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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 72: So Close, Part 2

In the dimly lit tent, Aragorn stood watch over his charges.  There they lay deeply asleep, four small beings that had gradually stolen into his heart months ago, beginning at an inn in Bree.  How was it that such small creatures had such great hearts?

Frodo and Sam lay each in his own cot near one end of the tent, cast deeply into a healing sleep.  They suffered far more from sheer exhaustion, starvation, and exposure than to any serious physical injuries, except for Frodo's missing finger.  But they were covered in innumerable small cuts, bruises, gashes, and burns, all needing attendance, lest they infect and cause fever.  It was not their physical condition that worried him most, however.  When they had been brought in, their spirits had wandered far, and Frodo's, at least, had been reluctant to return to his call.  He planned to keep both of them asleep for as long as possible.  Two weeks at the least.

The fourth cot lay empty, for there were two hobbits in the third one.  When they had summoned Merry from Minas Tirith in haste, it had been in the fear that he would be bidding farewell to all three of his dear ones.  But once again, the hobbits had surprised everyone—especially Pippin.

Just then, behind the tent, he heard three young voices raised in song, one of the songs of their faith.  The song was brief, and he heard the murmur of their voices.  Ever since their reunion here in Cormallen, the children had taken to spending a few moments alone together each night, to talk and to pray.  Up until yesterday, Kevin had been spending his nights, too, in this tent.  But now he had accepted duties among the warriors—light duties, to be sure, taking messages and running errands.  Jennifer had been sleeping among the women who had come—healers and their assistants—and helping them as well.  And Joey, as Boromir's page, slept in the tent of the Captain-General.  So, they liked to be together before they were separated for the night.

When Gimli and Legolas had found Kevin and Pippin underneath the troll, they had feared the worst.  But Kevin's injuries had been mostly minor, and while Pippin had a few major injuries, it could have been so much worse for him, so very much worse.  There was no doubt in Aragorn’s mind that if it had not been for Kevin, it would have been.

But now Merry lay carefully alongside his youngest cousin, clasping Pippin's uninjured hand in his own left hand, sleeping the sleep of the truly exhausted.  But Aragorn knew that if Pippin even stirred, Merry would wake instantly.

"My sister has named him Holdwine," said a voice behind him.

Aragorn nodded.  He had known when Éomer had come in behind him.  "Appropriate.  It means 'loyal friend,' does it not?"

"Yes.  I have never seen anyone like Meriadoc.  He had every reason to stay behind in safety, and with such a disadvantage as his size gives, none would have thought the worst of him if he had done so, especially as unused to war as his kind are.  But that one does not seem to consider his size at all."

"Boromir believes he is a natural warrior.  He has the protective heart for it.  But then they all do, in their own different ways.  I wish there were some way to show them how much they have done.  I do not say repay what we owe them; that will never happen in a lifetime, no matter how much we shower them with.  My own debt to them is boundless."

"For myself," said Éomer, "I plan to make Meriadoc a Knight of the Riddermark.  He deserves no lesser honour.  My sister suggested it, but I believe it only right.  There is much else I would give him as well, if he will take it.  I would have done the same for young Kevin, had he not chosen to give his loyalty instead to Gondor.  Yet I understand; he travelled far at your side."

Aragorn smiled.  "A Knight?  I think our valiant young Peregrin also deserves no lesser honour.  And Merry would not be happy if his cousin were not so honoured as well.  And I think that such an honour should go to Kevin as well.  Thank you, Éomer, for an excellent idea.  I will make both Pippin and Kevin Knights of Gondor and Guards of the Citadel.  I do not yet know how we will be able to honour our brave Ring-bearers, but I will put my mind to it."*

The two new sovereigns, the future High King of the West and the newly made King of the Riddermark, nodded at one another and clasped their forearms in affirmation of their newly made pledge.

-oo000oo-

The next morning, Pippin was feeling the best that he’d had since what he was now calling "the troll incident".  He and Merry were all a-quiver with excitement at the news that they would both soon become real Knights.

Kevin was nervous and ambivalent, both elated that Aragorn felt he was worthy of such an honour, but at the same time unsure if he truly deserved it.  And what about when he went home?  Would he be deserting his new duties?  But he tried to keep his doubts to himself, because Jennifer and Joey were absolutely thrilled at the news.

