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Summary: In the spring of 2012, four American children find themselves thrust into an unfamiliar fantasy world and part of an unexpected adventure. This story is AU, and blends Lord of the Rings book-verse and movie-verse. This story also contains a lot of spiritual and religious content as a part of the AU elements.
Disclaimer: The world of Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien; the three films of The Lord of the Rings belongs to New Line Cinema and to Peter Jackson. This story is not for profit, but is a gift for the enjoyment of those who read it.
Citations: In most chapters, there will be some quotations directly from both the books and/or the movies. Quotations from Tolkien's books are in italics, and quotations from the movies are underlined. Occasional quotations from other sources as well as silent dialogue, words spoken in emphasis, and passages from the Bible will also be in italics, and those citations will be footnoted at the end of each chapter in which they occur. We will also footnote research sources and credit the ideas of other people.
Thanks: We would also like to acknowledge the invaluable help of our beta, Linda Hoyland, another well-known and prolific LotR fanwriter, whose many wonderful stories also grace this site.
Chapter 46: We Got the Party
Egnil found himself relieved that the party from Lothlórien had found them, although it was embarrassing to have been caught in an ambush and lose their horses. But he had been worried about Amdir's injury. He had been pretty sure that the wound was not poisoned as some orc arrows were known to be, but that did not mean that it might not get infected, for even unpoisoned, they were filthy.
He watched anxiously as Orophin unwrapped the wound and gave an approving nod. He glanced at Egnil. "You did well. The wound is clean, and I see no redness or inflammation.” He took out a small bottle and dripped the contents on the injury. Amdir's face grew tense, but he did not flinch or grimace. "I know this stings, but it will prevent your wound from getting worse later." Amdir's face remained tense, but he nodded.
"We need to decide what to do now," Orophin said, after Amdir's wound had been dressed once more. "Shall we return to Lothlórien now, or should we await the coming of the rest of your party? While I should like to go home, it may be better if we stay here until they catch up with us. Or should I send one of my people to meet them on the road, and let them know what happened?"
Amdir exchanged a look with Egnil and took a deep breath. "I think we should stay here until they catch up. But I also think that you should send one of your people to meet them on the road."
While Orophin had been tending to Amdir, the other Elves had started a campfire and begun to prepare a meal.
"Come," called Rúmil. "We have some soup and a bit of lembas. For some reason, the Lady thought that we should bring some. I suppose she knew there was need of it."
"She knew there was one among those we sought who was injured; it will help him to heal," his brother answered.
Orophin nodded in his turn. "Then that is what we will do. But first, we will eat."
When they had finished eating, Orophin spoke to his brother. "Rúmil, as soon as it is light, you need to ride north to meet the other travellers. Let them know their scouts are safe, and guide them back to us. We shall remain here until your return." Egnil nodded agreement.
Rúmil glanced at the sky. "It will be light soon enough. Why do I not start now?"
Orophin looked up at the stars. "Why not, indeed? Just be careful, brother."
"I will." Rúmil whistled for his horse, and then mounted up and began to ride North.
He did not ride swiftly. It was cool and pleasant under the stars, and a steady pace was best until daylight, lest there be any places in the road that might injure his horse. He kept alert, as well, for he had not forgotten the ambush that had harmed the scouts from Imladris. It would not do for him to be caught by such an arrow.
Anor had shown her face in the East, and was nearly above the treetops beyond the River, when his horse perked up its ears. He stopped. He could hear hoofbeats. He quickly turned his horse's head, and they retreated off the road to behind a copse of trees.
Soon he could see that the one who rode upon a white horse was an Elf, and not just any Elf.
Glorfindel had been riding with somewhat less urgency since he had the message from the Lady Galadriel. But now he sensed the presence of another, hiding at the side of the road. He was not worried; he could tell it was another Elf. He stopped where he was.
From the west of the road, another Elf came forth upon his own horse. "My Lord Glorfindel! You are alone?"
