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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 47: Look Through My Eyes
They had ridden for only half a day before they entered the eaves of Lothlórien, and then for just a few more hours. It was restful riding among the beautiful trees, which Glorfindel told them were called mellyrn.
Rumil led the group onto a hilltop. Steve, Gail, and their daughters looked with wonderment at the vista spread before them. Several miles towards the south, a large hill rose out of the woods. Upon the hill rose many mighty mallorn trees, taller than any they had yet seen, and nestled high in the crowns of the mellyrn was a beautiful city. It gleamed in the afternoon sun, green, gold, and silver. To the east of that city, the woods of Lórien ran down the pale gleam of a huge river. Beyond that river, the land appeared flat and empty, formless and vague, until far away, it rose again like a dark dreary wall. The sun that lay on Lothlórien did not have the power to enlighten the shadows that lay beyond.
“Caras Galadon,” Glorfindel told the McClouds, looking ahead. “The heart of Elvendom on earth. This is the city of the Galadhrim, where dwell the Lord Celeborn and Galadriel, Lady of Light.” He turned toward them.
Orophin spoke to Glorfindel, who turned and translated: “The Fellowship was here not long ago, but they have since departed.”
Gail looked troubled. “I wish we could have arrived here before they left.”
Glorfindel nodded sympathetically. “I am told they left Lothlórien only two days after you arrived in Middle-earth, Mrs. McCloud. But we cannot go straight onward, not yet. War is coming, and we have to make sure it will be safe for us when we leave.” He shook his head at Gail when he saw an objection on her lips. "No." He shot a glance at Kaylee, who was sitting in front of Raendir, singing innocently.
"There was a farmer who had a dog..." Kaylee sang, as they continued onward.
"...And Bingo was his name-o.
And Bingo was his name-o…"
"Your choices have not changed with regards to your children,” he said gently. “If we travel straight on, then the two little ones will have to wait here with the Lord and Lady, unless you wish to carry them right into a war."
“And there is no guarantee that they will be safe if we leave them here, either, hon,” Steve told his wife.
Gail shuddered. There seemed to be no safety anywhere in this land. She listened to Kaylee's innocent singing, with Megan clapping along with her sister. They had to be safe.
"But with the Lady Galadriel, they would be safer than traveling on yet awhile,” Glorfindel added. “At any rate, we must stay for some days, at least, to gather what information is already known. We also need supplies, and it is in my mind that our mounts may remain here. It may be best if we travel on the River when we leave."
"Well," said Gail, "I am eager to meet this Lady Galadriel, if it so happens that she will have to babysit for my daughters."
Steve laughed. "I think that you will meet her pretty soon, honey. That is where we are headed, after all. But, Gail—” His face turned serious. “—we may end up having to take Kaylee and Megan with us when we do leave, and Lucy, too. It all depends on how things turn out.”
Gail set her jaw. “Well, if we do, we are going to have to somehow improvise life jackets for our daughters, Steve. I don’t want them in a boat without some way to keep them afloat if the boat overturns, or they fall out.”
Steve nodded. “I agree. We’ll see what we can do, if it comes to that.”
It wasn't long before they found themselves right in the middle of the "city". It was hard for Gail to think of it that way; they were still right among trees, and it was more like riding in a park—until she looked up, and was reminded that it really was a city, a city of treehouses. It made her dizzy to look at. Like The Swiss Family Robinson, only bigger and more beautiful! she thought. She noticed that there seemed to be very little in the way of railings or walls. The swinging bridges made of ropes had only rope at about waist-height to hold onto, as she discovered, but she noticed many of the Elves did not bother to hold on at all, unless they were carrying something, in which case they might hold on with the other hand. And some Elves weren't even bothering with the rope bridges, but just jumped from branch to branch with no more effort than a squirrel. She shuddered. She wasn't afraid of heights, but she had to admit to herself that she'd be apprehensive if she had to walk on any of those rope-bridges. Some of the trees had stairways built around their trunks, reaching high up before there were even any branches to interfere with the winding spiral stairs.
These are more massive than the redwoods and sequoias in California. She shook her head in wonder.
“Look, Mommy! Look, Daddy! Treehouses!” Kaylee pointed up at the structures nestled in the mallorn trees and bounced in excitement.
