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An Unexpected Adventure  by KathyG

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 52: Goodbye, So Soon

Kevin could hear the voices from the open door where he stood.

"I advise against it," came the voice of a healer.  Kevin had met him briefly; he was the doctor—healer—he had to remember they did not say “doctor” here.  What was his name?  Master Seregon, that was it.

"I am well!"  Haleth was sitting up with a very stubborn look on his face.  "You have had people watching over me all this time, since I have been here.  I just had a little bump on the head."

Kevin went in warily.  He hoped Haleth would not get him involved in the argument.  Master Seregon turned and saw him.  He nodded a greeting.  "Lord Kevin?  Is that right?  You are young Master Joey's brother?"

Kevin nodded.  "That's me," he said.

"Your young brother was an excellent help during the siege.  He is very brave."

"I'm kind of proud of him," Kevin replied.  "He's never really been on his own without any family before.  I'm glad he didn't freak out or anything!"

"Not at all; he is a very brave young man, and wise enough to know how to follow directions in an emergency.  He looked to the Ernil i Pheriannath—that is to say, Lord Peregrin—for guidance when he was unsure, and he showed much pity for the patients he helped to care for…"

"Kevin!" Haleth interrupted, pouting.  "Tell this healer that I have had enough of being in bed.  I need to get up and get ready for the battle!"

Kevin took a step back and raised his hands.  “Hey, Haleth, I sympathize, but I’m not the healer!  I can’t tell you if you’re ready to leave this place or not.  Only Master Seregon can tell you that.”

Haleth frowned and looked down.  Then he looked up with hope in his eyes.  "Could you find Lord Éomer?  Or perhaps Lord Éothain?"  His face clouded.  "I should have said Éomer  King.  I suppose he would be too busy.  But, still, perhaps Lord Éothain could come?"

Master Seregon had taken the opportunity to move on to another patient, a Gondorian guardsman, who seemed ready to make the exact same arguments as Haleth had, only more emphatically.  Kevin felt sorry for the healer; he wondered if all soldiers were such bad patients.  And here, I thought doctors were supposed to be the worst patients! he thought, amused.  Or healers, as they’re called here.

"So, you already know that they'll be heading out to battle tomorrow?  And everything else?"

Haleth nodded, sorrow on his face.  "Yes, I have heard that Théoden King was slain by the Dwimmerlaik from the Black Land.  I know that many were slain in battle, but that we won."  He heaved a sigh.  "You will go see if you can find Lord Éothain, will you not?"

"What good would that do?" Kevin said.  "Lord Éothain is not the healer."

"Please?"

Kevin sighed.  "All right, Haleth.  I will see if I can find Lord Éothain, and tell him you want to see him, OK?  But you know, I can’t promise he’ll let you leave here, not if Master Seregon says you’re not ready yet.  But I’ll go see if I can find him for you."

Haleth grinned.  "Thank you, Kevin!  You are a good friend!"

Kevin nodded.  "OK, I'll see you later."  He got up from the edge of Haleth's bed and went out.  Sheesh, he thought, pouting in his turn.  I wanted to spend the day with Jen and Joey.  Now I'll have to go tell them that I need to run around looking for Lord Éothain instead.  He headed back to the mess, where he'd left them, along with Pippin, after breakfast.  They had said they'd wait for him there before they decided what they would do.  Boromir had given Joey and Pip the day off, so the two of them were going to show Kevin and Jennifer around.

They took his news fairly well, especially as Pippin said, "Well, clearly you need someone to show you where to look.  We shall just come with you on your errand!"

"Yeah!" said Joey, smiling broadly.  "You wouldn't know where to look, but we do!"

Kevin smiled, relieved.  “Thanks!  I could really use your help.”

"So," said Jennifer, "where to, first?"

"I think," said Pippin, "that we start at the Citadel."

A question or two to one of the guardsmen at the Citadel revealed that all of what the guardsmen called the High Lords (by which he meant Aragorn, Gandalf, Prince Imrahil, Lord Boromir, and  Éomer  King) had gone to the Houses of Healing to confer with Lord Denethor and Lord Faramir.  As to the whereabouts of Lord Éothain, they could speak to the servants in the Citadel, for surely, they would know more.

From there, a few questions of the servants finally led them to Master Ondahil, who was the seneschal in charge of all of the servants of the Citadel, and also knew where all the guests were.

Kevin followed Pippin's lead.  He hadn't seen Pippin a lot since the Fellowship had first split up.  He'd been remembering Pippin as playing with Joey and cheering everyone up with his songs and jokes, and he hadn't really thought about the fact that Pippin really was not a child.  If he were a man, he'd be almost old enough to vote, plus Kevin knew that Pippin was old enough to drink in his own country.  But now he saw the grown-up side of the hobbit, as he confidently navigated the maze of corridors in the Citadel to find out what they needed to know.

