and a wash bowl.  There was a bucket below for soiled water.  They washed their hands, and Joey followed Pippin as he walked over to one man who had been treated and bandaged.  He was quiet, but not asleep.

"Would you like a drink of water?" Pippin asked.  There was another pitcher on a table by the cot, and a cup.  Joey poured a little water in the cup, and Pippin carefully helped the man to sip it.  He had a bandage around his upper shoulder, and a cut on his face that had been stitched up.

"Thank you," the man whispered hoarsely.  "I was thirsty…"  His eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep.

If the patient was already asleep, they did not bother him, but they went from bed to bed, giving water, or fluffing pillows or finding an extra blanket.  One man was still groaning, and mumbling, "It's so dark, so dark!  All is lost, all is lost."  Suddenly, he cried aloud.  "They are coming!  Ah, the cold!  The cold!" and began to thrash about.

"Joey, see if one of the Healers can come over here!" Pippin ordered.

Joey nodded and saw the Master Healer was over by the hearth, washing blood off his hands, and dashed over.  "Master Seregon!"  Seregon turned, as Joey tugged at his tunic.  "That man over there!  He's getting worse!"  Joey pointed to where Pippin was trying to comfort the patient to no avail.

Without a word, Seregon rushed over, a look of dismay on his face.  He bent over the man and placed a hand upon his brow.  "Ah, no.  It is, I fear, the Black Breath.  There is naught we may do save try to ease him."  He shook his head.  "For this evil, I know no cure.  Yet I will give him a soporific.  If he can fall into a dreamless sleep, it will ease him for a little while."

“What’s the Black Breath?” Joey asked.

"It is the miasma that the Nazgûl bear about them, a sense of coldness and sorrow and despair.  Any who have been in their presence feel it a little, but when they directly it aimed at their foes, it is much worse, and leads that person into a deep despair which we have found no way to cure.  Soon those who have felt it fade away."

Distress welled up in Joey’s eyes.  He bent over the man.  “Don’t be sad,” he begged, laying his hand on the man’s shoulder.  “It’s gonna be all right.  No one’s gonna hurt you here.  All’s not lost yet, and maybe it won’t be.  I promise you!”

Master Seregon patted Joey on the head.  "You are a good child," he said.  "Perhaps your hope may help."  He turned to Pippin, who also looked very distressed.  "Would you go ask Apprentice Fimbrethil to fetch me the poppy draught?"

Pippin went over to the young woman, whose name he and Joey had learned from hearing Seregon speak to her.  There was no time in the ward for introductions.  At his tug on her sleeve, she glanced over at her master and then gave Pippin a small bottle from a shelf on the wall.  He thanked her and carried it back.  Master Seregon mixed it in a cup of water and helped the man to drink it.  Then with a sigh, he went back to tending patients whose wounds were physical.

Pippin and Joey stood by the man for a little bit, Pippin smoothing the hair on his brow, and Joey holding his hand.  It seemed to help some, or so they thought, and in a few minutes, he fell asleep, as the poppy took hold.

They moved onto another man who had a fever.  Seregon had already given him something to help reduce it, but he was still burning up.  Pippin asked Joey to bring him a cloth.  While Joey was doing that, the hobbit poured water from the bedside pitcher into the basin where it was placed.  When Joey brought the clean cloth, Pippin wet it and wrung it and laid it across the man's brow.  Seregon nodded approvingly.  "That should help.  I'm going to look at some of the other wounded to see what I can do.  If the cloth gets warm, just wet it once more in the basin.”

So, Joey gingerly sat next to the man on his bed.  He waited a few minutes and then did as Pippin had directed.  It did seem to be helping.  I hope he gets well soon! he thought.  He looked toward the man who had the Black Breath.  Please, God, don’t let him die!  Please heal him of the Black Breath and make him well again.  Amen.  He bit his lower lip and turned back to the man who had a fever.  Hopefully, they would be able to get his fever down!

