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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 Ringsbelongs 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 57: Nowhere to Go But Up

Steve and Gail had filled their own plates from the table that the Elves kept replenished with food throughout the day.  They were comfortably seated, with a slumbering Lucy resting her head on Steve’s lap, and Steve had already said grace.  They were about to eat when the girls came in, dressed in the finest of the clothes the Elves had given them.  While Steve and Gail had had their discussion, Mairen had prepared them for the feast.  Kaylee stopped in dismay, seeing that her parents were still in their "everyday" clothes.

"Don't you want to come to the feast, Mommy?  Daddy?  It's really going to be fun and nice!"  Kaylee looked up at her mother, letting her expression do her pleading.  She had begun to learn that begging and whining did not work very well.

Gail bent down and hugged her.  "I am very sorry, sweetie, but your daddy and I have some grown-up things to talk about tonight.  We told you that he has to leave tomorrow." 

Megan's eyes grew wide.  "I don't want you to go, Daddy!"

Steve did his best to look stern.  "Megan, I must go and help the Elves.  They have been very good to us."

She hung her head, but nodded.  Just then Mairen entered, dressed in her own festive finery, with Avorn standing behind her.  She summoned the little girls, who, with a last wistful look behind at their parents, obeyed.  Avorn picked Megan up, and Mairen held out her hand for Kaylee, and the four of them left the pavilion.

Gail was staring after them, wide-eyed.  "Steve, did you notice that Megan didn't use baby-talk just now?"

Steve looked at her and blinked.  "You're right!  How could I have missed it?"  He petted Lucy, who was now sitting up and staring at his plate.  He ignored the big brown eyes and took a bit of cheese.  "It must be the Elves."

"Maybe," said Gail.  On the whole, the Elves seemed to have a pretty good effect on their kids.  But it was a little disconcerting.  She hoped they would keep the things that they had learned when they went home.  But Megan was her baby.

She bit her lower lip.  “To be honest, sweetheart, I’m not sure I’m ready for my baby to become so grown-up quite yet.”

Steve laughed.  “I know what you mean.  She’s my baby, too, hon.”  He glanced toward the entrance through which Kaylee and Megan had left.  “She’s growing up so fast.  They both are.”

Gail smiled and shook her head.  “Silly of me, isn’t it?  Part of me wants her to stay just as she is for as long as possible, and the other part of me hopes that she and Kaylee will never forget the manners they’ve learned here, when we return to Oregon.  Living with Elves has been good for them.”

Steve nodded agreement.  “It certainly has been, and that’s a fact—why, it's even been good for Lucy!”  He glanced down at the puppy, who was still staring at Steve’s plate hopefully, and then looked back at Gail.  “And I know what you mean about having mixed emotions regarding what’s happening.”  Gail smiled again, ruefully.

He continued, "Our kids have had to learn a lot here, and we've begun to learn as well.  Let's face it, Gail.  It may or may not be the Lord's will for us to return home.  We are going forth in the faith that it will be, since that's what we want—but His will doesn't always match our own.  And that's something we need to realize."  He looked at her sadly.  “Our children may have to face that possibility, too.  They may have already had to, in fact.”

Gail winced at the thought, and then nodded.  "I know.  I try not to think about that."

"And there's something else,” Steve added.  “Something I should have thought of before I went out to the first battle with the Elves.  It's certainly something I would have thought of at home, if I'd still been in the Army and had to leave you and the kids."

"What is it, Steve?" Gail asked, but her heart sank as she said it.  She thought she knew what he meant.  He took a deep breath and took her hand, cradling it in his own.

"Hopefully, I will come back to you in one piece.  If our prayers are answered, I will.”  He squeezed her hand.  “But if something happens to me, then I want you to ask Lady Galadriel if Kaylee and Megan can stay here, while you go on to find Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey.  They should be safe with her and with Celeborn.  Follow Glorfindel's lead as you search for them.  He knows this world and can help you a lot.  If all goes well, and the war against Sauron succeeds, then you will need to decide what to do from there.  Get some advice from Lady Galadriel and from Glorfindel, and decide what you will do at that point.  You will either be led to go home afterwards, or you will need to find a way to make a home here."   