“I’m looking, Kaylee!” Gail smiled. “Your daddy and I both are.”
“We sure are,” Steve agreed, nodding. “These trees are so massive, and these treehouses are a wonder.”
And then they came to a halt before the most massive of the mallorn trees yet. It dwarfed the other trees around it. The stairway was much grander than any they had espied before, and the risers were beautifully carved with vines and flowers. There was no support like the rope-rails she had seen before, but the treads were so wide that anyone walking in the centre would not need to fear falling over. She turned to look at the children, and noticed that Glorfindel had picked Kaylee up, and Mairen was already carrying Megan. She breathed a sigh of relief. At least that would solve the problem of a curious child trying to peer down the edge of the stairs. But the climb! The first landing she saw was up among the branches, and there must be three stories worth of steps to climb before they got there!
As soon as they had dismounted their horses, Radagast handed Lucy to Steve and picked up his staff. Gail took a deep breath, and followed Glorfindel and Orophin, climbing alongside her husband. She sought his hand, and he grasped it comfortingly. Mairen was right behind them with Rumil. None of the other Elves followed.
“What’s it like?” Kaylee asked eagerly. “What’s it like up there? Is it gonna be like Rivendell? What’s Lady Galadriel like? Will I get to sleep in a treehouse?”
Glorfindel laughed. “No, Kaylee, Lothlórien is different from Rivendell, as you can see just from looking at it. You will learn what the sleeping arrangements are before this day is out. As for the Lady Galadriel, you will find out when you meet her.” He turned to Steve and Gail. “I should tell you that Lady Galadriel has the power to read people’s hearts, and to speak directly into their minds.” He then gave them a mischievous smile. "By the way..." He lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "...she is also the Lady Arwen's grandmother, and mother-in-law to Master Elrond."
Gail's eyes had nearly popped when he had said that the Lady could read their minds and talk to them in their heads—but his second statement almost made her giggle. Somehow, she did not think an Elven grandmother would look the same as her own grandmother did. She realized then that Glorfindel was trying to ease them after his warning. Please, God… she began silently, and then stopped. She wasn’t really sure what to ask God for, this time. After a moment, she silently prayed, Help me—help us both—to do and say the right things. She glanced at her husband. Steve's eyes had a faraway look, and she realized he was probably praying, too.
The stairs among the branches were a little easier to climb, as there were more landings, and closer together. But finally, they arrived at their destination. A great house was built like the deck of a ship, a huge chamber that was oval in shape, and like the mast of a ship, the trunk of the immense tree grew right up through the centre of the room. The walls gleamed with silver and gold carvings, and above them at a great height was a ceiling that appeared to be of gold.
There were two throne-like chairs sitting in front of that great tree-trunk, and in them sat two Elves that nearly took Gail's breath away, so beautiful and wise did they appear. The two of them sat hand in hand, and once their guests were fully in the room, they stood up, still hand in hand, to greet them. She couldn't believe how tall they were, taller than any of the other Elves she had met except for Lord Glorfindel.
Both of them were blond. Lord Celeborn's hair was a silver-white, and the Lady's hair was gold, very deep gold, though there were also some silvery strands that gleamed through here and there. But their eyes were filled with the wisdom of the ages. Gail got the idea that they both could just see right through her. How old are these elves? she wondered. While the Lady Galadriel didn't look like any grandmother she had ever met back home, she had no problem believing she was Arwen's grandmother—those eyes were ancient!
She glanced down at her daughters, who had been set down on the floor as soon as they had entered the room. Kaylee was nestling against her father, wide-eyed, her thumb in her mouth, and Megan was doing the same on his other side. Steve, who was holding Lucy against his chest with one hand, had his other arm wrapped around Megan’s shoulders.
"Welcome to Lothlórien," said Celeborn. He smiled wistfully at the two little girls and then smiled down at the puppy, who whined in Steve’s arm. "Please be seated," and it was only then that Gail noticed some chairs had been brought forward, just enough for everyone who had come in to sit down. Steve, Gail, and the Elves took their seats, and Steve set Lucy on the floor. Kaylee climbed into Steve’s lap and resumed gaping up at Celeborn and Galadriel. Gail took Megan in hers, while Lucy perched at Gail’s feet. Radagast remained standing next to Glorfindel’s chair.