The day had been dark enough, but time wore on, and both Joey and Pippin were still busy doing what they could, helping different patients, but trying to stay out of the Healers' way unless they were given an order.  For a while, there had been no new wounded, and Pippin had tried to get Joey to stop and rest a little.  But since Pippin had no intention of resting himself, Joey insisted on pushing on, too.  There was a table someone had set up with fruit and bread for the benefit of the Healers and their helpers, but even Pippin did not want to try and eat.  They did get some water, but with all they had seen today, neither had the stomach to try and force food down.  It did not help that they could still hear the crash and clamour of the battle below, and that the City still shook from time to time with the stones being lobbed by the Enemy.

A bustle and commotion in the corridor signalled the arrival of more wounded.  The door burst suddenly open, and men came in bearing a stretcher.

"Faramir!" cried Pippin.  Joey turned with a gasp, to see that was who it was.

The Steward was with his son, who had a bloody wound in his shoulder, and who was thrashing feverishly.  "Healers!" Denethor called, his voice sharp.  "My son needs attention!"

MasterSeregon turned, ready to rebuke him, even if he was the Steward, but then caught sight of Faramir.  He immediately pointed at a door at the far end of the ward, one which no one had gone through, and the stretcher bearers went to it and bore Faramir through.

He glanced at Pippin and gestured to him, as he called for his apprentice.  The other Healers turned and went back to their own work.  Joey was not happy to see Pippin vanish into the other room, but he had not been ordered to come.  He went over to the area where many soiled bandages lay upon the floor, and began to gingerly pick them up and put them into the near empty basket at which they had been aimed.  It was kind of gross, but it needed doing.

 

-oo000oo-

Pippin looked around at the room.  It wasn't large, and seemed dreadfully crowded, what with Seregon and Fimbrethil and the Steward, and the stretcher bearers and poor Faramir, not to mention one little hobbit.  But the stretcher bearers placed Faramir upon a clean bed, and left, which made it much less crowded.

Denethor took his son's hand, and brought it to his lips, and gave it a fatherly kiss.  "I know that you will do your best for my son.  But I am anxious, and would only fret and distract you.  I have other duties that call to me, but do not hesitate to send a messenger in search of me if he takes a turn for the worse."  He left also, with one last look over his shoulder at his son.

As he passed through the door, he saw Pippin waiting next to it, and said, "I think Boromir would be glad to know his faithful small esquire is helping to watch over his brother."  With a nod, he was gone.

Seregon and Fimbrethil were busy over Faramir's shoulder wound.  They had used the water provided next to the bed, and had washed much of the blood away.  Master Seregon summoned Pippin.  "I called for you, as you do seem to know your way around a sickroom, and have kept your nerve today."  He handed Pippin the basin to empty out the window, and sent him out to get fresh water.

As he went out, he heard Seregon saying to Fimbrethil, "As I feared, an Orc arrow, and a tainted one at that, which would explain the fever.  But I very much fear the Black Breath as well…"

He went back into the ward, to rinse and fill the basin—this time, with hot water from the hearth.  Joey came over to him, and helped him ladle the water from the cauldron to the basin.  "I'll be in there for a while," he told Joey.  "Just keep on doing what you are told, and when you get a chance, sit down and rest if you can."  He gingerly padded back into the far room, and the door closed behind him.

Joey soaked a clean cloth in the basin and took it to one of the wounded soldiers, where he wiped the man’s sweaty face.  “You’re going to be all right,” he said softly.  “You’re in the Houses of Healing; we’re taking care of you.”  I hope he will be all right soon, he thought grimly.  I hope they’ll all be all right soon!  Especially Faramir.  He glanced in the direction of the room where they had taken Faramir.  Denethor and his men had passed him on the way, carrying Faramir.  Please, God, let all of them all be all right!