They'd been following him and Joey in silence for several minutes when Jennifer tugged at his sleeve.  "Kevin?  Have you decided yet?"  She spoke softly enough that Joey and Pippin didn't hear.

He didn't need her to say what.  "I don't know, Jen.  I'd kind of like to stay here with you and Joey, but maybe I'm meant to go off with the army tomorrow.”  He shook his head.  “I just don't know."

"I'm going to pray that you stay here!" his sister said, frowning.  “I really don’t want you to go, Kevin.  I want you to be safe.”

Kevin hugged her against his side.  "I know.  Thanks, Jen.  Well, I'm praying that the Lord will make it clear what I should do.  I’ve got to follow His leading; you know that."

Jennifer blushed.  "You're right.  I'm being selfish."  She was silent once more.

After a few minutes, Kevin said, "It'll be all right, sis."  Jennifer bit her lower lip and did not answer.  Kevin hugged her to his side again.

Just then Pippin and Joey stopped walking, and Pippin knocked on a door.  Kevin wondered how he knew which door.  There was nothing special about it to make it any different than all the other doors they'd passed in this hallway.  The door opened, and a very distinguished-looking man wearing the livery of the Steward opened it.

"Master Ondahil?" Pippin asked.

"How may I help, Lord Peregrin?  Does Lord Boromir have a request of me?"

Pippin blushed.  "I am not a lord, Master Ondahil, and I am not here on behalf of Lord Boromir, but rather at the request of Lord Kevin of Ore Gon..."  He gestured to Kevin.  "...who is trying to locate one of the Rohirrim, Lord Éothain."

Master Ondahil nodded and gestured.  "Step in."  He led them into a tiny room, lined with shelves of scrolls and a small desk that nearly took up all the room.  It was a little crowded with all five of them.  But the seneschal pulled over a piece of parchment and studied it for a few minutes.

"Ah!  You are fortunate.  Most of the Rohirric army is encamped outside the walls, but Lord Éothain is among those who are stationed in the city.  You will find him encamped in the paddock by the stables."

"Thank you, Master Ondahil.  We appreciate your help," Pippin replied.

They found that this part of the Rohirric army consisted of only about half a dozen tents belonging to some of the higher-ranking warriors.  They were standing outside in a group, and both Lord Éothain and Éomer King were there, addressing them, explaining about what they would need to do on the morrow.

Éomer spotted Kevin.  "Ah, Lord Kevin!  Are you joining us on our march tomorrow?"

Kevin blushed.  "I don't know yet.  Actually, I was looking for either you or Lord Éothain."

"For what reason?" the young king asked.

"Well, it's Haleth.  The healer at the Houses of Healing won't let him out of bed yet, but he wants to get up and go fight.  He was hoping one of you would help him convince the healer."

The king looked at Éothain.  "I have not the time, myself.  Éothain, would you go with Kevin to deal with this?  And find out if they are detaining others of our folk who may now be fit to fight."

Éothain nodded and joined Kevin and the others.  "Thank you for letting us know of Haleth's plight," he said, as they all began to head back to the Houses of Healing.

As they were walking once more to the Houses of Healing, Joey tugged on Jennifer's sleeve.  She bent over to hear him, as he told her quietly, "Jen, I'm kind of tired of all this walking around, and I'm hungry, too."

She nodded, and called, "Kevin.  Joey's tired and hungry.  And I admit I'm getting a little tired, too."

"You don't have to come with us, Jen," Kevin said.  "I'll find you right after we see Haleth again."

"I know," Pippin said.  "There's a small bakery that just opened again this morning; it wasn't badly damaged in the siege.  It's on the fifth circle.  You could meet us there.  You can't miss it; it's right by the gate into the fifth circle.  You can follow your nose right to it!"

"OK," Kevin replied.  "I'll meet you there after I see Haleth."  After all, he thought, it shouldn't take too long for Éothain to set Haleth straight.  He shrugged.  Either that, or else get him permission to go with us.  It all depends on what Master Seregon decides.

-oo000oo-

Kevin had no trouble finding the little bakery following his errand.  Pippin had been right, it was almost exactly across from the fifth circle gate, and it did smell good.  It had one window boarded up, and there was a pile of rubble over to one side of it, as though someone had swept it there.  He entered to see Jen and Joey sitting at a small round table with Pippin, and one extra chair pulled up.  There were some small plates with crumbs on them, a teapot, some cups, and one clean plate next to the extra chair.  A pretty young woman not much older than Kevin bustled over with something wrapped in a napkin which she placed on the empty plate as Kevin sat down.