Gail shuddered at the prospect.  “And Ryan and Janet?” she asked softly.  “You know they’re going to worry themselves sick if none of us ever go back!  If the amount of time back home between our children’s arrival and ours is any indication, they’re doubtless still waiting for us back at the campsite even as we’re sitting here.  And you know, Steve, if they call the police, there’s going to be no clues leading them to our whereabouts.”

Steve smiled wryly.  “Now we know what our children went through, when they found themselves trapped here.  Our poor kids worried about worrying us!  And they also probably worried about being trapped here permanently.  But we can't worry about all that, you know; we truly can't, because we do not know what the Lord's will might be.  We can only pray.”  

Gail nodded agreement.  She knew that Steve was right, and they certainly did understand what it had been like for their children.  “I was showing Megan pictures and videos of her aunt and uncle off and on, starting out, when we first came here,” she said.  “I’ve got some stored on my cell phone.  I’m not too worried about Kaylee forgetting them, since she’s five now, but Megan is still young enough that I fear she’ll forget Ryan and Janet if I don’t keep reminding her.  But I have to be careful, because we can’t recharge the batteries here.  I had to stop using my phone after we got to Lothlórien, since the batteries were about to wear out.  They were below twenty percent."

Steve shook his head.  "The kids won't forget.  Even without the pictures and videos on your phone, we will make sure they won’t.  They might get a little fuzzy on their looks and their voices, but we won't forget to tell them about their aunt and uncle.  Oh, and I just remembered—I have a picture in my billfold—the family photo we took as a present for the grandparents a couple of Christmases ago."

"Oh, I'm so glad!”  Gail turned and hugged her husband.  "And that reminds me—I have a wallet-sized picture of them on their wedding day."  She bit her lower lip.  "I’m still hoping that we will go back, and I don’t want Ryan and Janet to be strangers to Megan if we do.  They’ll never understand how that could have happened.”

“I know.”  Steve paused, and then grimaced.  “I'll miss my brother if we never go back, and Janet, too.  But if God wants us here, He will find a way to console them, even in the strangest of circumstances."  He sighed.  "But I am very serious, Gail.  You will need to be prepared to take care of our family if worst comes to worst, whether here or at home."

Gail sighed in her turn.  "I know.  I've tried not to think about it, but that's not the best way to handle it, is it?"  She shook her head.

"It's only human, honey.  After all, this is not a prospect either of us wants to face."  He put one arm around her and drew her close.  Just then he sharply said, "Lucy!  No!"  The little spaniel looked up innocently.  The little dog was still staring, but her twitching nose had been inching closer and closer to Steve's neglected plate.

Steve laughed.  "Don't try those big brown eyes on me, Lucy.  Hop down."  Lucy jumped down, but continued to stare up at Steve.  At first, he ignored her, but then he picked up a piece of cheese and held it down to her.  She snapped it up, and then gave another look at the plate.  It was empty except for a few crumbs of bread and a few smears from the meat and cheese.  "Don't tell Mairen," he said, as he held the plate down.  Lucy quickly licked it clean.

Gail giggled and finished off the last of the fruit on her plate.

For a while, the two sat contentedly.  They didn't speak, but kept casting glances at one another. 

At last, Gail sighed.  "I don't know about you, hon, but I really don't feel like doing anything else this evening."

Steve smiled.  "Neither do I, to be honest.  At least Kaylee and Megan are in good hands, so we don't have to worry about them now.  Let's pray…"  He stopped and smiled.  "And then, maybe go to bed early.  After all, I do leave early tomorrow."

Gail nodded.  “Yes, let’s do that.”  She leaned her head on her husband's shoulder and closed her eyes.  “My Heavenly Father,” she prayed, “I ask that you protect Steve when he goes out to battle tomorrow.  Watch over our children, and Lord, please help them all remember that we still love them, no matter how far apart we are.”  She stopped and looked up at Steve.