-oo000oo-

Pippin placed the basin of hot water down, and then took the pitcher and went back out to fetch some fresh cold water.  He saw Joey helping another of the wounded, and gave him a proud glance, but did not say anything.  As he passed back into Faramir's room, he heard the boy softly singing to the man he was tending:

"All night,

All day,

Angels watching over

Me, my Lord…"

Master Seregon had finished bandaging Faramir's wound, and was tying it off.  Fimbrethil was administering a draught to him.  He seemed to be partly awake, and speaking of his father, but he sipped from the cup she held.  Pippin went over and put the fresh water on the table, trying to stay out of the way of the Big Folks.

Seregon turned to Pippin.  "We have done what we can for now.  Please watch over him, as you did for the men in the other room.  Leave only to get fresh water if you need it."

Pippin nodded and took his place at Faramir's side.  It was going to be a very long night.  And now he was hungry.  Embarrassingly, his stomach growled.

Fimbrethil gave him a small smile.  "I will bring some bread and fruit to you," she said.

Blushing, Pippin nodded and smiled.  True to her word, she came back in only a few moments with a tray on which was a pear and some bread.  As he thanked her, she said, "I have coaxed your friend into eating a little as well, Master Pherian."

"Thank you so much!  I was worried when he would not eat."

"Well, I must get back to my other duties," and she left him alone, to munch on his pear.

It was beginning of a strangely long time.  Neither Pippin nor Joey could keep track of how long it was, as they each fell to their duties.  It had grown much darker, and when Master Seregon came in the last time, he brought a lantern.  Pippin was mostly occupied in tending Faramir, keeping cold cloths upon his head, murmuring comforting words when he appeared to briefly waken, and simply staying at his side and worrying: about Faramir, about Joey, about Gandalf and Boromir, and Merry and Legolas and Gimli, about Kevin and Jennifer, and ever-present beneath it all, his worry for Frodo and Sam.  At least he didn’t also have to worry about Kaylee.  He tried to imagine the little girl safe in Rivendell, listening to Bilbo tell her stories, and Lady Arwen singing to her.

-oo000oo-

In the room where the patients were being brought, the healers and their helpers were working really hard.  Most of the wounded now being brought in had been hit by flying debris from the stones being hurled by the giant siege engines, and a few were warriors who had been hit by orc arrows.  The last healer who had been to see to Faramir had told him that, so far, the Gates were holding.  Pippin saw Joey carrying a basin of water to one of the women healers, as he was fetching his own such basin to take back to the private room where Faramir lay.

He stepped over.  "Are you all right, Joey?"

The boy nodded.  "It's scary.  But at least I’m helping a little."  He was pale, and his voice shook a little, but his face was determined.

"Very well."  Pippin looked down at the basin in his own hands.  "I must get back to Lord Faramir; he is very feverish, and the cold cloths help.  If you need me, or if they tell you they don't need your help anymore, I'm just in there—"  He nodded towards a door at the far end of the large room.  "—and you come stay with me."

"Yes, Pippin," Joey answered.  "I will."

Pippin carried the large basin carefully.  He had left the huge door to the room ajar, so that he could finish opening it with his foot while his hands were full.

The bombardment of the huge stones in the streets below shook the building again and again—though so far, none had reached so high as the Sixth Circle.  Faramir was moaning, and Pippin quickly carried the basin over to a table by the bed, and took up one of the cloths he had been using to help bring Faramir's fever down.  He wet it and wrung it out before placing it on the Man's forehead.  Pippin was quite worried, for Faramir seemed to be getting worse instead of better.  What if he died?  What would he tell Boromir?

There were more stones hitting the City; the building shook, but Pippin heard no sound of impact on any of its walls.  But then there was another sound, one that made him cringe in fear and cover his ears, a sound he had heard before, on Weathertop: the shrieks of a Ringwraith!

Joey had been sent into the corridor with a basket of soiled bandages and linens.  He was not to leave the floor, and had orders to return at once with the clean bandages and linen he'd been sent to fetch, from the very closet Sador had shown him earlier.  Was that still today?  How many hours ago had it been?  It seemed forever.  He was very weary, but he was too wound up to rest.

