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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 69: The Journey
Well, thought Gail, we are finally getting on the way. The boats were all arranged in the River. Gail would be in one boat with Megan, Avorn, and Mairen; Steve would be in the next boat with Kaylee and Glorfindel. Lucy would be riding with Radagast, who had decided to come along with them, and Raendir would be with him, and much of their gear. There were four other boats with the rest of the Elves who had come with them from Rivendell. Right now, they were still on the bank, on a spit of land within a cove of the bend in the River. They'd already been treated to a lavish farewell breakfast, and now they stood, all solemnly lined up.
The little girls, and even Lucy, seemed to realize that this was a serious occasion. Galadriel stood behind a row of her handmaidens, including Lassiel. Celeborn stood next to her, looking solemn.
First, Galadriel came forward with a goblet, which she offered to each of the adults, but shook her head with a gentle smile at Kaylee and Megan. They nodded obediently, knowing that was a drink only for adults. Steve and Gail took as small a sip as they could and still be polite, but the drink was not harsh, and there was no smell of alcohol, though both knew it contained a small amount. The maidens then came to them with simple light cloaks of greyish-green, or was it greenish-grey? The colour seemed to shift with movement. The handmaidens set the cloaks about their shoulders and fastened them at their throats with beautiful brooches, each one shaped like a mallorn leaf, green enamel with veins of silver. It was Lassiel who fastened Megan's brooch, and Megan reached out to hug her.
"I'm gonna miss you, Lassiel," she said softly.
Lassiel returned the embrace. "And I, you, little one." She also gave a similar embrace to Kaylee, though she was not the maiden bestowing Kaylee's cloak. She met Mairen's eyes as she stood, and then Gail's, but merely nodded, before she stepped back. Gail was really going to miss Lassiel as well.
Thorchon and another Elf whose name Gail could not recall stood behind the Lord and Lady. Both of them had laden arms. The Lady turned to Thorchon, and then turned back. In her hands, she now held a silver belt and a beautifully wrought dagger. She fastened the belt around Steve and made sure that the dagger was hanging in its scabbard. "Such is the gift we gave unto your sons. May you have little need of it."
Steve nodded. "I know what you mean, but it's as well to be prepared. Thanks." He exchanged a look with his wife.
Gail looked surprised as Lady Galadriel removed the wide, but plain, belt that Gail was wearing, and fastened a beautiful new one about her waist. It was long, of green and gilt leather, and wrapped twice around her waist before hanging down in front almost to the hem of her dress. On it, the Lady added other items.
"Here is a journal for you. In it, you may record your thoughts in the days ahead of you." There was a long leather case, embossed with silver, hanging from a red cord; also hanging from it was a small porcelain jar. "The case contains two pens of reed, a silver stylus, and a penknife, and the jar has ink."
Gail smiled ruefully. "I've never used a pen like that in my life, and I have no experience with penknives. I've always used pencils and ballpoint pens, and you don't need knives to sharpen them."
"You may learn. You have quite a journey ahead of you." The Lady gave a mischievous sideways glance at Mairen and a little smile. With a twinkle in her eyes and a little smile of her own, Mairen nodded.
Gail laughed. "Thank you."
Now Galadriel bent down to Kaylee and Megan and handed them each a little set of reed pipes. Each one had four reeds in graduated lengths. "Here, little ones, are pipes, that you may make music upon your journey." Megan looked puzzled, but Kaylee put her lips to the pipes and blew. The sound was gentle and not at all shrill.
Gail looked down at them. "What do you say, Kaylee and Megan?"
"Thank you," the sisters chorused. Because, at three, Megan was unable to manage the th sound, she pronounced the first word as "t'ank."
Lord Celeborn leaned towards Steve and Gail. "There are only four notes, all perfectly matched to sound well together. There will be no discordance," he whispered.
"Thank goodness for that," said Steve.
Gail turned toward Galadriel. "I want to thank you for everything you've done for us. And for our other children."
Galadriel smiled. "It was our pleasure, Gail. When you arrive in Minas Tirith, perhaps it is that you will find your older children there."
Gail nodded. "You saw that in the Mirror." It wasn't a question.
Galadriel nodded back. "Yes, I did, though it is not always a perfect guide, for as I told you, things can change for good or ill. The future is a river with many streams, and it is not set until you pass it."
Steve exchanged a smile with Gail. "Well, we are all looking forward to that reunion, wherever it occurs." Gail nodded agreement, and Kaylee and Megan bounced in anticipation. Steve shook hands with Celeborn, and then with Galadriel. "Thank you."
Gail smiled. "Yes, thank you."
Now it was time to get into the boats. After all the practice over the last couple of days, there was no awkwardness. As the leaving party began rowing from the cove towards the River, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel followed in their swan ship, and as they rode the current into the mainstream of the Anduin, the Lady sang.
Gail could not understand the words of the song, for they were not in Westron, but it was so hauntingly sad. At last they were on their way to find Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey, and she was glad that they would soon be reunited. But at the same time, she was sad to be leaving this beautiful place.
