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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 50: How Does a Moment Last Forever?
Kaylee woke up in the cot next to Megan. She really needed to use the chamber pot. It was nice to have things like chamber pots and outhouses again, instead of having to scrunch down behind a bush or something. She scooted down to the foot of the bed as quietly as she could—Megan was still sleeping soundly, and she didn't want to wake up her little sister. Then she clambered down and reached under the bed and pulled out the pretty vessel.
It wasn't until Kaylee had finished that she looked up and noticed that Mairen was seated on the edge of her own cot, and had some sewing in her hands—it looked like one of the dresses Megan had been wearing a day or so ago.
"Good morning, Kaylee," Marien said with a smile.
"Morning, Mairen," Kaylee replied. "I woke up."
"So, I see. Would you like my help?"
"No. I'm a big girl." She went to get dressed, finding the frock she had worn the day before clean and folded on a small table. She also took up the ewer to pour water in the basin on the washstand. Mairen watched intently as Kaylee poured in the water, holding the heavy ewer with both hands, fearing an accident, but none happened. Kaylee's little tongue was between her teeth as she concentrated. Then she washed her face and hands and exchanged her nightdress for her day frock.
"Okay, Mairen. I'm all dressed," she said.
"Do you wish me to do your hair?"
"Oh. I forgot."
"I have done your mother's hair as well," said Mairen.
Kaylee thought for a moment. "Okay, you can do mine, then."
She went over to Mairen's bed and sat down next to the nursemaid, who had picked up a beautifully carved wooden comb. Mairen combed Kaylee's fine hair, plaiting it into a braid.
Kaylee grinned at her. "Thank you, Mairen." She turned and hugged the Elf, who returned her embrace. "I love you, Mairen. Will you stay here? Megan is still asleep."
"I love you, too, Kaylee.” Mairen smiled. “Yes, I will watch over your sister until she wakes."
Kaylee hugged her again and then left the little partitioned area in which the girls slept, and went out into the main part of the pavilion. Avorn was there, and there was food on the table. Kaylee wondered if it was magic. There was always fresh food on that table, and so far, she had never caught the Elves who brought it there.
"Good morning, Kaylee. You just missed Lassiel—she was with the maidens bringing breakfast this morn," Avorn said.
"I never see them bringing it," Kaylee said. "How come?"
"You are always asleep when they come, little one. Do you want me to help you choose something to eat?"
"No, thank you." Kaylee helped herself to some grapes, some sliced apples and pears, some kind of berry that she didn't know what it was, and a piece of bread and some butter, and she poured herself a cup of fruit juice from the pitcher on the table. This juice was very good, a mixture of juice from different kinds of berries. She kind of wished there was milk, but she was used to not having it very often now, and only missed it now and then.
She went over and sat on the ground next to Avorn, while she ate. She noticed an empty plate by him, so he must have already finished eating.
They sat in companionable silence as Kaylee ate. Elves didn't always talk a lot, and she didn't mind. She wondered when her mother would wake up, and what they would do, and would her daddy come back soon. She really missed him.
Kaylee finished eating and sighed. "I'm gonna go outside to play, Avorn," she said.
"Do not wander off very far, Miss Kaylee, for soon the others will waken."
"OK." She headed for the edge of the pavilion, and the Elf rose and quietly followed.
He smiled as she went just outside and then stopped immediately.
She looked up at him, her brown eyes huge in her face. "He remembered! Where did it come from?"
Avorn laughed. He had watched and even assisted a bit as several of the Lorien Elves had arrived and hung the swing down from one of the massive branches that overhung the pavilion and grew even further beyond. "Lord Celeborn did indeed order for this swing to be made and to be placed near here before he left. The wood-wrights completed it last night, and after they asked the tree, they put it right where it is now, so that you and Megan can have it to play with."
Kaylee slowly walked over and put her hand on the wide seat of the swing. "But it's too pretty! I might break it."
"It will not break, little one," Avorn assured her. "Elves do not make things that break, no matter how pretty they are."
For a child's plaything, it really was lovely. There were carvings around the edge of the seat, though the seat itself was as shiny and smooth as butter. The grey rope was thin and soft, and intricate knots held it firmly in place at each end of the swing. The seat was wide enough for both little girls to swing at once if they sat close together, although Kaylee would still be able to reach both sides.
"It's so pretty, and the rope is soft." A broad smile crept across Kaylee’s face as she ran her hands over the rope.
"The rope is made of hithlain, and even if you and Megan swing all day long, it will not break or blister your hands."
The seat easily hung low enough for Kaylee or Megan to sit without having to be boosted up by an adult.
