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Summary: In the spring of 2012, four American children find themselves thrust into an unfamiliar world and part of an unexpected adventure. This story is AU, and blends Lord of the Rings book-verse and movie-verse. This story also contains a lot of spiritual and religious content as a part of the AU elements.
Disclaimer: The world of Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien; the three films of The Lord of the Rings belongs to New Line Cinema and to Peter Jackson. This story is not for profit, but is a gift for the enjoyment of those who read it.
Citations: In most chapters, there will be some quotations directly from both the books and/or the movies. Quotations from Tolkien's books are in italics, and quotations from the movies are underlined. Occasional quotations from other sources as well as silent dialogue, words spoken in emphasis, and passages from the Bible will also be in italics, and those citations will be footnoted at the end of each chapter in which they occur. We will also footnote research sources and credit the ideas of other people.
Thanks: We would also like to acknowledge the invaluable help of our beta, Linda Hoyland, another well-known and prolific LotR fanwriter, whose many wonderful stories also grace this site.
Chapter 66: Just Keep Swimming
The day after the Ring had been destroyed, Steve was up and around some, although the Elven healer who attended him had advised him to take it easy. He walked slowly about the pavilion, with his little daughters following him anxiously at first, as though they expected him to fall down any minute. When they realized he seemed to really be all right, they darted outside with giggles, to play in front of the pavilion. Gail, too, had been observing him, and she joined him as he sat down on a chair next to the table of fruit, cheese, and other breakfast items. After she had taken a seat next to her husband, she began to serve both of them plates of food.
"I really am feeling a lot better, though I'm still a little wobbly…" Steve told his wife.
"Well, it's a good thing that Lord Celeborn declined your offer to go with the Elves, to go across the River.”
Steve smiled ruefully. “Well, I’m really in no shape to fight anyway, and I know it, but I had to at least offer, so I don’t have to feel that I’m not doing my part.”
“Oh, Steve.” Gail put a hand on his arm. “You’ve done your part and then some! You have done your bit to help the Elves here fight the enemy, so don’t think that you’re slacking now. When you were in the army, wounded soldiers weren’t expected to fight, you know.”
“True.” Steve grimaced. “And for the most part, the reason they got wounded in the first place was because they were fighting! Wounded in the line of duty, as I was the other day.”
“Truer words were never spoken.” Glorfindel entered the pavilion, accompanied by Radagast. “You have done your part, and you have nothing to be ashamed of now.”
"So, what's next?" Steve asked, looking from Glorfindel to Radagast. "I know that the top Enemy is dead, but what about the rest of his crew?"
Glorfindel sat down in one of the other chairs. Radagast helped himself to a plate of fruit, bread, and cheese, and then he also sat down. Glorfindel gave an amused look at the wizard and then turned his attention back to Steve.
"You are quite right—this battle across the river will be about the 'rest of his crew', and also about destroying his former stronghold there. Most of his 'crew', as you call it, are orcish rabble, with few of them intelligent enough to take command. However, they are numerous enough and strong enough to pose a threat to others."
Steve nodded, furrowing his brow. "Who is this Thranduil they spoke of? Is he an ally?"
Glorfindel gave an amused chuckle. "He is, though loath to admit it. Thranduil is descended of Elmo, one of the first Elves to waken at Cuiviénen, brother to Elwë, also known as Thingol, as is Celeborn. Celeborn was the son of Galadhon, who was the son of Elmo. Thranduil is the grandson of Galadwhen, the daughter of Elmo."
Steve and Gail looked at each other. They had heard tales of Cuiviénen in the Hall of Fire at Rivendell, although they did not really remember all the names. It seemed that instead of just one pair of people, as the Lord had done for Adam and Eve, He had paired up a number of Elves there, which seemed to be the Elvish version of the Garden of Eden. At least that was the only way for Steve and Gail to make sense of it.
"Why do you say that this Thranduil is 'loath to admit' the alliance?" Steve asked, frowning. He hoped that Thranduil had not been an enemy of the Lothlórien elves!