I guess this must be their equivalent of medals, he thought.  Dad received some medals for bravery when he fought in Operation Desert Storm, and a purple heart when he got injured.  Kevin sighed.  I just hope Aragorn won’t hold it against me when it’s time for me to go home!  I don’t want him to think I’m ungrateful, or that I don’t take my responsibilities seriously.  But I’ve got responsibilities at home, too.  I’ve got to finish school, for one thing.

He shook his head.  What am I doing?  I need to keep my mind on what I’m supposed to be doing—Aragorn wanted me to find Gandalf!   He bit his lower lip.  I need to speak with him myself.  I could sure use his advice about this stuff.  About what to do.  Right now, though, Aragorn needs him, so I’d better go find him.

Kevin had already looked in at the hobbits' tent and the healer's encampment, and now he was going to see if perhaps Elladan or Elrohir might know the wizard's whereabouts.  He spotted Elrohir.  "Elrohir!  Have you seen Gandalf?"

The Elf nodded.  “Yes, he was going over to the pickets to check on Shadowfax."

With a nod of thanks, Kevin began to pick up his pace as he turned around and headed over to the area where the horses were being kept.  

Gandalf was indeed there, currying the immense white stallion.  "Ah, Kevin!  Were you seeking me?"

"Yes.  Aragorn—er, I mean Lord Elessar, wanted to see you.  He's over in the commanders' camp with Boromir and Prince Imrahil."  

"Very well.  I had just finished with Shadowfax.  Will you escort me back there, Kevin?"

"Yes, sir.  I need to make sure you get there.  And to find out what else I need to do after this."

"And I sense you are troubled?"

Kevin nodded before he thought, and then sighed.  "How did you know?"

"I have been around for a while, Kevin."  The wizard smiled at him and put one finger next to his nose.  "What troubles you?"

"Well, Aragorn wants to make me a Knight of Gondor, and that's a great honour and everything, but what about when I go home?  I don't want to fail my duty."

"Do you know for certain that you and your brother and sisters will be going back?"  Gandalf looked at him and raised an eyebrow.  "It seems that you may, but it is not well to anticipate the future too much."

Kevin sighed.  How could we not go back?  We need our mom and dad, who surely must have given up on ever seeing us again by now.  And yet, what if God thinks we have not done everything He sent us here to do?

Gandalf’s voice softened.  "I do not believe that Aragorn would fault you for returning to your homeland, not if the opportunity to do so opens for you.  But this is something that he believes you deserve to have."

Kevin walked silently for a moment, thinking about what Gandalf had just said.  "So, you think I should accept it, then?"

"I do, since you have asked."

"Thank you, Gandalf.  I will, then."  He glanced ahead and saw they had arrived at their destination.

After delivering Gandalf to the others, Kevin realized that he did not yet have another task, so he decided to go to the hobbits’ tent and check on Pippin, who was resting, and look in on Frodo and Sam, who still were deep in a healing sleep.

-oo000oo-

Earlier that morning, Jennifer was busy in the part of the camp where many of the injured were being cared for, giving water to the patients, putting cold cloths on their foreheads, or turning their pillows.  She had discovered that she enjoyed taking care of people who were hurt or ill.  

She was almost fifteen, and she realized that she had never really thought much of what she wanted to do as a grown-up.  I wonder if I could become a nurse, or even a doctor?  That is, if I ever get back to Oregon, so I can finish school first and go to college.  Then I will have to decide whether to go to nursing school or medical school.  She furrowed her brow.  Mom and Dad and Megan are also here somewhere in Middle-earth.  It’s a good bet that Kaylee’s with them by now.  I know that the Lady Galadriel said not to rely too much on my dreams or her Mirror.  But I saw two different futures, and in one we were all still here, and in the other we were at home.  What could it mean?

Just then one of the healers asked her to go and fetch some clean water, so Jennifer went over to pick up the wooden yoke in one corner of the tent, and put two empty buckets on the hooks at either end.  The yoke was uncomfortable, but it wouldn't be heavy until the buckets were filled.  She began the trek to the river, where some of the soldiers had dug a small place along the bank and lined it with rocks; it made a small artificial inlet where relatively clean river water could pool for the camp to use.  She smiled when she saw that Bergil was there, also getting some water—he was filling some waterskins.  He helped her fill her buckets and attach them to the yoke once more.

"I am going to find Joey when I deliver these waterskins back to my ada," Bergil said.  "Do you want to come with me?"