She was about to climb up, when she heard voices within the pavilion. Running back, she yelled, "Mommy! Megan! Come see! Come see!"
Gail had just filled a plate to share with Megan when she heard Kaylee's yell. She knew at once from the tone that it was something good and not bad. With a sigh, she put the plate down and followed Megan, who was already running out. Pretty soon she heard Megan yelling, "Looky! Looky, Mommy!"
Gail stared at the swing, rather amazed herself at the sight, and then she heard Mairen and Avorn chuckling behind her. She shook her head. Elves never ceased to amaze her.
Kaylee was already helping Megan onto the seat and then sitting down beside her. As Kaylee started pumping her feet, Gail called out, "Just a few minutes right now, and then it’s time for breakfast."
"But I already ate," called Kaylee.
"But Megan hasn't. Just a few minutes now, and then later you can both come out and swing to your heart's content." Gail narrowed her eyes and looked more closely at the swing's ropes, and then glanced up at Avorn and Mairen. "Are you sure," she muttered, "that those ropes will hold? They don't look too strong to me."
"They will hold, Mrs. McCloud," Avorn said. "They are made of the Elvish rope of Lothlorien, which is famed for its strength."
Nodding, Gail ran her hand over one of the ropes. At least, we won’t have to worry about rope burns, she thought.
The girls only fussed a very little when Gail told them the time was up, and Megan really was hungry. Kaylee grabbed a few more grapes and sat down beside her sister. It didn't take long for them to gobble everything down, and then out they raced to their marvellous new swing.
Megan did get tired of swinging before Kaylee did, but that gave Kaylee the chance to swing higher and then jump out and go flying. Gale winced at this, but did not try to stop it. She had done the same thing when she was Kaylee's age after all, and the soft grass of Lothlorien was safer even than what she had usually dropped onto—and she had never suffered more than a scraped knee. But it still made her cringe as a mom. Avorn and Mairen watched the children from about ten feet away.
After a while, even Kaylee got tired of the swing for a while, and she and Megan sat and began to make little flower chains from the pretty star-shaped golden flowers that grew here and there throughout the forest. “What are these flowers?” she asked Mairen, raising her voice.
“Elanor,” the nursemaid said. “They grow only here in Lothlórien.”
Kaylee smiled broadly. “They’re pretty!” She turned back to her flower chain, and Mairen and Avorn exchanged smiles, and their mother laughed.
Gail was thinking about returning to the pavilion for a while, when she saw Lassiel coming.
Lassiel briefly greeted the girls and then came to Gail. "Good morning, Mistress Gail McCloud," she said. "I have had word of last night's battle, and was tasked with speaking to you."
Gail's heart clenched. She drew in a deep breath and nodded. She couldn't find her voice to speak.
"Do not fear. Your husband came through the battle unscathed. There were some casualties among our warriors, alas, but none to the death. The wounded are already being returned to Caras Galadon, and are sure to arrive by evening."
Thank you, Lord, Gail silently prayed. "So, when will the others come back?"
"Alas, Lord Celeborn expects that the enemy will regroup and try again in a few days. It is thought best that our warriors remain where they are for now." Lassiel looked sad, and said, "Both my beloved and my brother are with the warriors. I know how you must fear for your husband."
For some reason, Lassiel's admission calmed Gail. It did help that someone else she knew was in the same boat as she was. She put out a hand and touched Lassiel's arm. "Yes, I do. I can't help but worry. But I will pray for him, and for the others, especially your husband and brother."
Lassiel looked at her, rather startled for a moment, and then her eyes filled with unshed tears. "You would intercede with Eru Ilúvatar for them? Yes, I can see that you would. Thank you."
Gail hesitated briefly, and then said what had come to her heart. "We could pray together for them, if you want."
Lassiel stared at her for a moment, and then almost shyly said, "I would like that, I think, if you think it is right."
Gail called to Avorn and Mairen, “Would you two keep an eye on Kaylee and Megan for me, please?”
“Certainly,” Avorn called back, and Mairen nodded.
Leaving Avorn and Mairen to watch the children, Gail and Lassiel went into the pavilion and sat down on two of the large cushions that served for seating there.
Gail folded her hands and bowed her head. "Heavenly Father, please be with those who have fought the forces of darkness last night. Take care of those who were wounded, and help those who are waiting to fight again to rest and grow stronger, for when they are attacked again. Please, take care of Steve for me, and watch over Lassiel's brother, and her husband as well. And take care of my other children. I don't know where they are now, or what kind of danger they might be in, but please be with Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey, and watch them for me until Steve and I can see them again. In Jesus' name, amen." She drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly, feeling more peaceful, and then looked up at Lassiel, who had been watching her.