"Well met, Rúmil of Lothlórien. I am riding in search of two of my scouts, who should have reported back ere now." Glorfindel scanned the surrounding countryside.
"We found your scouts, some miles South of here, in the Laeg Ninglorin. One of them, Amdir, had been injured in an Orc ambush, and they had lost their horses. They are safe now, for our Lady saw them and sent some of us to find and succour them." Rúmil was quite relieved to have found the Noldorin Elf-Lord, though he wondered where the other people who were supposed to be travelling with him were.
"We had heard of their difficulties through your Lady. But I did not know how soon help would find them, so I set out ahead. Avorn is leading them on, and they are accompanied by Radagast the Brown."
Rúmil nodded. "What should we do now, my Lord?"
Glorfindel thought for a moment. "How far away are they?"
"Scarce three hours' ride. I set off only two hours before daylight. My brother Orophin sent me to find you and your party, to let you know of their fate."
"Very well. I shall ask you to continue your errand, to let them know that Egnil and Amdir are safe. I will go on and join Orophin, and we shall await your return with the others."
"I will, my Lord." Rúmil trotted on, and Glorfindel urged Asfaloth in the opposite direction.
"Let us move off the road towards the River," said Raendir.
Steve nodded. Gail looked apprehensive, but the four horses turned and followed Raendir. He found a spot about halfway between the road and the River.
"Kaylee, you are going to be with your mother for just a few moments," the Elf told her. He dismounted and went over and lifted Kaylee up in front of Gail.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Gail asked nervously. As much as she wanted to have her little girl with her, this didn't seem like the best time.
"I need to be unimpeded," the Elf replied. "Mairen, watch over the children and their mother."
He dismounted and prepared to string his bow. He gave Steve a nod. Steve dismounted, because he knew he could not possibly handle a crossbow from horseback. The horse walked over to the other two horses and stood next to Mairen and her mount. Steve prepared his crossbow.
It seemed that perhaps they had escaped the onslaught of the wolves, thought Steve, as they had waited several minutes without spotting anything. He wondered if he and Raendir should stand down, when he noticed a difference in the Elf's stance. Raendir became more alert, and he turned his head slightly and gave Steve an almost imperceptible nod. Clearly, he had heard something that Steve could not.
Suddenly from the undergrowth beyond the verge, two of the beasts burst forth. Steve took aim and loosed his bolt, a fraction of a second after Raendir loosed his. The arrow from Raendir's longbow took one of them in the throat, and it hit the ground hard, dead. Steve's bolt hit the other one in the chest below its front leg. It went down, wounded but not dead. He set another bolt and shot once more, this time finishing it off.
Megan had screamed when she saw the animals coming, and was now crying hysterically, in spite of Mairen's efforts to calm the little one. Kaylee had turned her head into her mother's side and refused to look. Gail was shaken, pale and trembling and breathing hard. But she tried not to show her distress, for the children's sake. The thing that had scared her most, was she had seen Mairen draw a knife, clearly prepared to use it if either of the wolves had somehow escaped the arrows.
Raendir went on foot to check the downed creatures, and then ventured toward the eaves of the woods beyond. He did not go into the forest, but stood alert and listening for several minutes. Then he turned and went back the others.
“You think Lucy and Barrel are safe?” Kaylee whispered loudly.
Gail hugged her one-handed. “Let’s hope so, sweetheart. They’ll protect them if they can,” she said in a low voice. She kissed her little girl on the top of her head, and then looked over at Mairen and Megan. Megan had finally gone from the screaming in terror to crying loudly, and then to the slow sobbing stage with hiccups. Mairen was jiggling her slightly and patting her on the back, speaking to her soothingly in a low voice.
"Want Mommy," she hiccupped.
Mairen looked at Gail helplessly. She would gladly trade Megan for Kaylee, but she was not sure if it was yet safe to dismount. Gail was still not skilled enough to make the exchange from horseback.
Raendir had joined Steve, who had been waiting on the east side of the Road, his crossbow ready. Steve was not going to stand down until he got the all clear from the Elf.