Glorfindel shook his head. "It is complicated, as family relations often are. You see, Thingol was not fond of Noldorin Elves—and the Lady Galadriel is one. Even though Galadriel's people had not taken part in the Kinslaying across the Sea, nor did they sail in the stolen ships of the Teleri, they yet followed Fëanor to Middle-earth from Aman. Thingol held all the Noldorin folk to be cursed, whether they had taken part in the Kinslaying or not. So, naturally, when his grand-nephew wed a Noldorin princess, he was unhappy, as was his other grand-nephew, Orophen, Thranduil's father. But over the many years, Thranduil has come to see that his Noldorin in-law is not so bad as all that. Still, he is a little prickly around the Lady Galadriel."
"Oh," said Steve, shaking his head. Gail gave her husband an amused smile. And they had thought it confusing when Bilbo had talked of hobbit genealogy! "Well, I am glad it's no big deal, then."
Radagast laughed out loud, and Glorfindel shook his own head, smiling. "If I understand your meaning, that is so."
Steve shrugged. "So, what is our next move?" He looked at Gail, and then back at Glorfindel.
"The majority of the Lothlórien Elves, as well as myself," answered Radagast, "will be leaving this afternoon, to head once more across the River. There, we will meet with Thranduil and his people to throw down the enemy's stronghold of Dol Guldur. You two and your daughters will remain here, along with Glorfindel and your escort Elves, until that task is safely accomplished. After that is completed and Celeborn and Galadriel return, I believe you will be able to resume your journey to find your older children."
Glorfindel nodded. "As Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey did, you will continue your quest by going down the River."
Gail frowned. “We’re going to need life jackets, then. For Kaylee and Megan. I don’t want them in danger of drowning if the boats should capsize, or if they should fall out of the boats.”
Glorfindel laughed. "Elven boats do not capsize, and we can take care of making sure they do not fall out. I am sorry, Gail, but we have never heard of these 'life jackets'."
Gail turned to Steve. "I don't like it, Steve."
He laid a hand on her arm. "I think that we will have to trust the Elves in this. Kaylee can swim some, and even Megan can dog paddle. I'm sure we can rescue them if they fall out."
Glorfindel looked thoughtful. "Perhaps we could rig some sort of tether, to make certain of that, should they fall out of the boat. That would give us the assurance of hauling them back in. It might be wise to do the same for Lucy as well. I have seen her swim, but she is a rather small dog."
"And still less than half-grown. It might also be a good idea to allow the girls a chance to practice swimming before we set off, as well," added Steve.
“Except for one small problem,” Gail told him. “The water is not warm enough for swimming yet. Otherwise, I’d have no objection.”
"If they fall in, best they expect it to be cold," said Radagast. "River water is cold, after all. The lessons need not be long."
Steve nodded. "If you are concerned for their safety, then Radagast is right. I don't think they will fall in, but it is still much better to be prepared. We won't not let them stay in the water long enough to get hypothermia, sweetheart—just long enough to be sure they know what to do if the worst happens on our trip."
Gail's expression was still unhappy, but she realized that not only was she outnumbered, but they were right, darn it.
That afternoon, Steve, Gail, and the children said farewell to the Lord and Lady, and to Radagast and many other Lothlórien Elves they had come to know before they set off for one more battle, this one across the River. The Elves who had remained were subdued and soon vanished into the trees—even Lassiel. But for the first time in a while, all the Rivendell Elves were together, and Mairen and Avorn were glad to join them in the pavilion, along with a few of the others, including Glorfindel, who found himself with a little girl on each knee.
"Daddy says we can go swimming in the water tomorrow! In the River!" Kaylee told him.
"Yes, because when we leave here, we shall be going in small boats upon the River, and your mother wants to be sure that if you fall out, you can be safe until we pull you back in."
"Small?" asked Kaylee. "Big enough for Lucy?"
"Indeed." Glorfindel grinned.
"What about Barrel?"
Glorfindel shook his head. "Our horses and ponies will wait here in Lothlórien until later, Kaylee. They cannot ride upon the River."