He nodded.  "And Lord, please be with me and my comrades-in-arms as we fight the Enemy.  Be with all of those who fight on the side of the Light.  And Lord, I really do want our family to be reunited, and to return home.”  Steve took a long, deep breath.  “But, well...not my will, but Thine, be done.  In Jesus' name, amen."

He reached down and patted Lucy on the head as she sat next to his feet, and then he stood up, reaching his hand down to Gail.  She smiled up at him and took it, and the two of them went to their sleeping quarters.

-oo000oo-

Early the next morning, Steve kept turning back to wave to his family, as he rode away among the Elves.  Megan was in Gail's arms, and was waving wildly.  Kaylee was also waving, although not so enthusiastically as her little sister.  Gail did not wave, but kept her eyes on her husband.  Her gaze pierced him, and he could feel it long after they had ridden out of sight of all those who had been gathered to farewell them.

This time, they were not headed to the River to the East, but to the Southern bounds of Lothlórien.  It was a longer ride, but Lady Galadriel had seemed to know the threat was greatest there this time.  And to confirm it, on the evening before, a thrush had come to Lothlórien.  Lord Celeborn said that it was a message from Radagast.  The Elf-king of the great forest across the River was engaging those Orcs who remained on the other side.

Rumil also had taken some warriors to the Western border, as there had been some word of mountain orcs coming their way from the Misty Mountains. But it was a much smaller number than those coming up from the South.  

Steve knew that this battle might be fiercer.  He would still be shooting from a flet, but there was no handy river in between him and the enemy this time.  He fingered the thick leather armour vest that Glorfindel had given him that morning before they set out.  He wondered if it would work as well as Kevlar.  Somehow, he thought it would work at least as well; it had been made by Elves, after all.  He hoped that he wouldn’t need to find out.  He remembered: "You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day…"*

-oo000oo-

Gail turned away as the last of the Elves’ horses rode out of sight, and returned to the tent that housed her family.  Please, God, protect Steve!  And please protect his companions, she silently begged.  Glancing down at Kaylee and Megan, she took a deep breath.  She had to be strong for them, and right now, they needed her.

“Come on, you two,” she said.  “We’ll take a short walk, and then, Kaylee, I want you to show me how much of that yarn you’ve spun, so far.”

“Yes, Mommy.”  Kaylee skipped by her side as Gail held Megan’s hand on her other side.  The two of them walked down the path.  Lucy trotted next to Megan.

“Mommy, how long is Daddy going to be gone?” Kaylee asked, after a few moments.

Gail shrugged.  “As long as the battle lasts, I suspect.  I don’t know how long that’ll be.”

Kaylee halted and bit her lower lip, looking at the ground.  “I don’t want anything to happen to Daddy.”  She looked up at Gail.  “What will the battle be like?”

Gail let go of Megan’s hand and wrapped an arm around Kaylee’s shoulder.  “I don't know, sweetheart.  It won’t be like the battles in our world; I do know that.”  Gail thought more for a moment.  "Honey, do you remember when we went with Nicole and her family, and we all dressed up in costumes and went to the park?" 

"Oh!" said Kaylee.  "The Esseeay thing?  And me and Megan got to wear our princess outfits?"  She grinned.  “I got to be Snow White!  And Megan got to be Sleeping Beauty!”

Gail chuckled.  "S.C.A., and yes, that is the thing I was talking about.  Jennifer and I wore our own princess dresses, too.  But do you remember the little battle we saw?"

"Uh-huh."  Kaylee nodded.  "It was all noisy!" 

"Clack!  Clack!  Clack!  T’ey got to hit each other; it was just a little bit scawy."  Sometimes Megan still slipped into baby-talk, though it was rare now.  "But it was fun, too."

"Well, this battle will be a little bit like that, only it will be real."  She took a deep breath; she knew that she had to prepare the little ones.  "You know Daddy could get...hurt."  That was as much as she could bear to say out loud.