He set the basket on the floor outside, noticing that there were others there, lined up along the wall by the door.  It had been made clear to him the soiled ones were not to go into the room with the clean linens.  If there had not been a battle on, they would have been taken to the laundry.  But, Master Seregon had told him, the women and girls of the laundry had been reassigned to various wards.  The small building outside was not considered safe enough.  Joey wiped the sweat off his face.

Fairy-tale country, he thought wryly, as he remembered what Kevin and Jennifer had called Middle-earth in their attempts to comfort Kaylee when they had first arrived in that land.  I wish some fairy would come in here and make all these bandages clean by magic!  He wondered if Gandalf could do that?  Somehow, he was pretty sure that probably Gandalf could, but likely wouldn't.  He knew the wizard could do lots more than he'd seen, but he was unlikely to be willing to spend his power on laundry.

Joey went in and took down a pile of linen, and then added another basket of clean bandages on top of what he carried, balancing it with his chin, and went back out.  He leaned back against the door to close it, as he had no hands free, but as he headed back to the ward, he heard steps behind him.  More wounded?  But it didn't have the sound of stretcher-bearers.  He turned, and saw that it was the Lord Denethor, accompanied by Prince Imrahil and a couple of other men Joey did not know.  The Steward spoke to Joey.

"How is my son?" he asked.

Joey said, "I haven't seen him again, my Lord.  He is in the private room, and Pippin has been looking after him."

"I thought to look in upon him…"  But what else Denethor would say was cut off by a horrible shrill screech.  The very sound of it made Joey's heart drop to his toes; he wanted to just drop his burden and sit on the floor and cry.  It was awful!

He drew a deep breath.  He could not.  He had to do his duty.  Please, God, help! he silently begged.

"Nazgûl!" exclaimed the Prince.

"No!" shouted Denethor.  "They should not be here!"

They all began to hurry, Joey lagging behind because his arms were laden.  Yet they had not gone half the distance, when they heard a voice yelling, "Fire!  Fire!"

The door to the ward came open, and then Joey saw people coming out.  The Healers and their helpers were carrying patients, and smoke was coming from the room.  Denethor and those with him ran towards the room to help.

"Faramir!" the Steward yelled.  He ran into the ward, clearly intent upon reaching his son.  But the fire was heaviest at that end of the room: it was there the lantern had fallen, dropped when one of the healer's assistants had been shaken to the core by the sound of the Ringwraith.  Its oil had splashed out and run along the floor and beneath the door to Faramir's room.  The door had already begun to blaze.

Horrified, Joey could hear Pippin yelling for help.  Minas Tirith needs a fire department!  Why doesn’t Middle-earth have fire departments?! he screamed inwardly.  Where’s a fire engine when you need one?  And firemen?  He took a deep, shuddering breath.  Please, God, help!  Please help us!  Please don’t let us die!  He stared at the door to Faramir’s private room.  Please don’t let Pippin and Faramir die, God!  Please save them!

To his relief, Denethor charged toward the door.  Maybe he would be able to save them!  Joey crossed his fingers and held his breath.

-oo000oo-

Pippin had been occupied in putting the wet cloth on Faramir's head, when the Nazgûl's cry came.  He dropped it, and crouched down covering his ears with his hands—but the screams of the Wraith soon faded away, only for him to hear a crash, and and a call of "Fire!"

To his horror, he could see smoke and flame creeping beneath the bottom of the door.  The oil from the lantern had splashed against it, and the wood of the door was already catching fire, sparks had caught upon the rug beyond.  He looked around—the sill of the wide window of the room was low, and there was a narrow stone balcony beyond.  Thinking quickly, he grabbed the basin of water and splashed it over Faramir, and then picked up the ewer and emptied it as well.  Then, hoping he would not bring more harm to the injured man, he went to the side of the bed nearest the window, and pulled on the bottom sheet as hard as he could.

