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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 70: Someone’s Waiting for You
Jennifer, Joey, Merry, and Bergil were seated on several bundles of supplies stacked in the bow of the ship. The sun was just barely up, and all around them, the sailors and the healers were bustling around them. The four of them were just trying to stay out of the way of those who had things to do.
Joey, Merry, and Bergil watched with interest as it appeared that they were preparing to cast off. Jennifer was not as curious, since she had come to Minas Tirith in a similar ship before the battle. She had been told before they left that the journey would take most of the day; they were going upstream a little over sixteen leagues, or about fifty miles, and as they'd be going against the wind, it would be slower than if the wind was coming from the south.
She wished Éowyn had decided to come, but finally, the Lady of Rohan confessed what Jennifer had suspected: Éowyn did not want to leave Faramir behind. The two of them had been as near to inseparable as they could be, given all that Lord Faramir had to do. While the announcement was not official, Denethor would be giving up the Stewardship, since there would now be a King. But until the King was crowned, someone had to take care of the City, and Boromir was in Cormallen with the Army still.
She recalled the conversation the two of them had the evening before…
"I'm going to miss you a lot, Éowyn," Jennifer said wistfully. "You aren't going, and Firieth has to stay here because only full healers are going. I'm going to be the only girl on the boat."
"I am sorry, Jennifer. Yet my heart is here now." Éowyn smiled and shook her head. "I know what I truly want."
"I know you kind of had, well, a crush, on Aragorn," Jennifer said. “That's why I made sure to let you know he was engaged to Arwen."
"I know that, Jennifer, but I also know your heart was in the right place and that you wished to save me from embarrassment. But I realize now that what I felt for Aragorn was more the feelings of a young warrior admiring a great leader and commander, rather than the feelings of one I would wish to wed. Faramir, too, is a great leader and commander, but my feelings for him go deeper than that." She blushed, and then gave Jennifer a brief embrace. "You have been a good friend to me, dear one, and have been of much comfort to me."
"I know. You, too. I mean...you've been a good friend to me, too." Jennifer sighed. "I must go get some rest—they are making us get up really early."
Éowyn laughed. "I remember you told me the saying in your homeland, 'o-dark-hundred'!" She hugged Jennifer again. "Please remember to give my message to my brother when you arrive. He may be unhappy that I did not come."
Jennifer made her way back to the apprentices' quarters. No one else was there, as Firieth and the others were already taking their night shifts at the Houses of Healing. She said her farewells to them before they went on duty. She lay down, and said her prayers:
“God,” she prayed in a soft voice, “thank You that we’re going to be with Kevin once more, and that Merry’s going to be with Pippin. Please get us all safely to Cormallen tomorrow. And if Mom and Dad are on their way to join us, please get them here safely.” She cleared her throat. “In Jesus’ name, amen.”...
Now they were on their way at last; she watched as the riverbank view glided past, keeping half an eye on Joey and Bergil, but satisfied that Merry was there and keeping an eye on the boys. After all that Joey had been through, he was a lot less overexcited than he would have been a few weeks ago. Bergil was a lot more serious than Joey was anyway, even though they were almost the same age. But she figured that was because he was a Gondorian. The people of Gondor seemed to be more sombre and serious by nature. Plus, Bergil had been through a lot much longer than Joey had; it seemed to have made him grow up much more quickly. He, Joey, and Sador had all become such good friends. It was going to be difficult for Joey to leave all his new friends behind when they went home—if they went home.
For that matter, she thought, I have a feeling it’s going to be hard for us all to settle back into life in Portland if and when we do go back!
After a little while, Merry left Joey and Bergil questioning one of the sailors, who was patiently answering, and came back over to where Jennifer sat.
"How are you?" the hobbit asked.
"I'm okay. I just really want to get there and see how Kevin and the others are doing. I mean I know the messages all said they were doing all right, but I just really want to see for myself." She sighed.
Merry sighed as well. "I understand. I won't be able to relax until I set eyes on Pippin for myself. And Kevin also." He took out his pipe and looked at her. "Do you mind?"
Jennifer shook her head. "Go ahead." She had gotten used to the tobacco smoke from most of the Fellowship, and the pipe smoke was not nearly as nasty as cigarette smoke. If they had been indoors, she wouldn't have liked it, but outside it mostly blew away.
Someone should tell them that nicotine causes cancer, she thought wryly. And it’s so addictive! She remembered how cranky Gandalf had been in Moria. Imagine an angel who smokes!
"I notice that no one here smokes cigarettes," she said. "That's what most people who smoke use where we live. But a lot of places don't allow smoking back home." She hesitated briefly, and then went on. "It's very bad for people and causes all kinds of bad diseases, diseases that affect your lungs. Some of those diseases kill people. And the ingredient tobacco has—nicotine—makes it so easy to get hooked on it."