"If they don't need me for a while to help with the injured, yeah.  I missed seeing Joey at breakfast today."

Bergil nodded. "He has been eating with Lord Boromir, after he takes the Captain-General his breakfast."

"That's good.  I was hoping he hadn't overslept and missed a meal.”  They arrived at the healers’ camp.  “Well, here we are.  Let me take the water to them and see if they still need me."  

Bergil agreed and waited patiently.  The healer in charge directed Jennifer to pour the water into a large cauldron, in which the water could be boiled before use.  When she asked if she could go with Bergil, the healer nodded permission, adding that Jennifer should return before sundown to help serve supper and help the wounded get settled for the night.

Bergil and Jennifer located Joey in the first place they looked.  He was in Boromir's pavilion, where he had been making it tidy, rolling up the sleeping pallets and taking care of Boromir's armour and clothing.  Bergil grinned and came over to sit next to Joey, where he was polishing one of his liege's shoulder pauldrons.

Bergil reached for a cloth and began to polish the other one.  Jennifer made herself comfortable, sitting down on a folding wooden campaign chair, which she had placed next to her little brother.  She reached over and ruffled his hair.  

"You need a haircut again, Joey," she said.

He ducked away from her fingers.  "Maybe."  To distract his sister, he added, "Hey, Jennifer, have you heard the news about Kevin?"

For a moment, Jennifer worried, but she spoke up.  "Good news or bad news?"

Joey grinned.  "Good news!  Aragorn—I mean, Lord Elessar—is going to make Kevin a Knight!  He's making Pippin one, too.  And Éomer King is going to knight Merry!"

"Wow!  That's awesome!  A real knight!"  Jennifer felt so proud of her older brother; he had become a brave warrior these last few weeks.  It was like he was really a grown-up.  Of course, by Middle-earth standards, he really was.  And after all he had done, it was only right.  She remembered her grandpa telling her once that when he was younger, young men could fight and die for their country as young as eighteen, but they couldn't vote until they were twenty-one!  How strange that seemed.  Well, Kevin was only—had he turned sixteen yet?  Given the fact that it had been spring back in Oregon and fall in Middle-earth when they’d first arrived, it was hard to tell.  At any rate, Kevin wasn’t old enough to join the army yet, not back home.  It was so hard to keep track of dates here in Middle-earth—anyway, Aragorn was ready to say that if her older brother had done a man's part in the battles, then he was, in fact, a man.

But when we go back to Oregon, he’ll have to go back to being a boy, she thought ruefully.  He still has to finish high school.  He won’t be allowed to vote or join the army till he’s eighteen, and he won’t be eighteen for another few years.

-oo000oo-

Hours later, Joey and Bergil had just finished taking a message from Boromir to one of his captains when they found themselves accosted by Legolas.

"Good day, Joey and Bergil.  Aragorn has tasked me with finding a minstrel for tomorrow!"

"What's tomorrow?" Joey asked.

"Frodo and Sam will likely be waking up!  And as there will be a celebration, he will need minstrels and bards to sing for that celebration!  I found three in the lower camp, and they have been working on a special song for Frodo and Sam.  Are you free to accompany me down to check their progress?”

Joey and Bergil smiled at the prospect, and Joey said, "Boromir said we were free to wander around some, so long as we return in time for the evening meal."

The three of them headed down to the lower camp.  This camp was nearest the river, and there, they found those people who were neither healers nor warriors nor needed in the main camp.  Mostly they were those who had come to help unload supplies, or make and mend, or those, who were like the bards, there to learn of the end of Sauron first-hand.

It was easy to spot the little group of singers, sitting tailor-fashion in a little circle by the bank.  A young woman was playing a lute, a young man played a harp, and the third—also a young man—was singing and humming very low.

The woman spotted them first and sprang to her feet, and then made a graceful curtsy, as the two men stood up more slowly.  

"Lord Legolas!" exclaimed the harpist.  The three of them offered Legolas a bow, and then looked sideways at the two boys.

"Master Findegil, Mistress Finuiel, and Apprentice Devorin, these two young ones are Joey, son of Steven, and Bergil, son of Beregond,” Legolas announced.  “They are pages; Joey is page to Lord Boromir, the Captain-General, and Bergil is usually a page at the Houses of Healing."

The three gave a somewhat smaller bow to the boys.  "You are young for such responsibilities.  Well done."

Joey looked at Bergil.  “Thank you,” he said.