Once Galadriel finished singing and her swan boat disappeared from around the bend, Kaylee’s childish treble piped up. "'Ding-dong, the witch is dead!'" she began to sing once more. But in their boat, Megan began playing her new pipes.
Gail hoped that Kaylee would move onto another song soon, but she was in the boat with Steve, and so Gail decided to let Kaylee's daddy deal with it. She much preferred the sound of the little pipes, which sounded soothing, no matter how Megan blew them.
Riding in the Elven boats on the Anduin River seemed a swift way to travel. The scenery passed by quickly, and it seemed no time until they had passed the last of the mellyrn.
It was quiet, except for the girls. Kaylee had stopped singing, and Gail could now hear her playing on her own set of pipes. Megan had asked for an apple, but only finished half of it before falling asleep with her head in Gail's lap. Gail found herself nearly dozing off a couple of times, her mind falling into a daydream of finding her older children and imagining their reunion. She was rather startled when she heard a faint call in Elvish and realized Glorfindel was signalling the other boats. He was guiding his boat to the bank, and the rest—including the boat she was in—were following his lead.
"Is something wrong?" Gail asked.
"No," said Avorn. "We are simply taking a small rest." He looked fondly at Megan, who was beginning to stir.
"Mommy? I need to potty." She could see Steve had lifted Kaylee from their boat, and he approached Gail with Kaylee by the hand.
"Kaylee has to 'go'," he said.
Gail nodded. "Apparently so does Megan." With Megan held by one hand and Kaylee by the other, she began to lead them towards a small copse of trees nearby. Come to think of it, her own bladder was rather in need of a stop as well.
The Elves took advantage of the stop to bring out some of the food supplies. There was bread, fruit, and cheese—a normal Elven noon meal. Gail had not noticed, but Steve pointed out that the shadows were short and the sun nearly overhead.
As they prepared to go on the way once more, Steve and Gail switched children, so that Steve had Megan and Gail had Kaylee.
The afternoon passed much as the morning had. With Avorn's permission, Kaylee was briefly allowed to "paddle the boat" as she asked, though of course, Avorn had his hands on the oar as well. In the meantime, Mairen showed Gail how to use the stylus on her notebook—it was rather like a pencil in a way, although somewhat different. The stylus made fainter marks on the pages than a pencil did, and she had to be careful not to press too hard and make holes in the pages. And of course, she could not erase any mistakes.
"When we stop for the evening, I will show you how to use your pen and your penknife," said Mairen.
"Thank you," said Gail. "I never thought of keeping a journal. It would be difficult to use a pen like this while in a moving boat."
"You say the pens of your homeland are different?"
"Yes. A few people do still use this kind, but only to create art with them. Most people use pens that have the ink already loaded inside; while there are other kinds, the most popular are called ballpoint pens, and that's the kind Steve and I are familiar with. Steve brought one of his with him when we came here. It is much easier than having to stop and dip all the time, especially since the ink tends to drip on the paper when you have to do that. Our pens can last many days without having to be re-loaded. And in addition to pens, we also use pencils." Gail smiled. "The big advantage with pencils is that you can erase your mistakes and start over, whereas you can't with a pen. Pencils come equipped with erasers for that job."
"Interesting." Mairen smiled. "Well, I think you will find our pens easier to use than you think. And you will learn how to keep it from dripping." Gail smiled ruefully. She wasn't so sure. "If you make an error, simply cross through it with a single stroke. That is the neater way to do it."
Gail used the stylus to write the English alphabet on the first page, both upper and lowercase letters, and found it easier than she had thought it would be to manage writing in the boat.
There was one other brief stop in the afternoon, during which time, at Gail’s request, Steve showed his ballpoint pen to Mairen and demonstrated how it worked, and then they continued down the River until dusk, when they all stopped for the night. The day had been easier than she had thought it would be.
I wonder what it was like for our other children when they travelled down this river? she thought. When we're reunited, I mean to ask them.
For several days, the journey continued in a similar fashion. The girls occasionally got fussy or bored. One day, Radagast took both girls in his boat, and Gail rode with Steve and Glorfindel, while Lucy rode with Avorn and Mairen, which made a nice change. Over and over again during the river journey, in addition to playing her pipes, Kaylee would sing "'Ding-Dong, the Witch is Dead,'" much to the adults' eventual exasperation.
"You'd think she'd think of something else to sing for a change," Gail said in a low voice one evening, after the little girls were asleep. "I mean, I'm as glad as anyone that Sauron is dead, but this is really getting on my nerves!"
Steve laughed. "I know, hon; same here." He put an arm around his wife’s shoulder. "But if you stop and think about it, this is as close as Kaylee can get to understanding what's happened. At five years of age, she can't begin to understand how destroying a Ring can kill anyone. But she has seen a wicked witch being melted by a bucket of water."
Gail sighed. "True. She's seen it in the movie, and she's listened to it being read to her in a book. And you're right, that is as close as she can come to understanding what has happened."
Mostly to keep track of the days, Gail began to write brief entries in the journal, at first with the stylus, but later with one of the pens as she got better at using them. Some of Gail's entries were short indeed, only saying things like "Day four on the River." But on the eighth day, she knew she would have more to write.