Kaylee gave a big sigh. "I would rather ride Barrel."
"But the River is much faster, and we will find your brothers and sister sooner than if we ride."
"I like boats!" interrupted Megan. "I wanna go inna boat!"
Kaylee frowned. “We’re not gonna wear life jackets?”
Steve shook his head. “The Elves don't have any life jackets, sweetheart.”
Kaylee shrugged. "Oh, okay."
The next morning, Steve and Gail walked the girls down to the River, with Lucy trailing alongside. Mairen and Avorn and Lassiel accompanied them, carrying towels and blankets and firewood. Glorfindel met them there with another Elf, one whom Steve recalled from the battle. Inglor, if he recalled right. Inglor had his left arm in a sling, which accounted for his not having gone East for the next battle. The two of them had come up with ingenious leather harnesses that would fit over each of the girls' shoulders, back, and chest. There was a ring in front of each, where the girls could be tethered to lightweight ropes. Mairen and Lassiel helped the girls undress down to their shifts and underwear.
"The water is very cold, little one," Glorfindel said to Megan, as he adjusted the harness and tied the rope in place.
"I don't care!" Megan answered, smiling and bouncing in anticipation. "I like to swim!"
Kaylee looked more dubious. "How cold?" Steve was helping her put on her harness.
Steve laughed at his daughters. "Hop in, kids, and find out." Gail, who was seated against a nearby mallorn trunk, gave him a rather sour look. The sun was high enough that the air was warm on the sunny bank, but she knew just how cold the water was.
She watched in trepidation and saw both of them shudder as they stepped off the shallow bank. Kaylee stopped, but Megan waded in, and soon was dog paddling eagerly, with Lucy splashing beside her. Kaylee had stopped when she was only knee-high, but yelled, "Hey, stop splashing!"
"Go on in," Steve said firmly.
Kaylee still hesitated, but then Lucy pounced at her, and she was all in. She spluttered, but quickly began to paddle around as well.
As the girls splashed in the water, Inglor built a small campfire, his injured arm barely inconveniencing him, and soon Lassiel was heating water to make some warm tea. Gail kept her eagle eye on her little daughters, and when she noticed them shivering and their lips beginning to turn blue, she rose to her feet and approached the bank. "OK, it's time to come in, girls. You're getting too cold!" she shouted.
Kaylee at once headed for the bank, but Megan just shouted back, "I'm n—n—not c—c—cold, Mommy!"
Megan did love the water, Gail thought. When they went to the pool at the park, it was nearly impossible to get her out, even when she was shivering and her lips nearly purple.
"Hey!" Megan yelled. Glorfindel was bringing her in easily by simply tugging on the rope attached to her harness. "T—t—t'at's n—no f—f—fair!" Glorfindel laughed, and Steve and Gail chuckled.
“No, little one, it is time for you to get out of the water,” Glorfindel told the shivering three-year-old, as he rubbed her with a towel.
“Glorfindel’s right,” Steve told her firmly. “It’s still too early in the year to spend much time in the water, Megan.”
“That’s right!” Kaylee added emphatically, as she stepped out of the river and raced toward the others, shivering with cold.
Seeing her little mistresses coming out of the river, Lucy ran up and began shaking herself and then rolling on the ground. As soon as she was sufficiently dried, she picked up a nearby twig and began to play with it.
Before long, all were seated around the campfire, enjoying cups of mint tea and some small pastries that Mairen and Lassiel had brought along. Lucy had dropped the twig and was licking her front paws.
Gail leaned against Steve, and said, "You know, I wouldn't have thought so, but those harnesses seem to work just as well as life jackets do, and they are less bulky than life jackets, too."
"Not to mention that both our girls still seem to know how to stay afloat and keep their heads above the water. Feel better now?" he asked her quietly.
"Yes, I do." She nodded. At least he hadn't said, "I told you so."
Later on, that afternoon, with harnesses in place, including one for Lucy, the McClouds were introduced to Elven boats. They went down to the bank and saw several Elves paddling up and down the River in the area where the girls had been swimming that morning.