Suddenly, he thought of something...he looked up at her anxiously, starting to say he didn't have any money.

"It's OK, Kev," said Joey.  "Pippin and me already paid.  We got our st—sti—uh, pay from Boromir this morning.  For being his page and squire!"  He sat up straight, his chest puffed out with pride.

Pippin laughed.  "'Stipend,' Joey.  And yes, Kevin, we paid already."

Kevin unwrapped the napkin.  It was a small loaf of some sort of sweet bread.  He could see some nuts and fruit sticking out, and smell spices.  Kind of like fruitcake, he thought.  Jennifer poured him some tea.

He wondered what he was going to say.  He broke off a good-sized piece of the bread and stuffed it in his mouth.  He couldn't talk with his mouth full.

Sure enough, Jen asked him: "How'd it go with Haleth?"

He shook his head and pointed at his full mouth, and chewed and chewed, and finally took a sip of his tea.  And another sip.

"Kevin, enough already.  Your mouth is not full, now!" Jennifer snapped.  "I asked you how it went with Haleth."

"Not like I expected it to go," he finally answered, after swallowing another sip from his teacup and wiping his mouth.

"What do you mean?"

Jennifer is just like Mom, Kevin thought.  And I do have to tell them.  He sighed.

Kevin looked up at her, and then glanced at Joey and Pippin.  "I figured that Éothain would make Haleth behave and do what the healer said.  Instead, he made the healer let Haleth go, along with about five or six other Rohirrim who weren't wounded badly."

"Oh, no!" said Jennifer, rather horrified.  Haleth was about the same age as she was.  Way too young to be fighting in a war!

"That's not the worst of it.”  Kevin grimaced.  “I can't let him go off like that, not by himself.  So, I’ve decided, Jen.  I'm going, too, with the Rohirrim."

"Oh, Kevin!"  Jennifer's eyes filled with tears, but she didn't let them fall.  Somehow, she had been afraid that would be his decision.

Pippin nodded.  "Well, I am sure we'll see one another on the march there."  He stood up.  "I'll be off with Boromir as well, you know, so I'm going back to spend some more time with Merry before we have to go off.  Can you find your way back to the Citadel, Joey?"

"'Course I can, Pippin!  I know the way around about as good as you do!"  Joey grinned.

Pippin laughed and ruffled Joey's hair; since he was standing and Joey was sitting, it wasn't so hard to reach.  He purchased another bread loaf from the young woman, to take to Merry, and went out the door.

-oo000oo-

"So, you are leaving me again," Merry said.  He was trying to sound light, but Pippin could tell there was an undertone of bitterness.

"Well, obviously, Boromir cannot get along without me.  Remember, the last time he went on a journey by himself, he lost his horse."  It was a lame joke, but it did the trick.

"He did, indeed," Merry said, chuckling.  But his face was serious once more.  "I hate to see you leave so soon, Pip!"

"I know."  Pippin shrugged.  "But you and I both know this is for Frodo."

Merry nodded.  "It is.  I hope Frodo and Sam are all right."

"Well, I hadn't yet had a chance to tell you yet, but they were, just a few days ago.  All right, I mean.  Faramir met them on the way, over in Ithilien.  He gave them food and water before he sent them on their way."  Pippin hesitated, and then added, "Gollum was with them."

Merry's jaw dropped.  "Gollum!  What is Frodo thinking?"

Pippin shrugged.  "Apparently, Frodo somehow talked him into being their guide into Mordor.  You know Frodo."

Merry scowled.  "I wouldn't trust that Gollum as far as I could throw him."

Pippin grinned.  "Well, you know, Sam won't trust him anymore than you would."

"You're right, he won't.  Well, that's all right.  Sam will watch out for Frodo and keep both eyes on that slippery little villain."  Merry looked much more cheerful now.

And thinking of Sam watching over Frodo, Pippin felt happier as well.

-oo000oo-

Jennifer walked to the guesthouse with Kevin and Joey, her heart filled with worry.  On the one hand, she was happy to be with Joey this time.  Granted, Pippin and Boromir had looked after him well enough, but it wasn't the same as having a family member.  But on the other hand, she was not happy at all to be separated from Kevin again so soon, and him going off to fight again.  He had escaped this time; he had not yet been wounded or killed.  But there was always the chance.