They had spent most of the day floating through miles of cliffs on the west and dreary brown rocks and even more cliffs on the eastern side, when she noticed they were approaching some rather rough water. She could see white water ahead, and she grew nervous.
"Do not fear, Gail," said Avorn, as he watched Gail take Megan firmly in her lap and began to attach the hithlain rope to the harness Megan was already wearing. "We shall go to the bank before we reach the rapids of Sarn Gebir and take a portage way past the rapids."
Soon Gail glanced over to see that Glorfindel was guiding the boat towards the bank where there was a small shallow bay. A few low trees grew there close to the water, and behind them rose a steep rocky bank. Avorn steered their boat after his. Steve hopped out as the first boat touched the bank and helped to guide it up and out of the water. Soon Avorn and Mairen did the same with the boat she and Megan were in, and one by one, the other boats came to halt in a neat, slightly angled line along the shore.
"We will portage the boats past the rapids," said Glorfindel. "Raendir, you and Thenor scout to find the portageway path. There used to be a stair all the way to the foot of Rauros Falls from here, but I do not know whether it is still well kept. Report back, and we shall see how far we can carry the boats ere we take to the water again."
Raendir and Thenor went off to scout. During their absence, the rest of the company had a light lunch, and Radagast spent some time tossing a length of heavy knotted rope for Lucy to chase and bring back. Both of the little girls joined in the fun, glad of the chance to run and play after being cooped up in the boats most of the morning. It was a longer break than the group had normally taken during their river journey, but it was not quite three hours later when the two Elves reappeared.
"The head of the path is about a furlong from the shore. It is in fair shape for a little more than a mile, which will lead us past the rapids," Raendir reported. "The stream calms down after that. The portageway is less well-kept beyond there for at least four leagues. But we did not go much further, since we knew that you were waiting."
Glorfindel stood in thought for a few moments, and then nodded to himself. "Very well. Radagast and Steve, you will stay here with Gail and Mairen and the children. The rest of us will see to carrying the boats. Let us unload them, for we shall have to carry the supplies after we have moved the boats."
Everyone, including Kaylee and Megan, helped with the task of moving the supplies from the boats and stacking them neatly in a pile. Lucy sat next to a tree, watching them all, her tail thumping the ground.
According to Glorfindel, the boats were light, but to speed the journey, three elves carried each boat, while Glorfindel and Corunir walked in front to keep watch, in case of any unexpected trouble. This time, all except Corunir, who had remained to watch the boats, returned in less than two hours. Now they had another trip to make, with everyone this time. Only Gail and Mairen were not carrying anything, in case Kaylee or Megan got tired and needed to be carried.
It’s a good thing, too, thought Gail. Grey boulders and rocks were tumbled in the way, and the footing was unsure. There were what Kaylee called "sticker-bushes", squishy mud puddles, and even bogs in the way.
This trip took much longer, especially since Gail and Mairen ended up carrying the girls most of the way. Finally, they arrived at the portageway itself, and there they all took another breather. The Elves were fine, but Steve, Gail, and even Radagast were all winded and tired.
The pathway was easier to traverse, though there was still brush to contend with, and broken rocks.
Finally, the path turned back to the water, which ran gently down to the shallow edge of a little pool. It seemed to have been scooped in the river-side, not by hand, but by the water swirling down from Sarn Gebir against a low pier of rock that jutted out some way into the stream.
"We shall stop here for the night," said Glorfindel. "The afternoon is drawing on." They proceeded to make camp.
The next morning, they woke to mist and fog. Still, they began the journey early, and very soon the fog burned off, and the day was pleasant.
Gail was lost in thought as Megan tooted gently on her panpipes, so she was startled when Avorn spoke up:
"Look ahead of you; there is a sight there worth seeing, I think."
He was quite right. Up ahead was something that took her breath away: two amazing statues stood on either side of the river. Two kings, each with a hand upraised, carved out of the living rock. They were both immense, almost as tall as a skyscraper, dwarfing the Statue of Liberty, and even more detailed than the faces on Mount Rushmore. They were still miles from them, and yet Gail had no problem seeing them in all their majesty.
Megan stood up in the boat and pointed, wide-eyed. "Look, Mommy!"
"Whoa!" Kaylee exclaimed, also standing up, as she gaped up at the statues. Gail heard Steve tell Kaylee sharply to sit down.
Even the Elves looked somewhat in awe. Mairen was shaking her head. "It is hard to believe that Men could create such works!"
"Who are they?" Gail asked.
"They are Isildur and Anárion, sons of Elendil, Kings of Gondor and Arnor. They mark the northern border of Gondor. We shall be making camp not far beyond there," said Avorn.
Gondor! That's where Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey are! Thank You, Lord, Gail prayed silently, for bringing us this far. Please bring us to them soon!
A/N: Our thanks to Stephen Tempest, Ernest W. Adams, and John Savidge of Quora for their assistance in figuring out the way from Sarn Gebir to Rauros.
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