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Summary: In the spring of 2012, four American children find themselves thrust into an unfamiliar world and part of an unexpected adventure. This story is AU, and blends Lord of the Rings book-verse and movie-verse. This story also contains a lot of spiritual and religious content as a part of the AU elements.
Disclaimer: The world of Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien; the three films of The Lord of the Rings belongs to New Line Cinema and to Peter Jackson. This story is not for profit, but is a gift for the enjoyment of those who read it.
Citations: In most chapters, there will be some quotations directly from both the books and/or the movies. Quotations from Tolkien's books are in italics, and quotations from the movies are underlined. Occasional quotations from other sources as well as silent dialogue, words spoken in emphasis, and passages from the Bible will also be in italics, and those citations will be footnoted at the end of each chapter in which they occur. We will also footnote research sources and credit the ideas of other people.
Thanks: We would also like to acknowledge the invaluable help of our beta, Linda Hoyland, another well-known and prolific LotR fanwriter, whose many wonderful stories also grace this site.
Chapter 49: Endless Night
Steve had been pleasantly surprised to realize that he was once more riding among the friends who had travelled with him from Rivendell. Only Avorn and Amdir had remained in Caras Galadon. As Glorfindel's second-in-command, Avorn would be the one to take the news to Rivendell if things did not work out well. And Amdir was still on the wounded list, although he had protested.
Steve had ridden alongside Terevor, and he was glad of the chance to get to know the Elf a little better. (He knew from the way Terevor was teased by the other Elves that he was, for an Elf, quite young—about the same age as Master Elrond's sons.) Now Terevor stood next to him in the flet, along with Raendir, Boridhren, Cenion, and Olon, as well as Orophin and another Elf of Lothlórien, whose name Steve had been told, but could not now recall.
He had thought he'd be reminded of his deployment to Kuwait, but he wasn't. Things were way too different: the climate, the weapons, the people he was fighting alongside—all of it seemed strange to him. What he was reminded of, was deer-hunting with his brother. After all, standing in a flet with a crossbow was not so very different than standing in a deer-blind up in a tree while hunting. Even the weapon was the same. He was really glad now that Ryan had taught him to use one.
I wonder how Ryan’s doing, he thought. I rather wish he was here with me; he’s had more experience with crossbows than I have. He frowned. I wonder if he's given up looking for us yet. Though if the same amount of time has passed for him that passed for us back at the campsite, he and Janet may not have had a chance to start worrying about us yet. I certainly hope so. He smiled ruefully. Our poor children have had the same concern for us!
They were beneath the eaves of the wood, high up in a flet that was built not for living in, but for guarding and fighting from. It was still daylight, and while he had a good view of the River, he certainly could not make out anything more than a slight blur on the other bank. The Elves, however, seemed to be able to see just fine; they were even counting the orcs. He hoped he would be useful when it got dark and the fighting began.
The Elf who stood by Orophin said something in his own language, and everyone laughed. Steve turned a curious glance to Terevor. "What's the joke?" Steve asked.
"He said, 'If that ugly bunch of orcs is all Dol Goldur has to send us, we shall be done by moonrise'."
Steve smiled wryly. “I’m afraid I can’t see them. How many are there, and what do they look like?”
"Ugly," Terevor said. "Think of the ugliest creatures you can think of, and then think of them as four times uglier than that, and you might come close to what we see. As for the number—several hundred."
"Oh." Several hundred was a lot more than he wanted to see. He was glad now that he couldn't. But he had no idea as to how many Elves they had. He knew there were at least a hundred in their immediate vicinity; Glorfindel had told them that much. But he also was aware that there were many other locations dotted along the Eastern border of Lothlórien, overlooking the River just like this one. Perhaps they were not too badly outnumbered after all.
Only one of the Elves on the flet had his bow strung, and he had yet to nock an arrow. It was Cenion, who had the watch. Once they got the word the enemy was moving, then bows would be readied, and he would wind his crossbow and get out his bolts. He watched the sky; although dusk was approaching, there were still patches of bright sky. He could not look west to the sunset—the trees blocked that view. But there was a lot of daylight still in the sky, although just above the treelines beyond the River, there was a line of indigo and one or two stars.
The Elf from Lothlórien said something to Orophin, who turned and translated to Steve. “He says that we have time for some sustenance before the enemy comes.”