Lassiel met her eyes, and then lifted her eyes up, and placed her hands palms up, upon her knees. "A Elbereth Gilthoniel, please speak to Ilúvatar for me in my distress and fear. My beloved and my brother are yet in peril, as is Gail McCloud's beloved. Our Golden Wood is in danger. Ask Him to deliver us from the evil that comes in darkness, and to give wisdom to our Lord and Lady as they guide us through this peril. Deliver us from the Shadow in the South, and be with all who, of good will, seek that one's downfall. Le nallon sí di'nguruthos! A tiro nîn, Fanuilos!"*
"Who is Elbereth?" Gail asked, tilting her head in curiosity. The name tickled at her memory; perhaps she'd heard the word during the singing in Rivendell.
"It is she who, in the High Language, is called Varda; she is Gilthoniel, the Star-kindler, and Fanuilos, the Everwhite. We Elves awakened to life beneath the stars, and she who made the stars watched over us. She intercedes for us with Eru Ilúvatar."
"I see," Gail said. And she did. It reminded her of some of her Catholic friends, who often prayed to Mary and the saints to pass their prayers onto God. She was glad that she did not need to do that, but at least she understood. This Elbereth, or Varda, must be an angel, she thought, but I don’t see how an angel could create stars. It says in the Book of Genesis that God created the stars and planets. But perhaps this is part of their mythology. Aloud, she added, "Thank you for praying with me, Lassiel. It really helped me not to feel so alone."
"I am glad. It helped me in the same way."
Just then they heard some childish shrieks of laughter, and went out to find that Kaylee and Megan were on the swing once more, and Avorn was pushing them higher and higher. The girls were holding on tightly and did not seem in the least afraid. Gail was glad they were having fun.
For the next couple of days, Avorn, Mairen, and Lassiel stayed with Gail and the children throughout the daytime, as they took meals together and found things to keep the little ones occupied. They returned to the stables to exercise the horses and Barrel. Amdir had accompanied them that day. He had been staying with some friends of his.
The next day, they took a little expedition to the hidden garden from the story that Lord Celeborn had told Kaylee and Megan.
There, Gail was able to meet a couple of other Elven-maids who also spoke a little Westron, although not as well as Lassiel did. Lassiel explained that only the Elf-women tended the garden, and that just a few were privileged to tend the section where they grew the golden wheat to make the lembas.
But Gail and Mairen helped Lassiel and her friends as they weeded some of the vegetable beds. Lassiel patiently showed Kaylee and Megan the difference between the weeds and the growing greens, some of which would also be harvested to take back with them. They also harvested some shallots, and then took some metal buckets and went to a sunny patch of strawberries. It was fun to watch Kaylee and Megan, who ate nearly as many as they picked, and had strawberry juice all over their faces, hands, and dresses. At first, Gail was going to scold them for being so messy, but Lassiel told her not to worry—the stains would be gone by morning. A relieved smile spread across Gail’s face. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about berry stains being stuck on her daughters’ dresses.
All of them washed up at a fountain that was located at one end of the garden. It was also used, explained one of Lassiel's friends in halting Westron, to irrigate the fields. They came back to Caras Galadon, laughing and singing and swinging their baskets. Gail didn't know what they were singing, but she and the girls hummed along, or sang "La, la, la" to fit the melodies.
Then Gail began to sing, and of course, her words were coming out unnoticed in Westron:
"We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing.
He hastens and chastens, His will to make known…"
The Elves listened to her, and Mairen, Lassiel, and her friends who spoke Westron joined in when she sang it again.
There was a very small feast that night, for of course, nearly all the male Elves were still gone, except for a few. Lady Galadriel was there to preside over the feast, and she sat by Gail. There was music, but the only dancers had been Kaylee and Megan, who bounced around to the music.
As the feast drew to an end, Lady Galadriel turned to Gail. "Gail, have you thought about my offer?"
For a brief instant, Gail had to think—oh, yes, now she remembered. "Yes, I have. If your offer still holds, I want to take you up on it."
"Then I will wait for you tonight, after you have put your children to their sleep. Meet me by the large fountain, and we shall see what my Mirror has to reveal."
That night, once Gail had tucked her daughters in for the night, she waited until they were sound asleep. Avorn and Mairen were there, and they had already agreed to stay at the pavilion while Gail met the Lady Galadriel.
The night had a dreamy quality to it. She could see the lights in the various flets twinkling through the trees. There was a little mist in the air, and it was cool. She had wrapped her traveling cloak around her before she left the pavilion.