"I don't want Daddy to get hurt," Kaylee said, biting her lower lip.

Gail took another deep breath.  “I don't want anything to happen to your daddy, either.  We’ll just have to pray that God will keep him and his companions safe.”

"Jesus will take care of Daddy," said Megan, childish confidence in her babyish voice.

Gail smiled.  A little child shall lead them, she thought.  "Yes, Jesus will take care of him, sweetie."

The three of them turned back and walked hand in hand.  Kaylee started humming, and she began to sing:

“He's got the whole world

In His hands.

He's got the whole world

In His hands.

He's got the whole world

In His hands.

He's got the whole world in His hands...”

Megan quickly joined her big sister.  After they had finished with "little bitty babies," "brothers and sisters," and "mommies and daddies", Kaylee added, "all of the Elves" and "the hobbits and the Dwarves", much to Gail's amusement.

A moment after the two of them had finished that song, Megan began to sing:

“Itsy bitsy spider

Climbed up t’e waterspout.

Down came t’e rain

And pushed t’e spider out.

Out came t’e sun

And dried up all t’e rain,

And t’e itsy-bitsy spider

Climbed up t’e spout again.”

“Here we are, girls,” Gail said, when Megan had finished that song.  “We are back to the pavilion.”

The three of them and Lucy entered the pavilion; as Gail reminded her, Kaylee took her growing quantity of yarn out of the wooden box that she kept it in and handed it to her mother.  Gail ran her fingers over it and smiled.  “It’s coming along nicely, Kaylee,” she said.  “You’ve spun quite a bit of it, I see!  Your yarn looks very nice.  When we go home, I’ll teach you how to crochet, and we’ll use this yarn.”

Kaylee smiled.  “Thanks, Mommy!  That'll be fun.”  She carefully placed the ball of yarn back in the box.

Megan tugged on her mother's sleeve.  "Can we swing?"

Gail nodded, and the girls darted out of the pavilion.  Gail followed at a more sedate pace.  The little girls raced toward the swing, climbed onto it, and began to swing back and forth quite vigorously as their mother watched.

"Good morning, Gail."  Gail turned.  Of course, she had not heard Mairen and Lassiel walk up behind her.  

"Good morning, Mairen.  And how are you, Lassiel?"

"I am well," she said with a dip of her head.  "I have a message for you from Lady Galadriel.  There will be a luncheon on the ground today, where the feast was last night.  There will only be a few folk there, but the Lady would like you and your daughters to attend.  She has much of which she would speak to you."

Gesturing toward Kaylee and Megan, Gail nodded.  “Certainly.  We’ll be glad to come, my daughters and me.”

Lassiel nodded and watched the little ones.  "I am glad they get so much enjoyment from their simple gift.  Lord Celeborn was very pleased with it."

"He is very generous," Gail said gratefully.

Mairen laughed.  "He is happy to spoil any young girl.  There have been few elflings born here in many generations of Men, and he will ever miss his daughter."

Lassiel sighed.  "I was among the last born here, and had few playmates save when Lady Arwen came to visit.  I was always sad when she left to return to her home in Imladris.  She invited me to come and return the visit, but my parents would not hear of it."

"I have wondered…" Gail started, and then stopped.  "Well, I suppose it's none of my business, but, well...why are there so few children among the Elves?  I have yet to see an Elf child…"  She hoped she wasn't being offensive.

Mairen answered gently.  "It is not something that would offend us, Gail.  But Elves only beget a child when they want to.  We live long lives, after all, and we tend to have our children when we first wed.  And we tend to have few children.  But when times are bad, such as with a threat of war, we wait until the bad times pass.  We are able to make sure our children have peaceful childhoods, unlike the Edain, who have no choice, and must bear their children in their youth whether times are good or not."

