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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 68: Back to Life
He could feel something rumbling beneath him, and discomfort breaking through the fog Kevin had been in for...? For how long? There was a distinct bump that jolted him, and he could not prevent crying out, as it seemed certain parts of his body each called for attention. He felt aches and pains everywhere. What on earth had happened to him?
"Kevin?" A low familiar voice spoke next to him. Who was it? "Kevin, are you all right? Do you need some water?"
Kevin forced his eyes to open, and then he blinked them closed again, before he could open them and focus. "H—Haleth? What…?" He stopped to breathe and then cleared his throat. "What's going on?"
"Do you remember the battle?"
Suddenly it came back to him. "Pippin!"
Haleth nodded. "You saved Pippin when a troll was falling on him."
A wave of relief washed over him. "Saved. That means he's okay."
"Well, he is at least as 'okay' as you are." Haleth spoke the unfamiliar word with hesitance, though he had heard Kevin use it often enough to know what it meant. "He is on the other side of the waggon. He has not wakened. He has some injuries but will recover."
Kevin shook his head, confused. "Uh, wait—where did you come from? I left you way back—Aragorn said you weren't supposed to go to the battle." Bits and pieces were slowly coming back to him.
"I was back at the waggons with the other wounded, of course, lamenting my foolishness in trying to go to the battle when I was unready. And yet I was beginning to feel much better. If only I had a few more days, I was sure I could fight. Then Lord Elfhelm and the lady healer came walking back to where we were…
"Listen, men, things are likely to get worse than better in a few hours," Lord Elfhelm told the wounded soldiers, a grave look on his face. "You must remain here while we go forward into battle. But there may be more enemies than we expected, and it may be that wounded as you are, you may yet find yourselves having to fight as best you can for your lives. If we cannot hold back an army of Southrons who approach us, they are likely to overwhelm us all." He paused, scanning their faces.
"We shall only be able to leave a couple of able-bodied Men to stay with you. All the rest of us will be needed to the South. With luck, we can hold them back until the morrow. May fortune be with you."
Elfhelm turned and left, and the healer was left in command. The two men being left with the wounded were also the drivers, and she ordered them to move the waggons to a place of greater concealment between a rocky outcrop of boulders and a thicket near a copse of trees.
The day grew longer and darker and more and more grim and silent. Haleth had no idea how many hours had passed. He sat with his sword upon his knees. The healer came among them with some sort of foul-tasting tonic, and they were given some journeybread to munch on. Haleth was not hungry, but the tonic was so awful that he munched on the bread a little to kill its taste. He really wished he knew what was happening elsewhere, or how long they would have to wait before the Southrons came to slay them all. How was Kevin faring in his errand to warn the main army of the possible reinforcements for the Enemy?
The sky began to darken even more, and what little breeze could be found died down. Haleth felt as though he was suffocating. Time halted.
Then after he knew not how long, the darkness suddenly began to roll away, and the sky began to clear. To the East, a great cloud of smoke arose, lingered briefly, and then blew away. It left a blue sky as it dissipated into nothing. Haleth felt a great weight lift from his heart.
And then there was a shadow overhead, and for an instant, Haleth feared it was one of the Enemy's Dwimmerlaiks on a Fell Beast—but no, this shadow did not feel like that. It was an Eagle! And it was crying out a message:
"Sing now, ye Armies of the Men of the West!
Sauron the Deceiver is no more!
His tower is thrown down, and his realm is ended!
Sing and be glad, warriors of the West!"*
Haleth looked up into the sky as the Eagle flew on in the direction of those who had gone on to engage the enemy. Pray they were not too late...
"Our small army had been fighting valiantly, and though the fight had barely begun, it did not look well for them. But when the Eagle announced that the battle had ended and Sauron was gone, and that his forces had been routed, the rest of the enemy retreated at once at that news.
"It was only a matter of hours when they returned to us, bringing a few more wounded. Lord Elfhelm and Lord Amrothos and the healer all decided to leave only the most severely wounded where they were, and to bring the remaining waggons to the battlefield. Thankfully I was no longer considered severely wounded, so I got to come along. Oh—" And here, Haleth looked confused. "—we found your horse Bron running loose. We were sure you had been killed. I am glad we were wrong, for I had been grieving you."
"I'm sorry," Kevin said, feeling touched at Haleth's admission. "Bron threw me when we were attacked by a lone orc. But I was rescued by an Eagle! The Eagle brought me to the battlefield in time." Kevin drew a deep breath. "Can I have some of that water you offered me?"
Haleth helped Kevin to sit just enough to be able to sip out of the waterskin. The moisture was very welcome. The movement reminded him that his head hurt, his back was really sore, and there was a throbbing ache in his right shoulder. And he was tired, but he wanted answers still.
"How long have I been out?" Kevin had to clear his throat again before he could get the words out.
"Two days—well, two and a half, if you count the day of the battle.” Haleth took a swallow out of his own waterskin. “The whole army is traveling to a place called Cormallen, to rest and treat the wounded, and wait for supplies to be brought to us from Minas Tirith."
Kevin gave a slight nod. He wanted to ask how long it would take to get there, but he was already feeling worn out by the brief conversation, and felt himself drifting back to sleep.
The next time he wakened, it must have been many hours later. The wagon was no longer moving, and it was dark, but someone was sitting next to him. He had a headache, and his mouth tasted nasty and was very dry. But his stomach was rumbling. "Who's there?" Kevin managed to force out a whisper—he wasn't sure if he could even be heard.