Gail met the Lady of the Wood by the Fountain, as she had asked, and Galadriel led Gail toward the southern slopes of the hill of Caras Galadhon, and passing through a high green hedge the two of them came into an enclosed garden. No trees grew there, and it lay open to the sky. Down a long flight of steps Galadriel led Gail into a deep green hollow, through which ran murmuring the silver stream that issued from the fountain on the hill. At the bottom, upon a low pedestal carved like a branching tree, stood a basin of silver. wide and shallow, and beside it stood a silver ewer.
Gail felt as though she was dreaming; nothing about her surroundings felt real, and yet she knew it was.
With water from the stream Galadriel filled the basin to the brim, and breathed on it, and when the water was still again she spoke. "Here is the Mirror of Galadriel," she said. "I have brought you here so that you may look in it, if you will." She looked at Gail. "Your daughter Jennifer looked in this Mirror while she was here, and it showed her that you had arrived in Imladris."
Gail furrowed her brow. "And she also dreamed that we had come?"
Galadriel nodded. "Her dream came first. But I warned her not to tell her brothers."
Gail shook her head and turned her thoughts to the matter at hand. "Will this show me what Steve is doing? Will it show me my children?" Gail asked.
"Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal," she answered, "and to some I can show what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold. What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?"
Gail had to think. Should she do this? Jennifer had done it, and it had showed her something true...but what was right? What should I do, Lord? she silently prayed. She glanced at the silver bowl where it sat on its pedestal, seemingly nothing but a bowl of water. For a moment, she stood quietly. The Lady said nothing, just watching and waiting for her decision. Gail knew that whatever she decided, that Galadriel would not judge her. A feeling of peace came over her.
"I will look," she said. "What do I do?"
"Look into the basin, but do not touch the water."
Gail nodded and stepped close. She turned her eyes there, and then looked into the water. For a moment, all she saw was the sky and the stars, but then...there was Joey's face. He was smiling, and then she saw he was talking to another child...no, it was a hobbit, much younger than Bilbo. She could not hear what they were saying; it was like watching an old silent movie, but in colour, and without the music. Both of them were wearing strange clothing, almost medieval. They were dressed in black, and Joey had a small white tree embroidered on his tunic or whatever, on his breast, and the other had a larger tree embroidered in the centre of his. They seemed to be hurrying somewhere. Before she could see more, the scene changed...there was an overview of a large river; a ship sailed up it with black sails, and then she saw figures standing in the prow. One of them was Jennifer, and next to her was a tall Elf, and on her other side was a shorter figure with a bushy beard—from what she had heard, it must be a Dwarf.
But before Gail could see more, there suddenly was Kevin's face. He seemed to be moving quickly, and the wind was blowing his hair. Then she saw that he was riding a galloping horse...but before she could think about it, she saw two hobbits...they were huddled in a dark room. One of them had dark hair, and he had no clothing. He looked terrified. The other was light-haired, and he seemed to be trying to comfort the other...but the scene changed again...there was Steve. He was standing in a flet next to an Elf. It was Glorfindel. Steve was shooting his crossbow...but now there was a large city, shining white in the moonlight, and surrounded by rank upon rank of enemies...there was another scene...she and Steve were in some kind of white boat, like a canoe. She had Megan in her lap, and Steve had Kaylee, and Lucy sat between them. Two Elves were rowing...now she saw a vast desert...in it, was a mountain all by itself, and just beyond it, a tall and grim tower… Gail shuddered and took an involuntary step back, and the visions ceased, and once more the water reflected nothing but stars.
Gail shook her head in puzzlement. "From what Master Elrond told Steve and me, our children went off together with the Company to destroy a ring. An extremely dangerous ring, the way he described it. That's why Steve and I and our younger daughters left Rivendell—to catch up with them, so our kids wouldn't go to Mordor. But the Mirror has shown me that they seem to have scattered in all different directions." She looked intently at Galadriel, apprehension welling up in her heart. "What on earth is going on here?"
"Your children are where they are supposed to be, Gail McCloud, serving the purposes for which Eru brought them to us." Galadriel answered. Her voice was calm and sure. "I do not doubt that at this time, they are all well. What comes in the days ahead, we did not see.”
"But why are they not all together, still? What happened?"
"I do not know. But what is the most important thing?"
Gail drew in a deep breath. "They are safe. They are safe for now." She had been on the verge of panic, but now her heartbeat slowed. They are safe, she thought. Please, Lord. Thank you for keeping them safe; please keep on doing that.
Aloud, she said, "Thank you, Lady Galadriel, for letting me see that my children and my husband are safe for now. And I know they are still in God's hands."