But now he spoke to Steve, and the two of them turned and joined the women and children.
"There was no sound of any other wargs in the wood beyond," said Raendir. "I am sure that the others have dealt with the first attackers. These two, though vicious and dangerous enough, seemed thin and unhealthy. One of them bore scorch marks up its fur—not new ones, either. They seemed to have fled this way from some other encounter to the West."
Steve silently thanked God for saving them from the wargs. "What should we do now?" he asked aloud.
"I think that we should wait here for the others to catch up to us. If it did not take long for them to deal with the wargs that first found us, they should catch up with us in about an hour or perhaps another half-hour beyond that. In the meanwhile, I shall gather some kindling, and we can burn those bodies." Raendir looked up at Gail and Mairen. "I believe it is safe to dismount."
He reached up and took Kaylee, so that Steve could help Gail dismount.
"Are you okay, Rudolph?" Kaylee asked him, giving him a little hug before he put her on the ground.
"I am, indeed," he replied. "You were very brave, Kaylee."
Kaylee looked at her sister, who was still sitting in front of Mairen on her horse. “Megan was scared.”
Raendir nodded. “She certainly was, Kaylee, but she will be all right now. She is safe now, and so are you.”
As soon as Gail had dismounted, she and Steve held hands and put their heads together, and they quietly thanked God for delivering them all from the wargs. Then they quickly kissed, and Steve went to help Raendir.
Gail took Megan from Mairen, and soon had jiggled her to sleep. While Steve helped Raendir start the fire to burn the carcasses, Gail sat on the ground with her daughters, and Mairen went to check the saddlebags. She came back with some of the sweet honeycakes that they had taken in trade from the Beornings, and gave a piece to each of the girls. "The sweetness will help to soothe them," she said, "and us as well." She broke off another piece and handed it to Gail, as she took a bite for herself from the remaining piece. "There is more for the men when they have finished their task. I am thankful the wind is blowing the other way. Such things smell badly enough when they are alive; in death, they smell even worse."
Steve and Raendir soon returned and walked down to the riverbank to wash. When they came back, they also had some of the honeycakes. It was less than an hour later when they heard the sound of horses approaching.
Kaylee roused, for she had fallen asleep in her father's lap, while Megan was asleep in Gail's. She stood up, and said sleepily, "Are they here?"
“Not yet, sweetheart,” Steve told her. “But they’ll surely be here soon.”
“I hope Lucy and Barrel’ll be with them,” the little girl said.
Soon the others were visible as they came down the rise in the road. Steve heaved a sigh of relief—to his count, it looked like everyone was accounted for. Radagast had Lucy on the horse in front of him, and he rode right next to Avorn, who was leading Barrel.
"There, see, honey," Steve said to Kaylee, "Lucy is just fine, and so is Barrel."
As the group came to the bottom of the small hill, Radagast leaned over and set a barking Lucy down. The little spaniel ran as fast as she could towards her family. She ran straight into Kaylee's waiting arms. “Lucy!” she squealed, hugging the puppy against her chest. Lucy, in turn, enthusiastically used her tongue to thoroughly wash Kaylee's face, making her giggle.
Soon the little cavalcade came to a halt on the Road near them. As soon as they stopped, Kaylee jumped up. “Barrel!” she squealed. She dropped Lucy and darted toward her pony, wrapping her arms around Barrel’s neck. Barrel nickered, and nuzzled her little mistress's chin.
After the joyful reunion, everyone sat down to take a break, and Steve and Gail learned what had happened up the Road after they had raced the children to safety.
"There were six of the beasts altogether," said Avorn. "Two of them turned tail and ran back into the woods when they saw the arrows fly. I see that those two found you; I am sorry we could not stop them as well. It was over very quickly, but like you, we took the time to burn the bodies."