Steve turned to the little pouch that hung at his side. He had heard a few times about the lembas, how it was special. Apparently, some had been issued to those who were to fight. Glorfindel had warned him to only take a small bite, as it was more filling than it looked. Steve took out one of the folded mallorn leaves in his pouch and unfolded it. Tucked away in the centre was a small square wafer with a large "X" crisscrossed upon it from corner to corner. It smelled slightly of both spices and flowers, although he could not tell exactly which spices and flowers. Mindful of Glorfindel's advice, he broke off one small corner and put it in his mouth. The flavour was mild, but delicious. It melted in his mouth. He instantly knew what Glorfindel had meant—he had scarcely swallowed before he felt satiated. His mouth was calling for "More!", but he knew he didn't need it. He refolded the leaf and placed the wafer back in his pouch with the other two. Then he took up his waterskin and had a drink of water.
Time passed, and the sky had darkened. Steve had decided to sit down, as a few of the Elves were doing. He rested his head on his knees, remembering how he had done that back in Kuwait and in Iraq, while waiting for the orders that would send his platoon into action; as the old Army saying went: "Hurry up and wait." He tried to think of things that would keep him awake. After all, resting was one thing; sleeping on duty was something else altogether. Suddenly, he heard the Elvish word he'd been listening for, one of the few he knew.
"Yrch!" It came not only from Boridren, who was standing watch on their flet at that time, but from other flets up and down the riverbank, and also from various points on the ground below. The sound carried, and it seemed louder than it actually was, each voice echoing another.
He stood up quickly, preparing his crossbow, and making sure he had a plentiful supply of bolts on hand. He was in the centre of their own little line of defenders. After consulting with Glorfindel, he knew what his personal strategy would be: to watch the Elves around him and aim his bolts in the same direction as his fellow warriors. "Your range in distance with your crossbow is not that far off than the range of our longbows, but your accuracy is not,” Glorfindel had told him. “You cannot see to aim as well, even in daylight, much less at night, so that beyond the furthest range you have reached in practice, your aim is wild. Therefore, simply aim along with your fellow warriors, and you should be able to hit the foe." That was exactly what he planned to do. At least he would not have to see what he killed.
Please, God, he silently prayed, as he bowed his head, protect us all. Protect these elves and me. Protect my family, too. And please destroy these orcs. Amen.
Steve shook his head. This was a very different war from battling Satan and his demons in the spiritual realm. The weapons of spiritual warfare were as described in Ephesians, but to battle a goblin, one needed physical weapons.
I never would have thought this day would come, he thought wryly. Battling a goblin, of all things, let alone an army of goblins! Back home, they’re just make-believe fantasy creatures. Oh, well, at least this time, I won’t have to kill a man. And I hope I won’t have to, while we’re here. I will if I do have to, but I hope it won’t come to that.
He stood ready, when he heard Oropnin yell another of the phrases Glorfindel had taught him: “Tangado halad!” Prepare to fire! he translated in his head. He glanced at the elves at either side of him and adjusted his aim to match theirs.
"Leithio i philinn!" Fire! He shot his bolt—actually, he recalled, it was "release arrows". He could not fire again so quickly as the Elves were doing. They could shoot five or six arrows in the time it took him to put his foot in the cocking mechanism and pull it taut, and then load another bolt. Still, in the past few weeks in Rivendell and on the road, and the last couple of days here in Lothlórien, he had gotten a lot faster at it than he had been back home.
Steve steadied himself and then, after another look at his neighbours, fired in synchronization with them. He wished now he'd taken Ryan up on his offer to teach him the longbow as well, although he knew he'd never be able to handle one of the bows these Elves carried. The draw weight on them was much higher than any he'd have used back home, anyway.
"Leithio i philinn!" Again, he shot. By now, the moon had risen, and his eyes were beginning to adjust to the dark. Between the archery volleys, he could hear quiet splashes on the River, and he saw blurry objects floating in their direction—little flat rafts with blurry figures on top of them. Every time the Elves fired, he would see several of the figures fall off into the water, and hear splashes. Still, a lot of them remained on the rafts, which continued to move across the water in their direction.
The order to fire kept coming, and it got harder for Steve to quickly cock and reload, but still he continued, even though he wasn't sure he was doing any good anymore. But as the moon went higher and brighter, and the foe got closer, he was finally able to get a good look at the enemy, and a chill went down his spine. They truly did look like monsters or beasts from a movie or something, with their inhuman faces and their greyish skin, and…yes, he had not really believed it when he'd been told…the blood he could see on the wounded ones was black! Truly black, not just a red that looked black because of the dim lighting, but black as pitch!