Kevin wasn't very happy himself.  He kept glancing at his sister, and he could just about read the thoughts on her face.  She was just like Mom: she couldn't ever hide her feelings.  He knew she was worried, and she was probably mad at him, since he had not discussed things with her much first.  But Haleth was his friend, and Haleth didn't have anyone now.  His mom and sister were way off in Rohan, and his dad was dead—killed right in front of him, really.  That must have been a truly awful thing for him to watch.  And Éomer and Éothain would be way too busy to watch out for just one warrior out of many, even if he was a young boy.  They wouldn’t even think of him as a boy—they don't think I'm a boy either, he realized.  Among the Rohirrim, once you’re old enough to swing a sword and kill something, you’re a man to them.  No, now that he knew what Haleth had decided, he just didn't have much choice.  Someone had to look after Haleth on that long march, and he was the only one available to.  He had already taken it to the Lord in prayer, and he felt peace about doing so.

Joey looked up at his older brother and sister.  They looked so sad and serious.  He was a little scared, himself.  But not as scared as he would have been before he ever got to Middle-earth.  Not even as scared as he had been when he had first arrived in this city.  He was a little worried about Kevin and Jennifer—mostly Kevin, because he'd be going off to fight again.  And he was real worried about his other friends, especially Pippin and Boromir, but the others, too.  He would pray really hard for them while they were gone.

He wished he could think up something to cheer Kev and Jen up.  Just then he thought of something.  "Kevin?  Do you remember last Veteran's Day Sunday?  Back home?"

"I'm not sure.  What do you want me to remember, Joey?"

"All the choirs got together to learn that one hymn, remember?  Jennifer?  Do you remember it?"

Jennifer thought for a moment.  “Do you mean this one?"  She started to hum a little, and then began to sing.

"Father of this Army, Captain of our soldiers," she began slowly.

"That's the one!" Joey exclaimed.

Jennifer began to sing again, and this time, her brothers joined in.

“Father of this Army, Captain of our soldiers,

May Your glory fill the earth.

As this world grows colder, may Your troops be bolder.

May we fight with only love.

May the crosses we bear be the weapons of our warfare.

May we even more dare for You;

May we even more dare for You.

 

“Let our uniform be holiness and mercy,

Justice clothed with grace and truth...”*

They finished singing the hymn, and then sang a couple more before they found themselves at the guesthouse.  Boromir had given Joey permission to stay with his brother and sister for the night, and they showed him the room Kevin had, which he would be sharing that night.

They could smell something good from the direction of the kitchen, and found Gandalf, Legolas, and Gimli there.  The three of them were unpacking a basket they had purchased at one of the local inns that had reopened.  There was some fresh bread, a roasted bird of some kind, and some fruit tarts.  The five of them sat down and had a nice meal, and then Gandalf went back out to join Aragorn, and Legolas and Gimli joined him.

"I will see you in the morning," Gandalf said.  "Do not forget that the army will be leaving early.  You must wake at first light."

"Do not worry," Legolas said.  "I will spend this night under the stars, and will come to find you in the morning."  He ruffled Joey's hair, and then the three of them left.

Jennifer watched them leave, and then rolled her eyes.  "You know where they are going first, don't you?"

"No," said Joey.  Kevin looked puzzled, too.

"They are going back to that inn so they can drink for a while, of course."  She looked pretty sure of herself.

Kevin laughed a little.  "You might be right, but anyway, that's their business, not ours.  They are a lot older than we are!"

Now Jennifer laughed, too.  "If we are going to get up at o' dark-thirty, then we should probably turn in soon."

"Yes," Kevin said, "but before we do, well, we've been split up before since we got here.  But it was always kind of sudden.  We are going to have a little time to say good-bye.  And I think that before we go to bed, we should all pray together.  We won't have that much time in the morning."

They all looked at each other, and then went back into the kitchen and sat back down at the table and held hands, and then they bowed their heads.

"Heavenly Father…”  Kevin paused to clear his throat.  “...please protect us while we march on Mordor.  Please protect Haleth and me.  Please protect Pippin.  And Aragorn and Boromir and Legolas and Gimli.  Be with all of us that go.  Help us to fight bravely, and to make it so Frodo and Sam can destroy the Ring in time.  And please defeat Sauron once and for all.  And please take care of Joey and Jennifer while they wait.  And watch over Kaylee in Rivendell, and our mom and dad back home.”

Jennifer smiled wanly.  She was not looking forward to seeing Kevin march off in the morning.  Out loud, she said, “If only Sauron’s defeat could end all evil, but we know that won’t happen.”

“No,” Kevin agreed.  “There’s still Satan to contend with, and he won’t be defeated until the end of time.  But at least Sauron will be helpless when the Ring is destroyed.”

Jennifer nodded.  “Yes, and thank goodness!”  She wrapped her arms around Kevin.  “Just—stay safe, please!  I don’t want anything to happen to you.  OK?”