Celeborn's gaze fell upon Radagast. "Aiwendil, welcome once more to our halls. It has been long since you have graced us with your presence."
The scruffy, brown-cloaked wizard, who should have looked very out of place in this elegant chamber, instead looked very much like he belonged. There was an air about him that Gail had never noticed before. He placed a hand upon his chest, and with a smile at his hosts, he inclined his head in the briefest of polite bows. "Celeborn of Lothlórien and Galadriel Artanis, I am glad to see you once more. I can see that you have had the presence of my friend Gwaihir recently. I look forward to hearing of his errand to you."
The Lady arched an elegant brow, and said, "You perceive much. We shall speak of it later." With another bow, Radagast took his seat on the remaining empty chair, holding his staff. Galadriel turned her gaze to Glorfindel. "Laurefindel of the House of the Golden Flower, welcome to you as well. Thank you for heeding my message." The two of them gazed at one another for a moment, almost as though they were having a conversation without words. Gail recalled what Glorfindel had said earlier, and wondered if possibly Glorfindel was able to use telepathy, too? He had not called it that—but it was obviously what he had meant.
Celeborn looked at Gail and Steven now. "Welcome to our hall, Steven McCloud and Gail McCloud. It is an honour to meet the parents of such remarkable children as Kevin, Jennifer, and Joseph. We were glad to host them here in our realm for a while." Steve and Gail exchanged proud smiles, pleased to know that their children had made a good impression on these Elves, even without their parents around to supervise them. Celeborn then smiled at the little girls. “Welcome, Miss Kaylee and Miss Megan.” Kaylee smiled, and Megan fidgeted, sucking her thumb.
Galadriel now looked straight at Gail, and suddenly Gail heard a voice in her mind, just as Glorfindel had warned them. ‘Fear not, Gail, for your children are wise, and have learned what they need to know to survive in this world. Their hearts are filled with love for the One, and He gives them the strength they need.’
Gail gave a slight gasp and looked up at the Lady, whose face was filled with compassion, and her own eyes filled with tears. She blinked them away, and whispered, "Thank you."
‘You are most welcome,’ the gentle voice in her head responded. Then she felt it withdraw.
Now Galadriel smiled at Kaylee, who had said nothing so far, but had sat quietly in Steve’s lap, staring wide-eyed at her. “No, little one,” she said, her eyes twinkling in amusement, “I am not an angel. I am just an Elf-woman.” Kaylee’s eyes opened even wider, and then she gaped up at her father, who shook his head in evident wonder. Gail shook her head as well, as much to clear it as anything else.
With a smile, Galadriel bent over and gestured to Lucy, who trotted toward her. Galadriel rubbed Lucy’s head as the puppy licked her hand. “Welcome, Lucy,” she said. Lucy whined and wagged her tail as the Elf-lady and Celeborn took turns petting her.
Straightening his back, Celeborn spoke again. "Go now, rest and be comforted, and put aside your worries while you are here. No enemies shall enter this land."
Sitting up straight once more, Galadriel nodded. "You shall find ease here; rest, and we shall speak again on the morrow." She and Celeborn rose to their feet, and Lucy trotted back toward the McClouds, her tail still wagging.
The two of them withdrew, and as they all stood up, Kaylee picked up Lucy. Glorfindel led them out of the chamber. Two Elves, a male and a female, awaited them.
The two Elves introduced themselves. The Elf-maiden said her name was Lassiel, and the other one told them that his name was Thorchon. "We are honoured to meet the family of Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey," he said. "We spent much time with them while they stayed here."
"We are to guide you to where you may bathe, and to show you where you will stay while you are in Lothlórien," added Lassiel. "Lady Gail, if you and the two little girls would come with me?"
"Please," said Gail, "just call me 'Gail'."
Lassiel looked at her, and said, "As you wish...Gail."
As in Rivendell, Gail got the feeling that the Elves here also did not approve of using first names so soon, but that they would do as they were asked, even if they didn't. Glorfindel took Lucy from Kaylee and held her against his chest. She licked his neck and thumped her tail against his chest.