"Dartho!" That was "Hold!" It had been drilled into him to stop altogether when he heard that order. The Elves around him stopped firing as well. The Orcs that were left were now coming ashore, not nearly as many as had started out, clearly, but enough to remain dangerous.
Suddenly, bright fires began to spring up along the shore. The Elves had placed bonfires where they could be lit when the enemy actually arrived. The bright light put the nocturnal Orcs at a disadvantage as hand-to-hand fighting began. On the flet, only Orophin remained with Steve, as the other Elves descended to join in the ground-level battle. Glorfindel had ordered Steve to not leave the safety of the flet for any reason, unless he was ordered to do otherwise. He and Orophin continued to sometimes pick off individual foes when they were in clear sight and would not endanger any of the Elven warriors.
After a while, the part of the fighting that continued began to range away from directly underfoot, and there were fewer and fewer fighters on either side to be seen, as much of the battle seemed to move downstream of where they were.
Orophin's sharp eyes continued to keep a look-out, and suddenly he turned to Steve. "Stay here!" he said sharply, before he clambered quickly down to the ground. Steve wondered what he had spotted. He was somewhat unnerved at being left alone, but he was under orders, and so he stayed put. He reminded himself that he still had his knives, and also, he cocked his crossbow one more time.
Wish I had my rifle! he thought grimly, and not for the first time since the night had begun. I could pick off quite a few of these orcs if I had my rifle with me. As it is, I may end up having to fight hand-to-hand before it’s over. Thank God for my army instructor!
He heard a sound on the rope ladder, and then he saw Raendir coming up awkwardly, with Orophin giving the Elf support from just below him. He saw Raendir flop onto the flet in a way he had never seen an Elf move before, and then Orophin coming up next. Orophin turned Raendir over, and Steve gave a whistle of dismay, as he saw the slash on the Elf's torso. He quickly moved to the box that had been designated for healing supplies and began pulling out things. He wasn't sure what all of them were—but he could recognize bandages and scissors, and there were bottles and jars that Orophin would certainly know how to use. There were also some suturing supplies in case a bad cut should need stitching. Then he grabbed the large vessel that contained the flet's water supply and shoved it over. Orophin nodded in approval.
"Lord, please help us," he prayed aloud. If anything serious happened to Raendir, he didn't know what he would tell Kaylee. He was her favourite Elf among those who had come with them. Steve helped Orophin as he treated the wound, handing him the things that the Elf pointed at, and doing whatever was requested.
Finally, Orophin had done as much as he could for Raendir's injury. Raendir was still conscious, which surprised Steve, but just barely. Orophin gave his patient a small bite of lembas, and some sort of medicine to take a sip of, and finally Raendir lay back and fell asleep. Although Steve would not have known it if he had not spent weeks on the road with Elves and learned they slept with their eyes open. Steve put the first aid supplies back in the box, set the water vessel back in its place on the floor, and glanced at Raendir once more. Raendir really was only asleep, much to Steve’s relief.
"He is as well as we can make him, and as comfortable as he can be here,” Orophin said. “He will likely need further healing when we return to Caras Galadon, but I believe he will heal in time."
“Thank goodness,” Steve said thankfully. “I don’t know what I would have told Kaylee if the worst had come to worst, and he had died. She’s become quite fond of him.”
He looked up at the sky. It was getting lighter. He once more heard the whizzing of arrows coming from other flets and splashing in the water. He took up his crossbow and his original position and looked out. A few of the orcs were trying to make it back to the rafts and retreat, but the Elves still were firing on them.
He could also see many dead orcs upon the ground below, and some of them floating along the riverbank. The night was over, the battle won.
Gail couldn’t stop fidgeting restlessly after her husband had disappeared from sight. She was determined not to show him how worried she was, but she was! This could get him killed, if he wasn’t careful.
Please, God, she silently prayed, protect my husband! And please protect our children. And me. Amen.
It was a prayer she kept on repeating throughout what seemed to be a very long day. She did not see the Lady Galadriel at all that day, so the many questions she had on her mind remained unasked and unanswered. Of course, Lord Celeborn was gone as well as Radagast, and of those she knew, so were all the Elves who had travelled with them with the exception of Avorn (who had been ordered to stay) and Amdir (who was still not completely recovered from his wound). Lassiel came by after luncheon, and visited with her, and with Mairen and the girls, for a short while.