He was relieved to hear a familiar voice. "'Tis Gimli, lad," the Dwarf said. "I'm watching you, and yes, Pippin as well. Are you thirsty, Kevin?"
Kevin started to nod, but his head suddenly was shot through with pain, which made him wince. When he no longer saw stars, he said, "I'm thirsty, and my head hurts, and I think I'm hungry."
Gimli gently lifted his head and gave him a small sip of water. Then he turned and called softly, "Legolas!"
Kevin heard the Elf answer. "Yes?"
Gimli said, "Kevin is awake, and he is in pain. Also, he thinks he might be hungry. Would you see if you can find one of the healers?"
Kevin sighed. He was so tired and achy, and he would go back to sleep if he was just not so uncomfortable...just then he heard a low moan.
"Merry? Where's Merry?"
He felt Gimli turn, and heard him say, "Shush—shush, Pippin. Merry will be coming soon."
The Dwarf turned to tend to Pippin, also giving the hobbit some water.
Kevin finally managed to force out a normal voice. "I'm here, too, Pippin!"
"Kevin?" Pippin asked, before giving a brief cough. "Ow! It hurts to cough!"
Kevin said, "Well, we kind of got squashed by a troll together. We probably shouldn't do that again."
Pippin started to laugh, and then moaned. "Hurts to laugh," he managed to wheeze out.
Gimli said, "Well, you might wish to avoid laughing out loud for a wee while."
"That is a good idea," came a new voice. It was Aragorn, and there were some other people with him, and soon Kevin felt familiar hands on his brow, and the soothing smell of athelas, and he was being given some sips of a salty hot broth and herbs. It was very soon that he began to fall asleep again. He wanted to ask Aragorn if, since Merry was coming, did that mean Jen and Joey would come, too? But it was too much effort right now...
After Kevin drifted off, Aragorn went around the other side of the wagon to tend to Pippin, and then spoke to the apprentice healer who had accompanied him; the apprentice trotted off on whatever errand he had been sent on. "Thank you, Legolas and Gimli, for your watch of these two brave young ones. Gandalf is with Frodo and Sam, and I must re-join him."
"How are they?" asked Gimli.
"The only major injuries have been Frodo's missing finger and a nasty concussion for Sam. Of course, among the minor injuries, there are numerous cuts and bruises, and their feet are in sad shape for hobbits. And on the back of Frodo's neck was some sort of bite, and it was cut and bleeding from the chain on which the Ring was placed." His face grew grim. "And whip lashes on Frodo's back, and on the backs of their legs…"
"Orcs," Legolas said grimly.
Aragorn nodded. "At some point, we know they must have been captive."
"That foul Mouth of Sauron," said Gimli, and spat on the ground. He swore rather vehemently in Khuzdul.
Aragorn did not bother to reprove him and continued his litany of injuries. "Frodo and Sam were also covered in blisters and burns from the mountain. And half-starved and parched. And of course, nearly poisoned by the foul fumes of the dark land. It is a wonder that they even live; they were on the threshold of death when the Eagles brought them back. Hobbits are remarkably durable. But what worries me most is the finger…"
"We know what that might mean," said Legolas sadly.
With a sigh, Aragorn nodded agreement. "And now, I must return to them, and to Gandalf; continue taking care of Pippin and Kevin, my friends."
He went the short distance to the next wagon. Gandalf was there and turned to look at him. "They are the same, Aragorn. The healing sleep holds."
"Yes, it is the best way. I will have to bring them out of it from time to time, just enough to make sure they get the liquids and nourishment they need, but they will go right back to sleep afterwards. The sleep needs to be deep enough to allow their bodies to begin mending.
"Sam is deeply asleep, and dreams of the Shire and of gardens and home," Gandalf replied. "Frodo is not as deeply asleep as he should be. He, too, dreams of the Shire, but sees it in ashes and ruin, and believes it to be all his own fault."
Aragorn sighed. "I shall need to send him deeper, then, beyond dreams."
"He must dream in time, or he will never heal. But I agree, for a time. I shall monitor him, and with your permission, ask Irmo to send him a few special dreams. The dreams he sends will bring strength and healing." Aragorn noticed that Gandalf seemed to shine like Glorfindel when he said that.
"I would say that you have my permission, Gandalf the White." He smiled. "You are one of Frodo's oldest friends and have known him since he was a child. I daresay that you will know when he needs to dream easily."
"Thank you, Aragorn. And how are Pippin and Kevin?"
"They are as well as could be expected. I still am rather stunned at the thought of Pippin slaying a troll all by himself, yet the Guardsmen who were there attest to it. And they thought that Pippin would have died beneath the beast had Kevin not rushed to shield him with his own body."
"Then it is well that Thorondor was sent to bear Kevin hence, to be at the battle." Gandalf moved a few feet away and took out his pipe. "Downwind; I know not to smoke too near our injured friends. Do you have your pipe, or will you share? I still have some of the pipeweed Merry and Pippin liberated from Isengard."
"I do still have my pipe," Aragorn replied, "but not on my person at this time. I will be glad to share, old friend."
And in the darkness, the scent of sweet galenas wafted away from the two figures who stood watch over the Ringbearers.
*A/N: The Eagle's verse is modeled on the verse used in canon, but modified for this chapter.
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