Merry shrugged. "I've heard that from some healers, but Aragorn smokes. What is a 'cigarette'?"
Obviously Merry did not want to talk about how bad smoking was. She thought a minute. She really wasn't very familiar with cigarettes. "People put the tobacco in a piece of paper and roll it up and light it on the other end and breathe through it. Actually, tobacco companies do that and send them to stores, and people buy them. They come in packages."
Merry's eyes grew wide. "Well, no wonder it makes people sick. That's disgusting. They should stick to a nice pipe."
Jennifer shook her head and dropped the subject. She really knew very little about cigarettes and how they were made. And clearly, Merry wasn't about to listen to her on how bad tobacco was.
She glanced over at Joey and Bergil. The sailor they had been pestering was now showing them how to tie knots in a rope. Merry finished his pipe, tamped it out, and stuck it back in the pouch at his waist. "I wish Gondorian clothes had pockets," he mumbled.
Jennifer grimaced. “No kidding. It’d be easier if they had buttons, too!”
"Oh, well," Merry replied. "A guest doesn't complain about the host's provisions, as Frodo's Aunt Dora would say. I'm just glad that I'm not still running around in rags after the orcs dragged us the length of Rohan." He stuck a hand down to her. "Care for a stroll around the deck?"
Jennifer smiled at him and took his hand to help her stand. Sitting on a sack of what felt like potatoes was not all that comfortable. And it always amazed her at how stout the hobbits were.
The ship was not large, and there were boxes, bales, and bags all over the place, so a "stroll around the deck" was more like an obstacle course than a walk. A promenade deck, it was not! By the time the two of them returned to the bow, the ship's cook was distributing the noon meal: hardtack and mugs of beans. The crew was having a ration of rum, of which Merry also partook.
But the cook's boy handed Jennifer, Joey, and Bergil mugs of hot tea.
"I was tolt," said the cook, "by no less 'n Cap'n Faramir hisself, not to give you younglings no rum."
"Thank you," Jennifer said. "We appreciate his thoughtfulness." She took a sip of her tea. It had been sweetened with honey, she noticed.
The warmth of the sun, the heat, and the waves lapping against the side of the river made Jennifer sleepy after lunch. She found a shady spot against the cabin, where she could sit on a bundle of blankets, and soon drifted off to sleep.
Joey woke her up by shaking her shoulder.
"Ow," she said, wincing. "I have a crick in my neck." She'd been leaning her head at an awkward angle against the cabin wall. She reached up to rub her neck.
"I'm sorry, Jen! But we are almost there!"
She stood up, stiff and sore, and stretched. It was nearly twilight. She looked ahead of the bow—there was an island ahead of them.
Merry and Bergil had joined them. "It's called Cair Andros," said Merry.
The four of them walked all the way to the front of the bow and watched as their ship passed to the right-hand side of the island. There was also a small stream pouring into the Anduin, and just beyond it, Jennifer could see the gleam of many campfires, and there were tall torches glowing along the riverbank. The sun had yet to completely set, and she could see there was a dock built of rough-hewn logs, toward which their ship was headed.
Soon the four of them felt a small bump as the ship came alongside, and they huddled together, along with the four healers who had also made the journey, to stay out of the way while the sailors made the ship fast and put out the gangplank.
Merry had them hang back and allow the healers to go ashore first, and then they headed down the gangplank. It was hard to see, for in spite of the torches, there were pockets of darkness and shadows. But then they heard a familiar voice hailing them. “Merry! Jennifer! Joey! Bergil! Over here!”
It was Legolas, a head taller than the men, and easily able to see them. They could also see that Gimli was at the Elf's side.
Oh, it was so good to see them! Jennifer and Joey raced down, followed closely by Merry and Bergil. Legolas grabbed Jennifer by the shoulders and pulled her into a brief embrace, while Gimli had completely engulfed Joey and was thumping him on the back.
Legolas released Jennifer and placed a hand on Merry's shoulder. "Welcome to Cormallen."
Jennifer noticed that Bergil was being hugged by a man that she had not noticed. Now she realized it was Beregond, a white bandage tied around his head. Both he and Bergil had tears in their eyes. "Ada!" said Bergil. "I was so worried about you!"
Gimli grinned at father and son. "We shall leave you to your reunion, Beregond. These other travellers have their own reunions to see to!"