Radagast grinned at Kaylee, who was seated with her legs crossed between her parents, cuddling Lucy. "Your Lucy is a very brave little soul! Why, she leapt down from my arms, when one of the four remaining wargs was trying to get away, and darted over to nip at its heels. She was very quick, jumping back whenever it tried to snap at her, and keeping out of reach of those jaws. She herded it right back, and Cadhron took it in the throat with an arrow."
Steve and Gail looked at each other and chuckled. “Interesting,” Steve said. “Spaniels are bird dogs, not herding dogs. But I’m proud of Lucy for the way she helped you.”
"She was very proud of herself, I may say," said Radagast with a smile. "She pranced about in circles, with her head up and her tail held high, when it was all over. But it is often the way that small dogs do not know they are small! It is good that she did what she did; else you might have found yourself facing three of them, rather than only two."
Steve shook his head. “I don’t even like to think about what would have happened, if we had.” Gail nodded agreement, looking grave, and the other elves exchanged sombre glances.
Lucy picked up a nearby stick and started carrying it to and fro. She had been picking up and carrying things in her mouth quite frequently ever since the journey had started. Soon, she settled down and started gnawing on it.
"Radagast?" Kaylee said. Gail sighed. The wizard had told her to just use his name, and it wasn't like he had a last name for her to use. She hoped that Kaylee would not forget all her manners before they got home.
"Yes, young Kaylee?" he replied.
"What about your bunnies? And your sled?" she asked. Now that she knew Lucy and Barrel were all right, the rabbits had been rather on her mind since the reunion.
Radagast grinned. "My rabbits know the way home. I will find them there when I return. And I can always build a new sled."
"Oh, okay," she said, much relieved. Then she frowned, distressed. “But that means you can’t ride anymore! You’ll have to walk!”
"Did I walk here?" he asked, looking amused. "I am sure that Avorn will not grudge me the spare horse I used. Do not worry about me, Kaylee. As for walking, I have walked many more miles than I have ridden since I came to Middle-earth, though admittedly, I have not walked so far as my friend Ólorin." His eyes twinkled. “You and the hobbits call him Gandalf, I believe. And his Elvish friends call him Mithrandir.”
Steve and Gail looked at one another. Another name for that mysterious wizard the older kids had gone off with. They had heard some of the Elves referring to him as "Mithrandir" as well as "Gandalf". Another thing to ponder.
Soon enough, Avorn stood up. "We still have a few hours of daylight left. Let us continue our journey." Soon they were all mounted. Kaylee once again rode upon Barrel, who seemed quite happy to have her little rider back. Megan was riding once more with her father, and Lucy, who had been made to drop the stick, was riding with Radagast again.
They had not gone far before they saw another rider coming from the South. Avorn had been expecting Glorfindel, but this horse was a bay, not white like Asfaloth. And he was clad in the green of Lothlórien.
The newcomer sped up and soon met with them. "Mae govannen," he said, as he pulled up his horse.
Steve listened as the other Elf began to speak to Avorn. He recognized "mae govannen" as one of those common phrases Bilbo had taught him—it meant "Well met," Middle-earth’s version of "Hello"—but he did not understand the rest of what the other Elf was saying, after Avorn had briefly responded. Then Avorn turned to Steve and Gail.
"This is Rúmil of Lothlórien. He does not speak Westron, but he was part of a rescue party sent from there; it seems that the Lady Galadriel had a foresight of the plight of Egnil and Amdir. They were ambushed by orcs whom they drove off, and Amdir was wounded, and their horses fled. Their search party found them, and they are well enough now. Rúmil was sent to bring us word, and on the way, he came across Lord Glorfindel. Lord Glorfindel asked him to continue his errand, and he will guide us to where they are waiting."
Steve nodded. "Thank you. We were wondering what manner of news he brought."
"I hope that Amdir wasn't wounded too badly," added Gail, concern in her voice.
Avorn nodded, and turned to ask Rúmil another question, and then relayed the answer. "He was taken in the shoulder with an orc arrow, but it was tended well, and though he will not be drawing a bow for a few days, he will soon recover."
Gail breathed a sigh of relief, and silently offered up a prayer of thanks.