The group had to descend the great tree once more. Then, when they reached the bottom, Gail and Mairen followed Lassiel. Gail carried Megan while Mairen walked, holding Kaylee's hand. Lassiel led them to the second of two paths marked with white stones; Gail watched as Steven and the rest of their group walked down the first one, her eyes on Steve until the path curved around a low hedge and vanished from sight. Then she picked up her pace, to keep up with Mairen and Lassiel. She wondered what sort of bathing facilities they had here in the woods. She recalled the bathing rooms at Rivendell fondly, and did not hold out much hope for hot water, although it would be wonderful to get really clean. None of them had found any chance to do more than wash up at the banks of rivers and streams since they had left Rivendell.
But Lassiel led them into a small clearing hedged about by small trees and bushes; within the clearing, a small pond gave off the welcome sight of steam and a slightly mineral scent. The pond bubbled in the centre; it was a true hot spring.
There was a pile of folded linens on a beautifully carved wooden bench at the edge of the pond, and a basket of round soaps that smelled of herbs and flowers, and a jar of liquid soap as well, that smelled the same. Gail could not identify just what herbs and flowers, but the scent was light and refreshing.
Gail knew there was little privacy, although she still felt slightly embarrassed. She had been in college the last time she could recall having to undress in front of others (besides her husband, of course). But the wish to be clean overcame her modesty, and after all, she did not want to make Kaylee or Megan hesitate or be uncomfortable. And she soon forgot even to be embarrassed as she joined Mairen and the girls in the steamy water that washed away her aches and pains of travel. It was wonderful to wash all over, and to even get a chance to wash her hair, which was quite a bit longer than it had been when they had first arrived in Middle-earth. I’ll have to get a haircut when I get back home! she thought wryly.
She and Mairen also washed the girls, including their hair, and allowed them to splash and play in the shallower side of the pond, before they finally got out, dried off, and changed into the garments that seemed to be a cross between a simple pullover calf-length dress and a nightgown.
"If you will give to me your own garments, we shall see them washed, dried, and mended, and returned to you tomorrow," said Lassiel. "The packs containing your other things have already been delivered to your pavilion. It is the same one that the Company from Rivendell used while they were here a few weeks ago."
Gail nodded. “Thank you. That’s very kind of you.” She took her clothes and her daughters’ clothes out of her pack and handed them to Lassiel. Turning to Mairen, she asked, “Do you have any idea how long we’re going to stay here?”
Mairen shook her head. “We will stay here as long as we need to. I do not know how long that will be.”
Gail bit her lower lip. “I just want to get to our other children, Mairen.”
"It is likely to be some days at least, Gail," said Lassiel. "While our Lady keeps the Golden Wood peaceful and free of the enemy's vermin, the lands outside are restless, especially to the South of here. Scouts will have to be sent out before any may venture forth."
Gail sighed. More delays, but she couldn't very well object to that—better safe than sorry, as Steve was fond of saying.
Kaylee tugged at her mother's hand and smiled. “Can we go play? Please?”
Gail shook her head. "No, Kaylee. It’s already past your bedtime. Megan should have already been in bed an hour ago, and it’s past time now that you did the same." She pointed up through the canopy of the trees to the night sky beyond. It might have been mid-afternoon when they arrived in Caras Galadon, but it was definitely after dark now.
Kaylee made a little face, but did not otherwise protest. Gail continued to be impressed with her five-year-old. It wasn't long ago that any mention of bedtime was greeted with whining and protests.
They found Steve, Glorfindel, Avorn, and Radagast waiting for them at the head of the path, with Thorchon. Steve was holding Lucy, who wagged her tail at the sight of Gail and her daughters. Thorchon and Lassiel then led them to the spacious pavilion. It was at the foot of one of the huge mallorn trees, near the fountain they had passed on their way to the hall of Galadriel and Celeborn. It was spacious, filled with soft couch-like seats, cushions, and blankets, as well as a dog bed for Lucy. There were two areas partitioned off by curtains, and in the centre of the pavilion was a low round table, covered with a soft white cloth and laden with food—bread, fruit, cheese, and cold sliced meats were set out for them, and two bowls on the ground for Lucy: one filled with meat, and the other filled with water. Steve set Lucy on the ground, and she darted toward the nearest bowl and started gobbling the meat.
"Where are all the others?" Gail asked. She did not see any of the other Elves who had accompanied them from Rivendell.
Steve said, "Apparently a lot of them have friends and family here, and they've gone to stay with them for the most part. A few may return here to sleep, but maybe not." It went unsaid that Elves did not really need much in the way of sleep.