Gail was impressed by their beauty. They were much more streamlined than typical rowboats, and wider than canoes. The lightweight wood they were made of was a silvery-grey colour with a fine grain. The paddles were leaf-shaped, and even had veining carved to make them look even more leaf-like. She was still slightly doubtful about them not being able to capsize.
She mentioned this to Glorfindel. He laughed at her, and then cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted out to the Elves in the boats. There were three Elves in each boat, so two of them in one boat stood up and then stepped up to stand on the same side of one boat. It tipped just slightly, but did not capsize. Then the other one stood up next to them, and again it tipped a little, but stayed upright. Then two Elves from another boat jumped in the water and swam over, and pulled at the side to hoist themselves in. Then those two stood up on the side. There were now five Elves standing on the same side of one boat, and it was still just gently bobbing there, slightly tipped. Then all of them bent their knees, and this time the boat listed almost to the water line. They dove into the water, all of them, and the boat simply righted itself.
Gail's eyes were wide. Glorfindel gazed down at her. "Do you believe it now?"
She nodded rapidly. "Uh-huh!" She shook her head, wide-eyed. "If only we humans could invent a capsize-proof boat!"
The Elves who had jumped in splashed and played for a while, and then one of them climbed back into the boat, which had just floated there.
After a bit of experimentation, it was decided that two Elves, one adult, and one child to a boat would be how the McClouds would be transported, with Lucy in the same boat as Gail and Megan, while Steve and Kaylee rode in another. That would be two of the boats. Then they would need four more boats, with three Elves apiece in three of them, and one Elf to paddle the boat containing their supplies.
They spent the rest of the day getting used to the boats they would be using, and Gail and Steve practiced paddling. Both of them had done some canoeing in the past, when they had camped. But it was a little different with these boats, which were larger. Gail expected the leaf-shaped paddles to be difficult to use, but in spite of their size, they were perfectly balanced, and they placed less strain on the back and arms than the paddles she had used in the past.
The little girls were also getting used to their harnesses, and they found that they could sit next to one side of each boat and trail their fingers in the water, while Lucy eagerly went from one side to the other to bark and startle the swans and other waterfowl that paddled about in that part of the River. In spite of her back-and-forth scampering, Lucy and Megan managed to not tangle the tether ropes at all, which was a relief to Gail. She remarked on this to the Lothlórien Elf who was in the boat with them. His name was Inglor.
He smiled. "The rope is of our making," he answered, "and hithlain does not tangle easily."
They were nearly ready to stop for the afternoon when a large thrush landed on the stern of the boat in which Steve rode, next to Glorfindel. It cocked its head and hopped up on his forearm. From the other boat, Lucy began barking madly, but the bird completely ignored her as Glorfindel held it up near his face, and they appeared to have a conversation. Steve and Gail looked at one another in confusion. After a few moments, the Elf lifted his arm, and the thrush flew off.
Glorfindel looked at Steve, but spoke loud enough for Gail to hear in the other boat. “Radagast has sent word: our folk have met with the Elven-King Thranduil, and between them, they have driven the remaining Orcs from the vicinity of Dol Guldur. The only guards remaining seem to be a small group of Easterlings and an elderly Fell Beast within Dol Guldur itself. Tomorrow, when the Sun shows her face, Radagast will raise a perimeter of protection for the land surrounding the fortress, and our Lady Galadriel will lay waste to the foundations of that dread place.”
“And then they will return to Lothlórien?” Steve asked; Glorfindel nodded. “That is indeed good news, all of it.” Steve smiled, and then frowned. “Uh, Glorfindel, what is a Fell Beast?”
"They are eldritch creatures out of the ancient times. Some say they are the stock from which Melkor created dragons. It is certainly possible, but none truly know the answer. They are ugly flying creatures sometimes used for the Nazgûl to ride upon."
Eldritch. Haven't thought of that word since I read Lovecraft back in college, he thought.