Gail recalled that Edain was the Elven word for Men.  Smiling wryly, she shook her head.  “It should amaze me that I would even be asking such questions; I guess it’s an indication of how long we’ve been here that it actually doesn’t.  But such a question would never occur to us back home.  Where we come from, Elves are just make-believe, and don’t marry and have families.  They’re not even born, so far as I know; they just—exist.  Like other fantasy creatures.”

Mairen laughed.  "I remember what odd notions Kaylee had of Elves when she arrived!"  She turned to Lassiel.  "The child believed Elves were the size of Halflings, and lived to the North of the Helcaraxë, so far as I could tell, with—so far as I could understand her—with an Istar, a Red Wizard who brought gifts of toys to children at the turning of the year, and the Elves spent their time making such toys."

Lassiel's eyes grew wide, and she turned to Gail.  "Is that true?"

Gail shook her head, but said, "Well, it is true that is what young children like Kaylee and Megan believe.  They eventually learn the truth as they get older.  But the tales are just legends, stories told to entertain the children, and to keep alive the spirit of giving."  She decided it was best not to go into the origins of Saint Nicholas; there would be a lot more explaining than she felt up to giving at that point.  "Usually, by the time they are Joey's age, they know that Santa Claus is not real, but sometimes they will pretend they still believe for the sake of younger children.  Last Christmas was Joey's last Christmas to believe in Santa Claus; he learned the truth about Santa not long afterward.  But Kaylee and Megan are still young enough to believe."

"It sounds like a delightful custom," Lassiel said, "and I wonder what truths may lie behind the myth?  But I know that among the Edain, such things lie so far in the past that things have changed greatly." 

Gail paused for a moment, to think about that.  "What is the Helcaraxë?"  she finally asked, changing the subject.

Mairen and Lassiel looked at one another.  "I will tell you," Lassiel answered, "for you must not mention it to the Lady Galadriel.  She was among those who crossed it from Aman, and it was a terrible time for those Elves.  When the doom was laid upon those of the Noldor who followed Fëanor, his followers were divided among those who sailed in the ships," and she stopped for a moment and frowned, "well, that is a story in itself, and not a pleasant one.  But there were those who could not sail, and so took the terrible way on foot across the great bridge of ice that spanned from the West to Middle-earth back then.  It was a dreadful time of hardship, and the Lady does not like to think upon it."

Gail shuddered and tried to imagine how it would be to walk in such weather, across hundreds of miles of ice.  It made her shiver to think of it.  That definitely sounds like the conditions above the Arctic Circle!  And down in Antarctica.

“A team of reindeer to pull sleighs, or dog sleds, would have certainly been helpful on that journey,” she said.  “They would have made much quicker progress than on foot.”

Lassiel and Mairen exchanged a glance and shook their heads.  "There was no time to make such preparations, Gail," said Mairen.  "It was a dreadful time, and they left in haste, nor would they have turned back after the awful words of Fëanor's oath and the Doom laid upon them."

Gail vaguely remembered hearing such a tale in the Hall of Fire in Rivendell, but at the time she had not paid much attention to what she'd thought was just "a story".  She made a mental note to ask Lassiel and Mairen about that when her daughters were not present.

Before she could make any kind of comment, Kaylee yelled, "Catch me, Mairen!" as she flung herself from the swing, to fly into Mairen's arms.  She had discovered that the Elves never failed to catch her, and it was fun to fly into the air at the peak of her swing.  With a smile, Gail shook her head.  She would never have been able to catch her daughter like that.

Megan patiently waited for the wobbling swing to slow down and almost stop, before she hopped down.  She ran over and said, "I'm hungry, Mommy!"

"Well, we need to go and wash up, because Lady Galadriel has asked us to have lunch with her.  We will be having a picnic."

"Oh, goodie!"  Kaylee grinned and clapped her hands. 

Gail took them inside, and Kaylee washed her face and brushed her hair, while Gail did the same for Megan.  She ran her fingers lightly through Megan's hair before she began to brush it.  Both of the girls' hair was much longer than it had been before they had arrived here.  Gail wondered if the Elves could give her something so that she could begin putting their hair in ponytails.  Something she could tie securely, since there was no elastic.