Kevin smiled.  “I’ll try.  You and Joey stay safe, too, OK?  Meanwhile, is there anything you want to say to God while we’re here?  And you, too, Joey.”

Jennifer nodded and bowed her head.  “God,” she said, “I don’t know anything to add to what Kevin’s already said.  Please keep them all safe; that’s all I know to say.  And please destroy Sauron.  And please protect Frodo and Sam so they can finish their mission.”

She turned to Joey.  “OK, Joey, your turn.”

With a nod, Joey leaned back in his chair, bowed his head, and closed his eyes.  “Please, God, protect my brother and Boromir and Aragorn and the hobbits and everyone.  Amen.”  He stopped for a moment and then added.  "And please take care of Mom and Dad and Megan, and don't let our mom and dad worry about us too much, until we get home.  And take care of Kaylee so we can see her again, 'cause I miss her.  Oh, and also, all the people who are hurt in the Houses of Healing, please help them get well again."

He stopped and squeezed Kevin and Jennifer's hands, and together they all said, "In Jesus' name, amen."

Jennifer felt a little pang at Joey's prayer.  She remembered that her parents had also come to Middle-earth, along with Megan.  Kaylee may not be in Rivendell anymore, she thought.  She might be on the road by now, with Mom and Dad and Megan.  If she is, then she really needs God’s protection, and Megan, too.  But Galadriel had told her not to say anything.  Should she now?  She prayed silently this time.  Lord, please, help me to know what's right to do?  Is it time yet for me to let them know Mom and Dad and the little ones are on the way?  She sat quietly for a moment, as she felt the answer in her heart.  She would have to keep it a secret for a while longer.

Will I be able to hear God’s voice so clearly and easily when I’m back home? she wondered.

"Jen?"  She glanced at Kevin staring at her.  "Is there something else?"

"Not right now.”  Jennifer shook her head.  “Let's get ready for bed."

Kevin nodded.  “Yeah, we’d better do that.”  They split up to go to their bedrooms.  Kevin and Joey went to their shared room, and Jennifer went to hers.

-oo000oo-

It was a good thing that Legolas had decided to come and awaken them.  All three of them had slept much more soundly than they had for many weeks.

Kevin startled to hear the knocking on his door.  Next to him, Joey sat up and rubbed his eyes, and shook his head.  Kevin had to grin; Joey's hair was sticking up on all sides.  He bet that Jennifer would make Joey get a haircut, or she'd cut it for him.  As for himself, he was glad his own hair was a lot longer, since he'd fit in better with the other warriors, especially the Rohirrim, who wore their hair really long.  He would have to get a haircut, though, before they returned home.  He would ask Jennifer to give one to him and Joey when he and the rest of the army came back from Mordor.

He jumped up.  "We're awake, Legolas," he called.  "Give us a few minutes to get dressed!"

He heard the Elf laugh, and then heard him knocking on Jennifer's door.

He began to hustle into his clothes, and was surprised to see that Joey was already dressed before he was wearing that Gondorian outfit—Joey called it his "livery".

Kevin was already in his tunic and trews, and then turned to the armour he had been given at Helm's Deep.  He and Haleth had helped each other; it was really complicated to get into all that mail and leather, especially by oneself.

"Want me to help, Kevin?" Joey asked.  "When Labadal taught us about armour, I learned how to help put it on and off, and stuff.  I was helping Boromir and Pippin put theirs on.  Yours is a little different, but I bet I could help."

Surprised, but relieved, Kevin nodded.  "Sure, Joey.  You can't do any worse than I'd do, if I tried to put it on by myself."

"OK!"  Joey was beaming, and Kevin could tell his kid brother was pretty proud of himself for knowing what to do.

In almost no time, Joey had helped him into a pair of boots, a long shirt of mail, a leather hauberk, a pair of metal elbow cops, a set of leather arm braces, and his sword belt.  Joey handed him his Lothlorien cloak and a pair of riding gloves, and a leather helmet that had a flat metal piece to protect his nose.

Joey grinned.  "Just like I was your squire!"  Then suddenly the child's eyes filled with tears, but he blinked, and they went away.  "Please be safe," he whispered.

"I'll do my best," Kevin said sincerely.  Joey gave him a quick but fierce hug, and then stepped back.

The two of them left their room and went to wait with Legolas until Jennifer was dressed.  She joined them more quickly than Kevin was expecting.  Legolas had brought a basket with him, with some fresh-baked bread from the bakery, with a little cheese, as well as some dried fruit, all of which they washed down with water.  It was a more satisfying meal than Kevin would have thought, and certainly quicker and more practical than trying to cook a whole meal would have been.