The little family was tired and sweaty after their day on the water; they stopped by the bathing springs on their way to the pavilion to clean up. Steve had to carry Kaylee, and Megan fell asleep in Gail's arms as, warm and clean, they made their way to the pavilion.
In addition to the usual bread, fruit, and cheese, they had been left a platter of cold meats and a hot brothy soup filled with bits of some kind of meat and lots of vegetables. Gail fed Megan, who had awakened but was still sleepy, and who did not want much more than a little bread and broth. Kaylee ate a little more than that, but she, too, was more tired than hungry.
Once they had tucked the little girls into their cot, Steve and Gail helped themselves to their own meals and spoke together quietly of their day. They were not sore after their exertion as they had thought they would be, but they were very assuredly tired.
"Once Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel return, we should be able to leave fairly soon," said Steve. "Although I imagine there will be a few days to prepare, and for reconnaissance to make sure there are no straggling enemies nearby."
“No doubt.” Gail nodded agreement. "I will be so glad to get started. I do love it here in Lothlórien and could easily stay for ages, if it wasn't that we need to find the rest of our family! I am so glad that the War is over, and that Ring is destroyed. Everyone should be safe now."
Steve nodded. "But don't think the danger is completely over. There is always more trouble in the wake of a war than you would expect. And besides, even though Sauron is now out of commission, along with Melkor—and I thank the Lord for that!—there are still Satan and his demons to contend with, and that’ll be the case until Jesus returns."
She snuggled next to him. "Well, tonight, I can't think that far. Remember, it says in Matthew: ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’”
Steve laughed and squeezed her shoulders. "Truer words were never spoken! I do tend to get carried away, don’t I? Well, at least our children are all safe from Sauron now.” He kissed her. “Let's get some rest, shall we? We will need to practice being in the boats again tomorrow." With a smile, she nodded, and the two of them closed their eyes and drifted off.
The following day was not quite so pleasant, for they stayed in the boats almost the whole time once they had begun, with only the most necessary and urgent stops for Kaylee and Megan when Lucy was also taken back on shore to relieve herself. Except for Lucy, who had been fed before they’d started, they all ate in the boats, small bites of lembas and swallows of water, and there was a sack of apples aboard each one for the girls to snack on. Gail was glad the two children were riding in separate boats, since both of them had become a little cranky before it was time to stop. She knew if both the children had been together in the same boat, there would have been bickering. This would be a rather monotonous trip for them once they started the actual journey down the River, not a whole lot different from long car rides; it shouldn’t be so difficult for Lucy, but the kids would quickly get bored, day after day. So, they would have to keep their goal in mind. And maybe she and Steve could think up some things the children could do to keep busy, as they rolled along the river, as they did whenever they went on a road trip.
They had finished for the day when another bird came down to find Glorfindel. This one was a falcon of some sort, but once more the Elf spoke quietly with it to learn its message. When they were finished, the bird launched itself off into the blue and was soon no more than a speck.
Glorfindel looked at them with his face glowing with joy, even more than usual. "They have taken Dol Guldur. Thranduil himself slew the Fell Beast, and Lady Galadriel has thrown down the walls and laid bare its pits, and the forest is cleansed. They will remain with Thranduil's people for three days of celebration, and then our host will return across the Anduin to come home on the fourth day."
Steve and Gail looked at one another with grins, and Steve held up his palm. "All right!" the two exclaimed, as Gail smacked his hand in a high five.
A/N: The verse Gail quotes is Matthew 6:34.
A/N: Celeborn was a Sindarin prince of Doriath, being the grandson of Elmo the brother of Elwe/Thingol, and thus he was the grand-nephew of the King of Doriath. (Tolkien Gateway)
According to a family tree I found, Celeborn's father Galadhon could possibly have had an unidentified sibling, from whom Oropher, Thranduil, and Legolas were descended. This is speculation, but it fits with the story, so we are adopting it. We decided to make the unidentified sibling a sister, and found a name for her.
I would like to thank Laura Callahan, Hugh Caley, and Moraine Dunne, over at Quora, who confirmed my thoughts that Celeborn and Thranduil were related, although not how. DF
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