Kaylee and Megan both asked when their daddy would be back. Kaylee only asked the one time, and Gail answered as best she could: "Daddy went to help the Elves chase away some bad guys, and he will be back when he’s finished." She prayed earnestly that she was telling the truth, as she was not so sure that he would come back, but she thought it best to stay positive. Megan kept on asking, though, and staying upbeat when she repeated her answer was getting harder and harder. She wished she had someone besides Mairen to talk to.
As time went on, it became harder and harder for her to hide her fears from her daughters. Fortunately, Mairen volunteered to put them down for their nap. Just as well, she thought, grimacing. I’m in no shape to read to my daughters today, anyway. It’s going to be hard for me to sleep when bedtime comes, I fear.
“Gail?” It was Mairen. Gail raised her head and looked at her. “Your daughters are asleep, now.”
Gail smiled gratefully. “Thanks for putting them to bed for me. I really wasn’t up to it today.”
“I know.” The Elvish nursemaid sat down next to Gail. “You are worried about your husband.” It wasn’t a question.
Gail nodded. “I can’t stop worrying,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how hard I try, or how much I try to occupy myself with other things. It’s going to be hard for me to sleep when bedtime comes tonight, I’m afraid.”
Mairen smiled sadly. “Kaylee asked me earlier today if giant spiders were going to eat her daddy.”
Gail snorted. “And what did you say?”
Mairen laughed. “I told her there are no giant spiders in Lothlórien, so her daddy has nothing to fear from them.”
“And thank goodness!” Gail said fervently. “From what Steve and I have been told, orcs are bad enough. I’m just so thankful we haven’t had to travel through Mirkwood, Mairen. Mr. Baggins told us how dangerous that forest is. I know he’s also told Kaylee, but I suspect he didn’t tell her the worst of it.” I also suspect we’ll find out more when we go back home and read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, she thought. It won’t be only Jennifer who will be reading those books now; I shall want to, too. And if Steve lives to tell about it, so will he, I’m sure.
"The Lady keeps such things away," Mairen said. "But Lothlórien is a different sort of realm. After Sauron deceived the Elves of Eregion into making Rings of Power, he came and razed that Realm. Many Elves fled here, East of the Misty Mountains, to Laurelindórenan, which was the name for this place at the time. The King here was named Amroth, and he welcomed those refugees here. But later, when his love, Nimrodel, decided to sail to the West, he left with her, giving over his Realm to the Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, who were of the highest rank of those who fled Eregion. Here, the Lady, who was one of the High Noldorin Elves, who had seen the blessed Light of Valinor, and who had been a pupil of Melian, was able to bring the Golden Wood peace, and to keep out those who would harm it. But now Lórien is assaulted, and should Sauron regain his Power, even she will not be able to stop its downfall."
Gail bit her lower lip. “That’s why the Ring Master Elrond told us about has to be destroyed, then.”
“That is right.” Mairen nodded agreement. “Only if the Ring is destroyed will Sauron be rendered powerless.” She shook her head. "Still it is best if that Quest is not spoken aloud more than need be, even here." She put her finger to her lips, and Gail nodded. She could see the sense of that admonition.
Gail made a mental note to put Frodo Baggins on her prayer list, even as she was also praying for her husband and children. It was clear to her that Frodo was going to need God’s help to carry out his mission. She still did not want her children to go with him, though. From what she and Steve had been told about Mordor, it was much too dangerous a place to take a child, or even a teenager like Kevin and Jennifer.
When the little girls had awakened from their nap, Avorn came back to the pavilion, accompanied by Amdir, who was looking much better than Gail had last seen him. There were still some bandages and dressing peeking out below his tunic sleeve. But he otherwise seemed in good spirits and healthy.
"We thought," said Avorn, "that you might like to take a small walk with us to the stables; we wanted to see our own horses, and we thought that you might wish to see yours."
"And my pony!" said Kaylee, jumping up in her excitement.
"Yes, Kaylee," he said, smiling. "We shall see Barrel and Calroc as well."
Since Gail was up for anything that might take her mind off things, she agreed. The walk was long enough for some good exercise, and she felt a little guilty that she had not checked on her horse herself this whole time. She knew Steve had, but it wasn't the same, and she knew it.
"Can Lucy come, too?" Kaylee asked.
"Of course, she can," Avorn answered, and Amdir nodded as well.