Glorfindel added, "There are many ties of kinship between the Valley and the Wood, but also they knew we needed to talk, and they have made themselves scarce."
"Oh." That sounded ominous. Gail hoped it wasn't bad news about the kids. She turned worried eyes up to Steve, who put an arm around her shoulders.
After they had all partaken of some of the food, Gail and Mairen put the little girls to sleep on a soft cot behind one of the curtained-off areas; on Steve’s orders, Lucy trotted toward her dog bed and curled up on the cushion. Then they all sat down, for Gail and Steve to hear what news Glorfindel and Radagast had to impart.
Radagast spoke first. "You only missed seeing your children by two weeks, it seems. And I only missed my old friend Gandalf by a week."
"Gandalf didn't leave with them?" asked Steve. He had yet to meet the other wizard, but he had rather been counting on the fact that the kids had a wizard with them!
Glorfindel shook his head. "They took a route beneath the mountains, through the tunnels in the mines of Moria. There they were attacked by an ancient evil." He was silent, and his face had an expression they had never seen since they had met him. "A Balrog, a demon of Morgoth. Only Gandalf had the power to face him, and none who have fought a Balrog have ever survived. Both Gandalf and the beast fell into an abyss, and the others all thought he had perished. Aragorn it was, who led them here to Lothlórien."
"A demon?" Gail's voice had gone up in pitch. "A demon?" she repeated.
"One of the Ainur who chose to follow Morgoth when he rejected Eru," Radagast answered. "The Valaraukar, or Demons of Night, were spirits of fire. They chose to keep their horrid appearance when they had assumed it, and would never again appear fair."
The four of them sat silently for a long moment. At last, the wizard glanced over at Glorfindel and shook his head. If the Lord of the House of the Golden Flower did not wish to speak of Balrogs, then he would. Radagast said, “Gandalf is not the only one who has fought and killed a Balrog. Glorfindel also killed one, a long time ago.” He paused, looking at the Elf-lord. “He was also killed in the process, but was restored to life centuries later by the will of Eru, in Valinor; that was back in the Second Age. Almost seven hundred years after that, he was sent back by the Valar to Middle-earth, to look after Master Elrond; he has been his companion ever since. When he says that none who have fought a Balrog have ever survived, he knows of what he speaks.”
Steve and Gail stared at Glorfindel, seeing him in a whole new light. Without a word, the Elf-Lord got up and left the pavilion.
Radagast sighed. "I suppose I should not have said anything. Oh, dear." He shook his head. "So many already know the story, still he does not seem to like speaking of it to others, especially people who do not already know. People tend to look at him differently once they know his tale."
Steve and Gail exchanged a glance. "But you said Gandalf was here, and then left?” Steve exchanged a puzzled look with Gail. “How did he survive?"
The brown wizard shrugged. "I am sure it was only by the will of Eru. But he was here, and now he is not, and he went South. That is all I know of that."
Then he, too, got up and left—presumably to go after Glorfindel, or maybe not. Gail and Steve sat and exchanged uncomfortable looks with Mairen and Avorn. Finally, Avorn stood. "No offense to the hospitality of the Galadhrim. I am sure no evil may enter here, any more than at home in Imladris. Nevertheless, I shall feel better keeping watch until the others return.” He stood up, kissed Mairen on the forehead, and went to stand by the entrance of the pavilion.
"I will stay with the little ones, Gail, if you and Steve wish to retire and get some sleep." Mairen rose and went to the area where the girls were sleeping and took the other cot.
Steve and Gail looked at one another. Gail took another drink from her goblet of water, and then said, "I suppose we should take her advice."
When Steve woke up the next morning, he realized that he and Gail had slept late. It was broad daylight, and he was quite hungry. He glanced over at Gail, who was still sleeping very deeply. He smiled at her, and sighed. It was very tempting to wake her, but she had been so tired when they came here. She needed her rest. He slipped out of bed, and noticed that at the foot of their bed, their packs had been placed, and also the clothes they had been wearing upon their arrival were there, clean, dry, mended, and folded. He dressed quickly and quietly, and slipped out of their curtained off area to the common area of the pavilion.
Mairen sat on a cushion, sewing something, and Glorfindel was sharpening his sword. He didn't see anyone else.