"We will continue our journey, and if we ride steadily without more than brief stops, we should find the others by sunset," Avorn said, and urged his horse forward, and the rest of the party followed.
Steve knew that he, Gail, and the little girls were holding the Elves back. They did have to make stops for the girls to have a break, and to eat and drink a little something, and truthfully, he and Gail needed those breaks as well. The two of them were not experienced enough riders that they could ride as fast as the Elves without stopping. Still, as exhausted as he felt, and as he was sure that Gail felt, they carried on. He looked at his wife proudly. She was adapting so well to this strange new world they had found themselves in. Gail had never had to "rough it", growing up, and even after they got married, camping was always done with tents and as many of the conveniences as they could bring with them. And the longest time they had camped was two weeks once—and that was done with a borrowed RV. But she was adapting, and not complaining—or not much, anyway. He thought for the millionth time how lucky he was to have her.
Gail looked at her husband, and then at their daughters. My husband’s army years are certainly paying off, she thought. He had to rough it quite a bit while he was in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, carrying those heavy army packs in the desert, and his semi-automatic. And he had to fight Saddam Hussein’s troops while he was there. She bit her lower lip. I just hope he won’t have to fight anything more dangerous than a wolf while he’s here! It’s not only animals or men he might have to fight before we get back home. She had yet to see one of those goblins or orcs that Bilbo had described, but she knew they were a part of the enemy's forces, and she did not want to see one, ever, if she could help it.
They continued travelling throughout the rest of the day, and Gail was wondering if she'd even be able to walk when they finally stopped. She glanced enviously down at Lucy, who was once more trotting along the verge. Radagast had set her down the last time they had taken a brief break; the puppy was carrying a twig she had picked up. Gail unhooked the waterskin from her saddle and took a small sip. She had still not learned the knack of doing so without having a little bit of water dribbling down her chin, but at least it was just a few drops now. She recalled with embarrassment how the first few times, she had soaked the whole front of her clothes.
The area they were riding through had grown a little swampy on the sides of the road, and now Lucy had moved closer to the horses. The pup's paws were all muddy, although the ground didn't appear that way from Gail's view atop Calroc. She noticed that Avorn had slowed their pace, and she also noticed that the Elves looked a lot more alert. Avorn was speaking in a low tone, in Sindarin, with their guide. Rúmil? She thought that was the name he gave. She hoped that they weren't in some kind of danger. But they rode on steadily, as the shadows to the left grew longer, and the sky began to grow dimmer. The trees were closer to the Road now, but they were not riding through woods, just clumps of trees growing here and there.
In the eastern sky, Gail spotted a star or two or three twinkling where the sky itself had begun to turn purple, and the mostly-full moon started to rise above the clumps of trees on the other side of the River. She smiled. I can’t get over our moon being above this world, too! And the planets and constellations we’re used to back home, as well. And then she heard their guide make an exclamation, and she looked forward, and saw in the distance a campfire.
Avorn turned. "We have found them. Let us join them now."
It was with great relief that as they stopped, they saw Glorfindel standing up, next to another Elf, and they spotted both Egnil and Amdir amid the other Elves who sat around the fire. Gail just sat there atop Calroc, almost afraid to get down. She just knew her legs would give way if she tried. But Glorfindel came to her side and helped her down, keeping a steadying hand on her until she was able to stand on her own. Steve came over, and she almost laughed at him, because he was also stiff, and he was walking rather bow-legged. She knew she probably would, too, but she was thankful for the long skirt she wore—no one would be able to tell.
Mairen had dismounted gracefully, lifting Megan down. The three-year-old was sound asleep, and did not even stir. Kaylee was holding her daddy's hand, but she also looked very sleepy.
She looked up at Gail. "Are we there yet?" she asked, sounding just like she did when they were just taking a long road trip in the car back home.
"Yes, baby," sighed Gail. "At least for tonight, we are there. We’ve found Lord Glorfindel and the scouts, and we’re going to spend the night here."
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