The three of them took the meandering path that would lead to the picnic area.  Megan held her mother's hand, while Kaylee skipped along just slightly ahead.

When they arrived at their destination, they found the Lady seated gracefully on the ground by a snowy-white linen cloth.  A couple of Galadriel's handmaidens were placing the plates and food upon the blanket.  There was a platter of small pastries, some cut-up vegetables and fruit, some fresh bread rolls that smelled of honey, and some slices of cheese and cold meat.  There were four pretty ceramic bottles with cork stoppers in a bucket of cold water.  Gail appreciated the fact that all the foods were things that could be eaten easily with just the fingers. 

The handmaidens withdrew, and Lady Galadriel gestured for them to be seated.  

"Please," said Lady Galadriel, "help yourselves to the food."  She reached into the bucket and took out the bottles, handing one to each of them.  "You will find that your drink is cold mint tea."

Gail removed the stopper for Megan, and then began to serve her youngest's plate with small portions of everything, allowing Kaylee to serve her own plate.

As they ate, Galadriel entertained her guests with a few stories from the past, when she was a child living under the Light of the Two Trees.  "Always I tried to outdo my brothers, racing with them, shooting my bow, and other such pastimes.  But my sister-in-law Eldalótë, wife of my second brother Angrod, taught me to spin, weave, and do needlework."

"I like to do those things, too," said Kaylee.  "I'm glad I came to Middle-earth and learned how!"  She smiled at their hostess.

The Lady's own smile glowed, and her laughter reminded Gail of bells.  "I am quite glad you came here as well, little one.  I am delighted to have met you and your family."

When the food had been finished, the Lady told the children, "If you would go down by the stream where the small waterfall is, and hide quietly and carefully behind the reeds, you might see an otter family at play.  But you must step softly if you wish to catch sight of them."

The two little girls darted off, though they slowed down as they neared the stream.  The area was within eyesight, but the girls were certainly out of earshot.

Gail looked at Lady Galadriel.  "What do you want to tell me?"

"Tomorrow is when the warriors will engage the Enemy.  I will be watching the battle from my Mirror, and many of my people will gather there to await any news I may gather.  If you and your children wish, you may join me in the Fountain glade."

Gail's breath hitched, and she felt a lump in her throat.  After a moment she drew a deep breath and nodded.  "We will be there," she said, glancing toward Kaylee and Megan.  "Thank you."

-oo000oo-

The riders had been going for several hours, when Celeborn, who rode at the front of the group, held his hand up for a halt.  Word made its way back that it was time to stop for a bite to eat, and to allow the horses to rest, be watered, and graze a little.

And me, thought Steve wryly.  His bottom was numb.  Lunch for the people was basically a swig of water and a small bite of the lembas bread.  He was surprised at how filling that was, and it was also energizing.  He felt much less tired when the brief halt ended, and he swung back into the saddle.  The lembas was very energizing, and he felt much lighter in heart than he had been.

Terevor was riding next to Steve, and told him that there was a nearby stream, where the horses could be watered, and they could refill their waterskins.  Steve was grateful for the information, and patted Loborros on the side of his neck.  The stream, when they came to it minutes later, was remarkably clear and cold.

"It is just a small stream," Terevor told him.  "It flows into the Celebrant, which flows into the Anduin."

Steve nodded.  He had seen some maps.  "Why are we riding in more of a westerly direction?  According to the maps Lord Glorfindel showed me, the river is fairly close to Caras Galadon?"

"The reports indicate that the majority of the Orcs are coming towards us from the mountains."

"Ah."  Steve nodded.  "So, we want to stop them before they can get closer to the Anduin, and to Caras Galadon."

"Yes," answered Terevor.  When they had finished refilling their waterskins and refreshing themselves and their horses, they remounted and rode in silence for a while.  Steve was deep in thought, pondering everything that the Elves had told him, so far.