"Where are the kids?" Steve asked.
"Radagast took them to see the swans," Mairen answered. "I am sure he will find many other birds and beasts to show them as well. Lucy is with them, and they will be well."
Steve nodded and turned his attention to the low table, where food had been set out. A silver pitcher steamed with some sort of hot beverage, and in addition there was fresh bread, butter, fruit, and cheese, as well as a large bowl of frumenty.
He took a clean empty goblet from the table and poured whatever-it-was from the pitcher. It was some sort of herbal tea, sweet and mildly minty, as well as the scent and taste of other herbs. It wasn't quite as much of a pick-me-up as coffee, but it was invigorating and just as good as every other food the Elves had served during their stay so far.
Steve got a bowl of the frumenty and a chunk of the soft brown bread, which he smeared with some of the butter, and found a cushion to sit upon while he ate. He mentally said a prayer of thanks for the food and then glanced over at Glorfindel, who had finished with his sword, sheathed it, and put it aside.
"Do you think you will be needing to use that sword soon, Glorfindel?" Steve asked. He tried to sound casual, but the news last night had worried him.
The Elf looked up and nodded. "I am sure that I will. It is very likely that we will see efforts to attack Lothlórien very soon. The attack on our scouts were likely made by scouts of the enemy. They would never come so close to the Lady's domain if they were not planning on something more. And both she and Lord Celeborn spoke to me about this. While it is unlikely that Lothlórien will fall the first time it is assaulted, and even more unlikely that the enemy could penetrate to the heart of the Golden Wood, if Sauron is not defeated soon…" He let his voice trail off.
Laying his spoon and bowl down, Steve leaned back on his cushion, frowning. “Will you be needing my help?” he finally asked. “Since you did train me in Rivendell, I do have some skill with your weapons now. I’ve also had experience fighting in war back in my homeland, although I’ll admit I’ve had more experience with a gun than with a sword or knives or a crossbow.”
The Elf looked at him intently. Steve tried to keep his own eyes steady. He had already realized it was hard to hold the gaze of an Elf, and Glorfindel in particular seemed to see a lot. Finally, Glorfindel spoke. "Whether you choose to fight here or not, your welcome is assured, and nor would any think ill of you if you did not. You are right about your skill with a sword, and with knives. But you have done very well with your crossbow. But your honour will not be questioned if you choose to stay with your wife and children. None could blame you for that."
Steve drew in a deep breath. Elves. They sure didn't like to give real advice! Aloud, he said, "If you think I'd be of use with my crossbow, then I would feel better if I was also helping to defend my wife and our girls."
Glorfindel smiled. "I had a feeling that you might say that. Would you care to bring your crossbow and bolts, and I will show you the butts where your son and daughter practiced their archery while they were here. I have been told that they learned much while they were here." He rose and went to the corner of the pavilion, where stood several of the weapons they had brought from Rivendell. He grabbed his own longbow and his quiver. "Come! I shall tell you the amusing tale Orophin recounted to me, of your son Joey and the hobbits, and how they taught him to use a sling…"
Steve stood up and followed him out of the pavilion as Glorfindel told him about Joey’s first lesson in using a sling. The Elf had a droll manner of telling it, and Steve found himself laughing, as he could just imagine that as something Joey would do.
Gail stretched and yawned, and then she turned to see that Steve was already gone. In the other part of the pavilion, she could hear Kaylee's excited chatter.
"Mairen! Guess what! We got to feed the swans! They're so pretty! And then we got to see a badger and some squirrels and a fawn! It let us pet it!"
"Bambi soft," Gail heard Megan chime in. With a grin, she got up to find her clothing neatly piled at the foot of the bed. Quickly, she dressed and went to find her two girls in Mairen's company, and Lucy sniffing around.
She went to find Mairen still listening to the children, Radagast watching in amusement. "Good morning, girls! Good morning, Mairen and Radagast. Where's Steve?"
"He went out with Lord Glorfindel about two hours ago, Gail," Mairen answered.
Just then her daughters barrelled into her for a good-morning hug. "Mommy, guess what! Radagast showed us lots of animals!" Kaylee said, smiling broadly. "And we saw Daddy shooting his bow, too."
"He was practicing his archery with the Elves," said Radagast. "We saw him on our way back here."