"As always," was the reply.
Silently, the Lady walked Gail back to the pavilion. When they were just outside, the Lady bent and kissed Gail on the forehead. "Be of good heart, Gail McCloud, and have no fear. Remember what you told me, when first we met…"
Gail nodded, and repeated, "'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ Thank you.”
The Lady smiled. "Good night, my child, and sleep well."
Gail entered the pavilion and gave a silent nod of greeting to Avorn and Mairen, and then she peeked in on Kaylee and Megan, who were curled up, sound asleep, with Lucy on the bed at their feet. The little dog looked up at her and flapped her tail a couple of times before going back to sleep. Hard to believe Lucy is already half-grown! Gail thought.
She went to her bed and slept well.
The next day, the sky was dim and overcast, as Gail had not seen it since they arrived. "Is it going to rain?" she asked Avorn.
"Nay, those are not clouds of rain," he said. "They came up from the South. Rain comes from the West. Those clouds are not natural."
"Oh." Gail looked up. The clouds were more like smog, now that she thought of it, but coming from far away. She hated to think of how dark it must be in the lands where those clouds originated. Once more she found herself praying silently. Thank You, Lord. I know You are watching over my loved ones. Please keep them under Your wings.
All through the day, as she and the Elves tried to keep Kaylee and Megan occupied, she found herself repeating that prayer over and over. It helped her to remain calm and to keep the children calm as well. She knew that both of them were missing their daddy.
That night, Gail allowed the girls to sleep with her. They all knelt by the bed before they got in and prayed for Daddy, and for Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey. The girls fell asleep right away, but Gail lay awake for a while, repeating Romans 8:28 under her breath until she finally slept. She dreamed of Steve, as she had seen him in the Lady's Mirror; he was firing his crossbow, and then he was by a riverbank, fighting a monster with his knife. But all around him was a glow of golden light protecting him from harm.
When she wakened with the morning light, she had no memory of the dream, but the feeling of warmth and calm it had brought her remained in her heart.
Outside, she heard the sounds of Elven song and laughter. It woke the children as well, and they ran out to see.
A line of Elves, all holding hands and singing, danced by in the distance, and Avorn and Mairen who stood by her turned to smile at Gail. "The battle is ended for now, and our people were victorious! It is a day for celebration!"
It was, indeed. The Elves drew Kaylee and Megan into their dance, and a few broke away to hold the girls up and spin them around. An impromptu feast had been set up, and their little group took their breakfast there, and, as the food kept on coming for the rest of the day, their lunch and dinner as well. The music never stopped all day, and there were only brief pauses in the dancing and even the games, for Gail was astonished to see the Elves playing games like children—although Kaylee and Megan were not surprised, and joined in with glee. At one point, even Gail found herself joining in with some game that seemed very similar to "Ring Around the Rosy", though a bit more complicated, and of course, she couldn't understand the words.
When it grew darker, the Elves started up a big bonfire, and the singing and games continued, only now Gail saw the Lady Galadriel joining in with all the abandon of a young girl. Somehow, this time, Gail was not astonished.
Kaylee and Megan finally grew sleepy, and they curled up in the soft grass to sleep. Gail let them be. After a while, the dances and games ceased, and there was only singing. Finally, the Lady Galadriel sang by herself.
The Lady's song was in no words Gail could understand, but somehow the meaning seemed clear, and she found herself transported to a Land of Light, where grew two beautiful glowing Trees: one of silver, the other of gold. Somehow, she sensed, it was not Heaven, but it was wondrous just the same. All was beauty and joy…
The sun was high, and it was late in the day, when she felt a familiar touch on her shoulder. She opened her eyes—she had fallen asleep right there in the grass, by the children, while Galadriel was singing—and saw a pair of tired but smiling eyes gazing into hers, but before she could get past the lump in her throat to say anything, two little voices yelled:
A/N: *"A Elbereth Gilthoniel" is an Elven hymn to Varda, also known as Elbereth. It, or portions of it, are repeated several times in LotR, and is fully quoted in The Road Goes Ever On, the songbook that Tolkien collaborated on with musician Donald Swann. O Elbereth Starkindler is the first part of Lassiel's prayer in this chapter, and the second part, Le nallon sí di'nguruthos! A tiro nîn, Fanuilos!, is “To thee, I cry now beneath the shadow of death! O look towards me, Everwhite.”
"We Gather Together" is a Christian hymn of Dutch origin written in 1597 by Adrianus Valerius, according to Wikipedia. It is often sung at Thanksgiving in the United States, and is associated with fall and harvest time.
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