The small army arrived in the late afternoon, and set up an encampment about a mile north of the Celebrant River.  They would be fighting on the other side of the river, for there was a strip just beyond it that was a part of Lothlórien.  It seemed to be as wide as a few of what the Elves called "rods"* up to about three miles for the most part.  There was a short section that was almost six miles wide in one area.  Steve would once more be among a group of archers, but even though he'd be in a flet, he might very well have to come down, and there was also the possibility that Orcs might get close enough to the tree in which his flet was located that they might try to climb up the tree.

Well, Steve thought, it’s not the first time I’ve faced the possibility of injury or worse in battle.  I’ll just have to entrust myself to God’s protection while we’re fighting.  I can always use my hand-to-hand skills if it comes to that; it won’t be the first time I’ve had to do so.  At least Orcs don't have automatic weapons, but a knife or an arrow can be just as deadly as any bullet or IED.

There were no fires lit, so supper was once more a little bit of lembas and some water.  He knew they also had a sort of tonic with them, but they would not drink any of that until just before the battle.  

Elves seldom slept on a journey, but Steve was no Elf.  He rolled up in his blankets soon after sunset, and fell asleep quickly with the sound of soft Elvish singing in his ears.

“A!  Elbereth Gilthoniel!

silivren penna míriel

o menel aglar elenath,

Gilthoniel…"*

Steve had heard that one before.  He wondered if, in this world, an angel actually had put up the stars in the sky.  But the Bible stated that God had made the stars, and this world was supposed to be their own in the distant past.  That was as far as his speculations got before he drifted into slumber.  But in his dreams, he saw an ethereal woman with the appearance of an Elf.  She floated against an empty sky, and where she waved her hand, she left bright stars in her wake.  That was all he could remember when he wakened.  

He woke the next morning, feeling refreshed.  A hand shook him as he was waking up.  It was Lord Celeborn.

"Waken, Steven McCloud.  We must soon get in position for the battle."  

Steve quickly got up and rolled his blankets.  He was ready in two shakes, and took another small bite of lembas, and was going to go check on Loborros, when one of the Lothlórien Elves came up to him with a small bottle in his hand.

He spoke in a strongly accented voice: "Lord Celeborn says to partake of a small swallow.  Miruvor.

Steve knew that there was some alcohol in the tonic, but it was kind of like taking vitamins, and it was only a tiny sip.  He saw no good reason not to take a sip.  Like most Elven food or drink, it only took a very small amount to have a good effect.  It had a honey-like taste, and though the heat and bite of alcohol was still present, it was not overwhelming.   “Thank you,” he said, as he handed the bottle back.

Afterward, Steve went to the place where the horses were tethered.  They would not be riding, but would make their way silently to where they would ford the Celebrant and make their way across, to keep the orcs out of Lothlórien.  He hoped it would not be by a rope bridge; Rumil had mentioned that was how the Company in which the kids had been traveling had crossed.

He needn't have worried, though.  There were stones in the river.  They were slightly submerged, and not readily observable unless you were almost on them.  His hiking boots got wet, but only just to the ankles.  He carefully walked behind the Elves that went before him; his boots also had non-skid soles as well.  The river was wide at the ford, but fairly shallow. 

Soon enough, the trees on the other side were visible, along with thick underbrush, and the occasional sight of a flet.

Inglor, who was Lassiel's brother, gestured to a nearby flet, and Steve followed him up the rope ladder, which was then pulled up behind them.  Unlike the one at the Anduin, this one was much smaller and had no rails.

The two of them waited silently for some time when suddenly they heard a hiss from below, and they looked down to see another Elf.  The Elf gestured with his head and spoke one word: "Yrch!"

The Elf nocked his longbow, and Steve loaded a bolt into his crossbow, and they watched for signs of the orcs.  It didn't take long to see them.  There was one group of about one hundred.  They were headed straight for them, cutting a wide swath with wicked-looking scimitar-like blades, although some of them had weapons that looked sort of like machetes.  Steve saw no archers in the front, though there might be some farther back.  They were not in range of Steve and Inglor, but they were in someone else's range, because just then one of the Orcs sprouted an Elven arrow in its chest and went down.  Then another did.