"Kevin," said Legolas, "we are to go to the stables first."

Kevin nodded, and the four of them made the brief trek to the Citadel's stables.  The Rohirrim were gathered in the field next to the paddock.  It was mostly Éomer and his éored, for the others had encamped outside the City gates.   Éomer and Éothain were yet unmounted, and stood by their horses, as they spoke with Gandalf, Aragorn, and Boromir.  They spotted Pippin, who was speaking to Merry, and headed his way.

"Oh, good!  You came," Pippin said, when he spotted them.

Merry looked rather pale.  He was wearing only breeches and a tunic, while Pippin was dressed in his full Gondorian livery.  "Kevin, Haleth saddled your horse for you," he said, pointing to the few men of the éored, who were already mounted and ready.  Kevin spotted Haleth on his horse, another horse next to him with no rider.

Kevin looked at Jennifer and Joey.  "Well, I guess it's time for me to mount up."  He gave Jennifer a hug and a kiss on the forehead, and then he gave Joey a quick hug.  "Take care of each other," he said.  And he headed over to join Haleth.

Jennifer called after him, "You take care as well, Kevin Stanley McCloud!"  

Kevin laughed.  “You, too, Jennifer Elizabeth McCloud!"  Jennifer grinned.  She knew he was getting back at her for using his middle name. But she liked hers, while Kevin was not so thrilled about having his middle name after his grandfather.

Shaking his head and smiling, Kevin made his way over to the éored, and mounted his horse next to Haleth.  He looked at his friend, who was pale but grinning.  "Finally, we will be going soon," Haleth said, eagerness in his tone.

Kevin shook his head and sighed, but didn't say anything else.  He was ready to go, but he was certainly not looking forward to it.

Just then, Gandalf's voice boomed out.  "It is time!"  With an agility and grace that seemed strange for the old man's body he wore, he mounted Shadowfax.  The king of the Mearas was without a saddle as usual, and so was Hrimfax, who stood next to him, and also Arod, Legolas' horse.

Jennifer looked on, as Pippin gave Merry a swift embrace and went to join Boromir, who quickly lifted Pippin up to the horse’s back.  He mounted behind the hobbit.  She saw that Legolas and Gimli were now on Arod, with Gimli seated behind Legolas as usual.  Aragorn mounted Roheryn, and Jennifer smiled as Elladan, who was behind Aragorn along with Elrohir, gave her a wave.  A contingent of unmounted Gondorian guardsmen had lined up behind the horses for marching, and Bergil left where he had been farewelling his father who was among them, and came over to join them.

He greeted Merry and Joey, who then introduced Jennifer to Bergil.  She had seen the boy in the Houses of Healing.  Merry had met him there also, for he had helped to take care of Merry.  "Shall we go where we can watch the armies leave?  Lots of folk shall be following them down to the Pelennor, but we can watch from that place at the wall.  Do you not remember, Joey?" Bergil asked, looking at Merry.

Joey took a deep breath and nodded.  Merry was only just beginning to get well.

"Aragorn said I wasn't fit for the journey," Merry muttered, a slight scowl on his face.  "but I think I can make it as far as the wall.  Apparently..."  And now, the hobbit's tone turned to mockery.  "...I ‘have already earned great honour’, he says.  But I would rather be with Pippin."  He slumped his shoulders, his expression despondent.

Jennifer shook her head sadly.  "Pippin will be all right, Merry.  After all, he's with Boromir.  And you know, you and Lady Éowyn did a very good thing when you killed the Witch-king.  You saved the whole battle when you did that; they might have lost otherwise."

The hobbit drew a deep breath, but did not respond to what she had said about his and Éowyn’s feat.  "Yes, yes, he is.  All right, then," and he made an effort to lighten his tone.  "Lead the way, Masters Joey and Bergil, and show us this wonderful viewing spot!”

The two boys led the way through the slowly thinning crowds, and up to the last level, where only a few folks had decided to watch the armies leave.  They led Jennifer and Merry to the embrasure in the great wall on the east side.  Jennifer was glad to see a stone seat built in there, and if they stood upon it, they could look down upon the land below, where far beneath them a throng of people had gathered.  Beyond, many of the troops had already gathered.

"It's going to be awhile before the others get out the Gate and join them," said Joey.  He looked at Merry.  "Why don't we sit down for a while?  We'll hear all the people yelling when it happens."

“Yes, we will.”  Bergil nodded agreement.

"That sounds like a good idea," Jennifer agreed, looking from Joey to Bergil.

Merry sat down gratefully, and then he leaned his head back against the wall and swung his feet.  The others sat down as well.  