There was still some bread, cheese, and fruit on the table. Gail helped herself to some of the bread and cheese and an apple, and a goblet of water, asked the blessing over the food, and sat down to listen to the children tell her of their adventures with Radagast. Afterwards, she and Mairen put Kaylee and Megan down for their naps, for the girls had already eaten while they were out. Lucy curled up on the ground next to their cot.
"I think I will go and find my husband," Gail said. "Do you know where they practice archery here?" she asked Mairen.
Mairen shook her head, but Radagast spoke up and said that he would show her the way.
The old wizard offered her his arm, in what Gail thought of as a charming old-fashioned gesture; but of course, here in Middle-earth, it was just common courtesy. She placed her hand on his forearm, and they went out in a leisurely fashion. "Is it far?" she asked.
Radagast chuckled. "Not particularly, although it is not the way of Elves to make a straight path, especially here in Lothlórien."
The path was rather winding, as Gail discovered. "Kaylee and Megan seemed to enjoy going out with you this morning."
He gave her a lopsided smile. "It has been so very long since I have been with children, especially such young ones. It was good to recall the delight little ones take in seeing animals and talking with them. Your littlest one seemed to insist on naming the fawn we saw 'Bambi'."
Gail laughed. "In our home, there is a well-known story of a fawn named Bambi. I am afraid that Megan may think that every baby deer she sees is named that!"
He shook his head and chuckled. "So, are there many such tales in your land?"
"Many," Gail said. "Most of them have animals that talk and act like people, although in real life, of course, animals don't do that."
"Well, of course, they do. Animals are people," he said seriously. "I do not understand why you would say that they do not. What other life is there than that which is real?"
Gail was taken aback. "I meant, of course, in the made-up stories that children often—" She was about to say "watch" when she realized that would entail more explanations than she cared to give. "—er, listen to. Or read for themselves, when they're old enough."
The eyebrow he raised at her expressed his doubt that she had actually said what she meant. Gail wondered if wizards could read minds, too.
"I find that animals are often fine conversationalists," Radagast said, "although you do find that they tend to natter on about the things that concern them most. It can sometimes be a task to get them to speak of the things that are important to wizards, Elves, Dwarves, and Men."
"Really?" Gail had seen him "talking" to birds, but she thought that was just a "wizard thing", some kind of special magic.
"Some animals have a special affinity with certain lines of mortals. Elves have a good understanding of most animals, and I must say I have a greater affinity for birds and beasts than even my fellow Istari. But even Saruman can speak with his crebain." He sighed. "Sad, really, that he has become more taken with wheels and iron than with his fellow creatures."
Gail would have liked to question him more about all this, but just then he said, "Aha! And we have arrived at the archery butts!" He pointed ahead, and she saw several Elves with longbows, and Steve in the middle of them with his crossbow. They were taking it in turns to shoot at targets that seemed absurdly far away. Although she noticed that the one Steve was aiming at was not quite so far away as the others. She and Radagast stood back silently, so as not to interrupt, but she could tell some of the Elves had noticed them.
Steve took his shot, and his bolt hit nearly at the bulls' eye, but not quite. Still, she thought it was a very good shot. Once it was made, all of the Elves and Steve stood down and looked in their direction. Steve grinned, and began walking in their direction. When he got there, he enfolded her in a big hug, and said, "Hello, sleepyhead! I thought you'd never wake up."
She hugged him back and looked up at him. "Thanks for letting me sleep in," she said. He kissed her.
He looked at Radagast, his eyes twinkling. "Thank you for showing her where I was. And I guess I have you to thank for babysitting my little rug-rats this morning."
"Rug-rats?" For a brief moment, the wizard looked puzzled, and then he smiled. "Ah, I understand. A good term for small ones who can be underfoot sometimes!"
Steve laughed. "Exactly! I forgot that term isn't familiar around here."
"It was a delight. And they were very proud of you when they saw you practicing."
"Well, from what Glorfindel told me this morning while Gail was sleeping, I need to be ready," said Steve, his face suddenly grim.
Glorfindel joined them just then. "Still, I say to you, none will think less of you; if you do not aid us, no one will think the less of you."
"I will," said Steve firmly.
Gail looked at him, and at the determination on his face, and her heart sank.
A/N: The plural of "mallorn" is "mellyrn".
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