Steve began shooting as soon as the Orcs came in range.  Inglor had already been shooting—his Elf-made longbow had more range than Steve's crossbow.  Steve also had to be careful; he did not have that many bolts for his crossbow, and he was trying to make every shot count.  Suddenly, he realized the Orcs at the foot of the tree were getting closer.  Without any warning, Inglor cast aside his bow, and with a fierce yell of "Ai!  Aure enteluva!", he leaped down on top of an Orc at the foot of the tree, his blade in his hand, which he plunged into the Orc's neck.  Black blood spurted out, but the Elf had rolled to his feet and took his knife to yet another of the enemy.  But Inglor did not see another Orc approaching from behind.  Steve only had three bolts left, and he shot the Orc from above.  The Elf gave Steve a look and a nod, and then turned to another enemy.  Steve's last two bolts were especially effective at close range.  There were only a few Orcs nearby, now.

He knew that if he were to continue fighting, he, too, would have to get to the ground.  The rope ladder would be too slow, and he'd be a target himself, but he also knew he couldn't jump down the way an Elf could.  He moved off the flet onto one of the supporting branches.  Lowering himself to hang from the branch with two hands, he briefly swung back and forth from the tree branch, and then launched himself.  He landed near some of the undergrowth and crouched there for a moment, drawing one of his knives. 

Soon Steve saw an Orc, alone, as Inglor had taken out most of them in the general vicinity, and he had moved on, silently tracking the enemy.  This Orc appeared to be a straggler, as it didn't seem to be in any hurry to re-join the others.  He recalled his training.  Once he started, he needed to end it as quickly as possible.  The Orc was clearly larger and stronger, and Steve would need to take it before it could use its own weapon, a nasty-looking thing with a jagged edge to it.  It was not a sword exactly—but it was definitely longer than his own knife.  

Steve came up behind his Orc and made a slash at the unarmoured back of the creature's neck. It wasn't much of a blow, but any strike would weaken the enemy he had been taught. But it turned with a roar.  Steve planted himself right in front of it, but not too close.  He took a step backwards with his back leg.  At the same time, he made a cutting move with his knife in a bottom-up direction from left to the right, as he'd been taught by his army instructor.  It struck the Orcs leather, but only scratched the surface.  Then before it could bring its own wicked-looking weapon to bear, he stepped forward with his front leg and delivered a straight blow to the throat.  He had planned to slit its throat, but instead, he must have hit an artery.  Black blood came gushing out. The Orc was strong, and even though it knew it was dying, it reached for Steve.  Steve lashed out with his knife, but it stuck in the armour on its arm.  He jerked back and then he saw it fall to its knees.  He moved about ten feet away.  He was too afraid of its strength to risk coming any closer to check if it was dead yet.  Please, Lord, let it die quickly and not suffer too much, he silently prayed. 

He would have to wait before his knife could be retrieved.  He didn't dare leave it; with most of his arrows gone, it was his only weapon.  He looked around nervously, but he didn't see anyone else, not Orcs or Elves.  He heaved a sigh of relief.  

But when he turned back, he did see someone—another Orc looking really ticked off, holding a bow.  There was an instant of terror, and the impact of something hard and heavy thudding into his body.  He was knocked to his back, and knew no more.

-oo000oo-

*A/N: Psalm 91:5 "You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day." NIV

Information about the hand-to-hand combat and the knife fighting came from "The 9 dirtiest and most effective hand-to-hand combat moves" https://www.businessinsider.com/the-9-dirtiest-and-most-effective-hand-to-hand-combat-moves-2015-8 and "Alexander Popov Knife Combat" http://rageuniversity.com/PRISONESCAPE/PRISON%20FIGHTING%20AND%20WEAPONS/knife%20combat%20spetnaz.pdf






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