They were quiet, each sitting there thinking his or her own thoughts.  Jennifer wondered what on earth she was to do in this big city now that almost everyone she knew had gone.  Would she and Joey stay in that big guesthouse all by themselves?   “Please, God, protect them all,” she whispered.  She was on the verge of drowsing off in the sunshine, when a shout went up from some of the people who were watching from other places on the wall.  An instant later, a cheer went up from below.

They stood upon the stone seat and looked out over the wall. 

Bergil looked down below, and then pointed and said, "There he is!  My father!" for Beregond was marching along, leading a company of Guardsmen.  "I hope he will come back," he said in a low voice, for he, too, was downcast.

"Hey, there’s Pippin and Boromir!" said Joey.

Merry looked down and could see his cousin, a small figure mounted behind Boromir.  The Gondorian rode right alongside Aragorn, for he was Captain-General of the Gondorian Army. 

"Look!"  Jennifer pointed.  "Next to Aragorn.  I think that's Halbarad!  He was injured; he shouldn't be going."  They all looked at the standard-bearer riding next to Aragorn.  It did appear to be Halbarad.  She sighed in exasperation.  "Just like Kevin's friend, Haleth.  These people just won't stay down!"  She shook her head and scowled.

Merry laughed bitterly.  "Well, some of us apparently have to."  Jennifer patted his shoulder.

The watchers fell silent, as the seeming chaos on the field resolved itself into order.  At last the trumpets rang and the army began to move.  Troop by troop, and company by company, they wheeled and went off eastward.  And long after they had passed away out of sight down the great road to the Causeway, the little group standing on the stone bench watched.  The last glint of the morning sun on spear and helm twinkled and was lost.

Merry's face was pinched and worn, and he kept rubbing his right arm.  He was silent with his thoughts.

He was roused by the touch of Bergil's hand.  “Come, Master Perian!” said the lad.  “You are still in pain, I see.  We will help you back to the Healers.  But do not fear!  They will come back.  The Men of Minas Tirith will never be overcome.  And now they have the Lord Elfstone and the Lord Boromir, and Beregond of the Guard too.”

"Not to mention the White Wizard!  And Kevin!" added Joey.  "Yes, come on.  There's nothing left to see here, Jennifer.  Come on, let's get Merry back."

Jennifer nodded, and they slowly made their way back to the Houses of Healing.  Jennifer was feeling increasingly anxious about Merry, and also about what she and Joey were to do next.

They brought Merry back to the Houses of Healing, where they helped him into the bed.  It had been a long and stressful morning for the hobbit, and Jennifer could tell he was nearly worn out.  Joey assisted him to lie down, and with a heavy sigh, he was soon asleep.  Jennifer brushed a curl from his forehead.  "I hope he'll be okay.  He was really upset about not going with Pippin."

"I'm glad he didn't," said Joey.  "Kevin only went 'cause Haleth was being stupid about going.  Sometimes I don't get these Middle-earth people.  At least Merry had the good sense to listen to Aragorn, even if he didn't want to."

Jennifer laughed quietly and shook her head.  "And when did you get so smart?"

"Maybe after I was stupid enough to try and look in that palantír with Pippin.  I'm glad I never got a good look like he did!"

"And I am glad, also, young Joseph," said a hoarse voice behind him.  "You would not have liked it."  The voice stopped to cough heavily.  Jennifer and Joey turned to see the Lord Denethor standing there, being helped by one of the nurses.  He had been hobbling around the ward with her help.

"Come, my Lord," said the nurse.  "You have been standing around long enough.  This is your first time out of the bed, after all."

He started coughing again and nodded at her.  When he stopped coughing, he said, "Come over to see me, and to see Faramir."  He paused to cough again.  "We have a message for you from Boromir."

The nurse helped him over to his bed on the other side of the room.  Jennifer and Joey looked and saw that Faramir was sitting up in the bed next to his.  

"I hope he'll be okay," said Joey.  "You should have seen when he went in and tried to save Faramir from the fire!  He's really brave for an old man."

"I hope so, too," Jennifer replied.  Earlier, Pippin had told them the details of how Faramir had been saved from the fire.

"And then he decided to stay in that big ward instead of having him and Faramir taken back to the Citadel, because he said that since the fire made a shortage of beds, they would stay put and not make extra work for the healers,” he had said.  “It's easier to have everyone close together, except for the really bad off ones who need to be alone."

"Well," said Joey, "let's go find out what Boromir's message was."

So, they followed after, just giving the nurse time to put Lord Denethor back to bed.  Faramir greeted them.  He was very pale from his wound, but Joey was glad to see that the feverishness and the air of despair from the Black Breath was gone.