Beregond nodded and bent down to hear what his son was saying. Legolas strode off through the crowd, mostly those who were seeing to the unloading of the supplies. Jennifer, Joey, and Pippin trotted in his wake while Gimli followed at the rear, to make sure that no one crowded in behind as they made their way. "It’ll be dark soon, so watch your footing in the darkness," Gimli admonished them.
"Kevin and Pippin are in the same tent with Frodo and Sam," said Legolas. "It is a wonder of wonders that Frodo and Sam came alive out of the Enemy's land. But Aragorn has put the two of them into a healing sleep.”
Jennifer nodded, taking in what he was saying; though she had questions about Kevin, she saved her breath for keeping up with the Elf as the sun finished setting behind them. Soon they passed through a pleasant glade of trees covered with fragrant white blossoms. Through the branches, the moonlight and starlight were bright. A few soldiers were sitting around beneath the trees, and Jennifer noticed that many of them had bandages or slings. "Those are tree heathers,” Legolas told her. “This is a pleasant place for those who are recovering to rest. It is close to the tents of the wounded." And just then they came out of the wooded area into a cluster of tents. There were not so many tents as Jennifer would have expected, but she noticed that two of the largest tents that were nearest had guards standing by the tent flaps. It was to one of these that Legolas led them. Each of the tents had a tall torch next to the entrance.
Jennifer followed Legolas, who had to duck to enter; she had to duck just a little bit, but Joey, Merry, and Gimli had no need to do so. It was dim in the tent, which was lit only by a few candles, but there were four cots within, and she noticed that to the right were two cots with sleeping forms, and in between them sat Gandalf on some sort of folding stool. She was about to cry out a greeting to him when she heard a voice to her left cry out: "Jen! Joey!"
Right then, another voice shouted, "Merry!" Jennifer’s head whipped around, to see the two cots on the left. The one nearest was empty, but on the further one sat Kevin and Pippin.
She nearly tripped over the empty cot in her rush to get to Kevin, but Gimli grabbed her by the elbow to keep her upright. Joey and Merry had jumped over the empty cot, and Kevin and Joey were hugging, and so were Merry and Pippin, and then Jennifer was there, and now both her brothers were hugging her at the same time, and she was crying for happiness as the tears ran down her face.
"Kevin, oh, Kevin!" She wept into his neck.
"Ow, ow!" Wincing, Kevin pulled back, and Jennifer realized he had his right arm in a sling. "I keep forgetting about this stupid shoulder," he said, with a grimace. "Go easy on my back, too, would you?"
"What about your head?" Jennifer asked. Both Kevin and Pippin had bandages around their heads, like the one that Beregond had sported.
"Well, it's hard to hurt these noggins of ours," said Pippin. "But getting squashed by a troll would sure give anyone a headache!"
Jennifer wondered what in the world Pippin meant by "squashed by a troll", but figured it was some of his exaggerated joking. Merry was looking at his cousin suspiciously.
Kevin laughed. "Pip, if you would just pick on somebody your own size, you wouldn't have needed me to cushion the blow."
Pippin started laughing, but it turned into coughing. He took up a rag he was evidently using as a handkerchief, and spit into it. "Lawks! I'm still spitting up black blood." He made a face. "Oh, thank you, Legolas." The Elf had poured Pippin a goblet of water, unnoticed by the others, and Pippin sipped some, sighing in relief afterwards. "That's better."
Merry, who was now sitting at Pippin's side, gave his cousin a careful hug, mindful of the fact that the letter they had received said Pippin had broken ribs, asked, "How are Frodo and Sam?"
Everyone looked over at the other side of the tent, and Gandalf stood up and smiled. "They live, and they are sleeping. Rest is what they most need after such an ordeal as they had. It may be days yet ere Aragorn allows them to waken." He glanced at the empty cot. "I know that you are very glad to be reunited, but it is only today that Kevin and Pippin have been allowed to sit up, and Pippin is supposed to be in his own bed. They need to rest, and Jennifer, Joey, and Merry, I believe you also need to eat and to have some rest after your long journey."
Kevin and Jennifer nodded agreement. “Yeah, it’ll soon be bedtime, anyway,” Kevin said, and Jennifer nodded.
Gandalf turned to Legolas and Gimli. "Legolas, Gimli? Will you stay here and watch over our friends, while I show Jennifer, Joey, and Merry where they can find supper?" As he herded the three of them out of the tent, he stopped and spoke to one of the guards. "Let the Lord Aragorn know that these have arrived and send to the quartermaster to see if three more cots can be fitted into this tent." The guard nodded and walked away.
And Gandalf led Jennifer, Joey, and Merry away in the direction of a large pavilion, from which some wonderful smells were coming. Jennifer suddenly realized how hungry she was. Whatever it was, it smelled wonderful!
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