Faramir rolled off the bed, sheets and all, hitting the floor with a thud.  Pippin began dragging him to the window.  If they could just get onto the balcony, perhaps they would be safe.  There was nothing to burn there.

Someone was banging on the door.  He could hear something crashing against it.  "How can anyone get through that door?" he wondered out loud.  "It's already burning."  But he had managed to get most of Faramir over the sill.  Only the man's legs were still in the room.  The rug had begun to burn, and Pippin was coughing from the smoke, but he never ceased his pushing.

Suddenly, the door burst open.  In astonishment, Pippin saw Lord Denethor barrel through, flames licking at his robes.  He battered at the flames putting them out with his own hands, and through the smoke, he saw what Pippin was trying to do.  He raced across the room, ignoring his own burns, and managed to help Pippin finish getting Faramir out of the room and onto the little balcony.  The stone wall around it was sturdy, and without a word, the hobbit and the Steward pushed the injured and still-unconscious Faramir against it, and then sat down beside him, side by side.

Both of them were hacking and coughing from the smoke.  Pippin looked at the Steward, covered in ash, his hair scorched, his face red, his hands already beginning to blister from the fire.  His lower robe was burned, and even the soles of his shoes were burned off and the bottoms of his feet were blistered.   He was a far cry from the dignified Steward upon his stone chair.  Pippin gave him a lopsided grin.  "You are a sight for sore eyes, sire."

The old man gave a dry chuckle that ended in a hacking cough.  "I doubt that, Master Pherian," he said.

Pippin shook his head.  "No, we would have been done for if you had not come.  I was nearly at the end of my strength."

"I will never forget that you risked yourself for my son, Peregrin son of Paladin."  He placed a careful hand on Faramir, but winced and moved it away.  "I hope that it was enough.  He still burns within himself."

Pippin nodded, worried.  Even if they were safe from the fire for now, Faramir remained awfully ill.

-oo000oo-

In the corridor, Joey had gazed into the fiery room in spite of it making his eyes water.  "Pippin!  Pippin!" he yelled.

The Healers had gotten all the other patients out, and they themselves were relatively unscathed.  The arrival of Prince Imrahil and the two guards had enabled them to fight the fire before it spread to any of the other wards.  They had ripped blankets from the cots and whipped out the flames.  But the doors of the other wards had opened, and many had come out to see the commotion.

Joey was still yelling for Pippin when he felt a hand on his shoulder.  "Where is Pippin?"

It was Gandalf, and Joey immediately felt better.  "He was in the far room, with Faramir.  It's where the fire was the worst.  Lord Denethor busted down the door and tried to go in, but no one's come out."  He suddenly felt tears come to his eyes as he realized what he'd said.

Gandalf gave a decisive nod.  Then he looked down the passageway and crooked a finger.  Bergil had been one of those who had come out of the other rooms, and he obeyed the wizard's summons.

"Stay here with Joey," Gandalf said.  Then he strode into the room.  Most of the fire was out, but small flames flickered, and there were smouldering bits here and there, and still much smoke.  With a casual gesture from his hand, the remaining fire went out instantly, and the smoke disappeared.  He went straight through the burned and broken door.  After another moment, Prince Imrahil followed.

Joey and Bergil held their breath as they stared into the ward.  It seemed forever, but then they saw the Prince came out, supporting a halting Denethor, and Gandalf followed them, bearing Faramir in his arms.  They were trailed by Pippin, walking slowly, covered in ashes and soot.

Bergil could not hold Joey back as he ran into the room and grabbed the hobbit in a fierce embrace.  "Pippin!"

Joey grinned, and Pippin looked back at him with a weak chuckle.  "So you decided you couldn't wait to be covered with soot, too?" he asked, a teasing grin etched on his face.

"Who cares?" Joey asked, far too relieved to mind the teasing.  Pippin started coughing.  "Come on, let's get you out of here and find you a drink of water."  Silently, he prayed, Thank You, God!  Thank You!

-oo000oo-

A/N: This is the last chapter that will be posted for the next two weeks. 






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