At first, Lord Denethor was going to speak, but once again he began to cough, and had a little trouble getting his breath back, so it was Faramir who explained:  "Boromir came to see us before he left, Lady Jennifer and Master Joey.  He was much concerned about your well-being."

Joey nodded.  "Yeah, 'cause he promised to take care of me when I was made his page."

Faramir smiled.  "Indeed, he takes that oath quite seriously, and asked for me to fill in for him while he is gone.  Since Labadal went along to take care of him, he made arrangements for the two of you to stay here.  Not in with the patients, of course," he said, when he saw a look of alarm on their faces, and smiled at the relief on their faces.  "Jennifer, he spoke with Master Sardos, the Warden of the Houses.  You will be allowed to stay among the younger girls who are apprenticed as healers here.  And if you wish to, you will be allowed to help with tasks here.  Joey, Dame Ioreth has said you may stay among the errand lads.  Your friend Bergil is staying here as well, since his father has gone away.  And of course, you also can help."

They nodded solemnly.

"I will be able to keep an eye on you, for the healers say I am nearly mended, though I must still rest a good deal."

"What should we do right now, my Lord?" asked Joey.

Jennifer gave Joey an odd look, and then realized that he was speaking as a page, and not just as her little brother.  He sounded strangely grown-up, and she wasn't sure she liked that, though on the other hand, she was also proud of him.

Faramir nodded in approval.  "Report to Dame Ioreth, and she will tell you,"

Joey nodded.  "Yes, sir."  He turned to Jennifer.  "Come on, Jen.  We'll go find her, and then we’ll be able to get settled where we need to be."  He walked off, and Jennifer followed him.  She had to remind herself that he'd been here a few days before she arrived, and actually knew where he was going.

He led her down some corridors and stairs and more corridors to a large room.  She didn't know it, but it was the room where Joey had gone that first day, before the battle began.  There were several boys in there, most of them about Joey's age or a little older, and one who was actually a little younger.  It was the younger one who responded when Joey spoke.  "Sador, where's Dame Ioreth?"

The boy got up and came over to him.  "She should be back any moment.  She went to see if the laundresses had everything they needed."

"Oh, well, we will wait here then.  Have you met my sister?"

Sador shook his head.  "I met your brother, but I have only seen your sister while everyone was busy."

"OK.  Sador, this is my big sister Jennifer.  Jennifer, this is my friend Sador."

"Nice to meet you, Sador."  Jennifer smiled at him, and he blushed.

Dame Ioreth soon came back, and was unsurprised to hear of Boromir's message.  She asked Joey to take his sister to the apprentices' quarters. 

"Er—"  Jennifer was a little intimidated, but she had to ask.  She cleared her throat and tried again.  "What about our things?"

Dame Ioreth smiled.  "That is not a problem.  Sador, as soon as Bergil returns, the two of you accompany Joey to fetch his belongings and those of his sister."

Sador nodded.  "Yes, Dame Ioreth." 

Joey said, "I'll be right back," and then told Jennifer to follow him.

To her surprise, they went out of the building onto a wide covered porch with lots of pillars.  He led her to a smaller building.  It had a similar porch.  Inside he took her to a room in which there were six beds.  A girl about Jennifer's age was sitting on one of them, doing some sewing.

She looked up.  "May I help you?"

Joey nodded.  "This is my sister Jennifer.  Lord Boromir said she can stay here while the army is away."

The girl nodded. "Very well."

Joey turned. "I'll be back with your stuff as soon as I can. Bye for now, Jen."

He left and Jennifer looked at the girl, who was watching with interest.  "My name is Firieth.  This is my bed, but you can take either that one or that one," she said, as she pointed to the beds on either side of her own.  "Melwen and Riel are not here.  They both left the City when their parents went to Lossarnoch for safety."

"Thank you, Firieth."  Jennifer sat down on the bed opposite her.  "I only just arrived here with the ships during the battle, and now all of my friends that I came with have gone off to battle."

The other girl gasped.  "You came with the Lord Elfstone!"

"I came with Aragorn, but that is what everyone seems to be calling him here now.  We travelled with him from the North."

Firieth was curious, so Jennifer told a short version of her journey, and even so, was surprised when Joey arrived, accompanied by Bergil and Sador with her things.

"Here you are, Jen.  I'll be staying over with the other errand boys, unless I get sent on an errand."  He went over and gave her a small hug.  "See you around, Jen."

She hugged him back.  "Be good, Joey."

"Of course."  He rolled his eyes.  "I'm on duty!"  And with that, he dashed off, with Sador and Bergil at his side.

-oo000oo-

A/N: *The portion of a hymn that Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey sing is called, "The Soldier's Hymn," by Transmission, released in 2009.





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