It ended up being quite a party: Avorn, Mairen, Amdir, Gail, the two girls, and Lucy, who was quite obedient about staying at heel these days.
Walking through the peaceful forest, Gail began to feel her misgivings and anxieties relax somewhat. It was not very long until they came in sight of the same long, low stables that Steve had visited the day before.
Inside the cool building, there was another Elf, who was taking care of their horses. It was one of the Lothlórien Elves, so Gail could not speak with them, although Kaylee managed a very sweet "Mae govannen". The Elf returned the Elvish greeting and patted the little girl’s head, smiling. Gail was glad that Steve and Kaylee had begun picking up the Elves' language—she herself had no head for that sort of thing. She had tried taking beginning French in college, and had nearly flunked it. She wondered how much success Joey had had, so far, in learning Elvish—he didn’t have much of a head for foreign languages either.
As Gail fed Calroc an apple and patted her horse, and while Kaylee and Megan fawned over Barrel, who was clearly delighted to see his little mistress, Avorn and Amdir carried on a conversation with the groom. They also checked on their own mounts.
As Amdir continued to speak to his horse (in Elvish, of course, but Gail thought with amusement by his tone that he might be playfully scolding his horse), Avorn came over to Gail.
"He says our four-footed friends could use a bit of exercise. Would you care to take a brief ride?"
Kaylee and Megan got so excited, Gail could not possibly have said no. Avorn and Amdir helped to saddle Calroc and Barrel. Their own horses needed nothing but reins. Soon enough, the four horses were walking around the paddock. Gail was pleased that she was allowed to have Megan riding with her. They went from the paddock and rode for a short time on one of the trails through the woods, before returning their mounts and heading back to the pavilion.
The rest of the day went more or less peacefully, although Gail was unable to push her worries completely out of her mind. Their Elvish friends kept them outside and occupied with a myriad of activities for the rest of the afternoon. While Lassiel visited with Gail, the Elves took Kaylee and Megan on an exploring expedition, during which Avorn pointed out a variety of plants and animals to the little girls. Kaylee and Megan petted several of the animals. At last, as sunset was approaching, Gail and the little girls returned to their pavilion, where supper was waiting for them.
Gail just picked at her food; dusk had arrived, Megan was nodding already, and Kaylee was yawning. “All right, you two,” she said, “bedtime for little girls.” She took them to their bed, where she sang with them for a few moments and heard their prayers. It was too dark to read to them. A few minutes later, she left them trying to sleep and leaned against the tent wall, thinking. She did not know what she was going to do; she was feeling too restless to sleep just yet. Mairen had gone for a walk with Avorn, and Glorfindel was off with the rest of the warriors and Steve.
Gail really did not know what to do with herself; she was unused to being separated from Steve. She thought of going for a walk herself, but she feared getting lost. Finally, restless though she was, she changed into the soft linen nightdress the Elves had given her, and climbed into the half-empty cot. She tossed and turned for what seemed like hours, though she suspected it was far less time than that—without a watch that worked, she was no good judge of time.
Finally, when she realized she was on the verge of tears, she got out of bed and knelt beside it, and began to pray. “God,” she softly prayed, “if ever I needed Your peace, I need it now. I can’t stop worrying about Steve, and I’m too restless to sleep. Restless and worried.” She stopped for a long moment, trying to think. At last, she added, “And Steve needs Your protection, God, while he’s out there. Please protect him, Lord, and all of those who went with him. And I know that You are looking out for Jennifer, Kevin, and Joey. Please be with them as well, and protect them, keep them safe. Thank You for giving them strong people to look after them. Help me to trust in You; it was You who brought us here, I know. Help me to remember that. And please help me to relax and sleep tonight.” She paused again for another moment, after which she ended her prayer with, “In Jesus’ name, amen.”
She knelt there for a few moments more, and began to feel peace in her heart. Her concern remained, but it was not a fearful concern, and she was able to trust that the Lord knew what He was doing. She rested her head upon her folded hands for a moment, and then heard a little voice behind her.
"Mommy…" She turned. It was Kaylee, holding a sleepy Megan's hand. "Mommy, we're lonesome. Can we sleep with you?"
She rose to her feet and opened her arms. "Of course, you can, sweeties. Come here."
And the three of them settled in, like a set of spoons, and finally all of their breathing eased into a slumber, filled with pleasant dreams they could not recall in the morning.
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