Legolas said, "I have come to see how your song is coming."

They both nodded, and the harpist and the lutenist took up their instruments once more.  After a few chords, the third member of the group began to sing:

"Frodo of the Nine Fingers

And the Ring of doom

Accepted a heavy burden

For the fires to consume…"***

The song was quite long, and it told much of the Quest.  The young man had a voice that could go very low and deep, but also as high as a girl.  Joey was impressed.  The story was of the companions that set out for Mordor, but Frodo the Ring-bearer and Samwise the Stout-hearted were the only ones mentioned by name.  When it came to an end, Joey felt tears in his eyes as he imagined poor Frodo and Sam trapped on the burning mountain, and then joy as he envisioned them being swept up by Eagles.

Bergil was staring in amazement at the minstrels.  "That was beautiful!  I have never heard singing like that.  We do not really have bards in the city these days."

"Yes," said Findegil, who had played the harp, and appeared to be slightly older than the other two.  "Several years ago, Lord Denethor banned bards, minstrels, and other entertainments when Mordor began to exert its power once more.  He felt that the frivolity would interfere with the serious business of defending the city."

"I bet he changes his mind now," said Joey.  "He is nicer now than he was when I met him."

The three musicians looked surprised, and might have said more, but Legolas intervened.  "I find the song very satisfactory and will say so to Lord Elessar."  He gave a little incline of his head to the musicians to honour their talent.  "But it grows late, and these young pages will have more duties this evening.  You will be told when it is time for your performance."  He turned toward Joey and Bergil.

"Come, boys," said Legolas, and they headed back to the main camp.  "What did you think?  Do you believe Frodo and Sam will like it?" he asked, after they were walking out of earshot of the lower camp.

"Yes!" said Joey.  "Especially Sam!  He'll love it for Frodo especially, but he'll be embarrassed by all the praise for himself and stuff.”  He grimaced.  “He’ll think he’s not worthy of it, you’ll see.  Frodo will, too.  For himself, that is, not Sam."

Legolas smiled.  "A little embarrassment will not harm them, and all of that praise will be very good for them."

Kevin had joined the hobbits in their tent to share an early supper with them.  He was still dressed only in his undertunic.  He was still rather elated at his new guardsman's livery that had been sent for him from Minas Tirith.  Gimli had polished his mail and armour pieces for him.  But he was nervous at what was yet to come.

They had barely finished eating when Éothain, Beregond, Legolas, Gimli, Bergil, Haleth, and Joey entered the tent.

"It is time to begin preparation," said Legolas.  "You will need baths, and we will dress you."  He smiled at Merry and Pippin’s expressions of consternation.  "Do not look at us like that, young hobbits.  You will need the assistance, especially you, Master Pippin.  So will you, Kevin.  Or do you tell me that you are not nervous?"

Kevin bit his lower lip.  “I know I sure am.”  He looked at the hobbits.

Legolas, Beregond, and Bergil saw to Pippin, while Éothain and Gimli took care of Merry.  Joey and Haleth helped Kevin.  The King of Rohan's cousin also took the chance to drill Merry on the words of his oath.

The sun was halfway down towards the horizon when they stepped outside the tent to the clear area that had been prepared for the ceremonies.

Jennifer was waiting for them.  None of the three had put on their belts yet, and they saw that Jennifer was holding them.  "Legolas told me that your belts should be put on by a lady."  She grinned.  She bent down and put Merry and Pippin's belts on first, and then stood to put on her brother's.  They weren't new, but they were the belts given them in Lothlorien by the Lady Galadriel.  Then they noticed Legolas was holding their cloaks, which had been cleaned.  Jennifer helped to settle each cloak around their shoulders, and then she fastened each cloak with its leaf-shaped brooch.  Then she bent down and kissed Pippin and then Merry on top of their heads, after which she hugged Kevin briefly before kissing his cheek.  She stood back, grinning, with tears of happiness in her eyes.

Aside from the members of the Fellowship, several other well-wishers had gathered.  There were a few members of the King of Rohan's personal éored that Merry knew.  And Pippin was pleased to see some of the members of the Third Company with whom he had journeyed to battle. He was especially pleased to see two brothers, Artamir and Adrahil, for the last time he had seen them, they had been struck down by the troll he killed.  He had worried about them, but he’d been afraid to ask if they yet lived.  Here they were, Artamir with a bandage round his head, and Adrahil with his arm in a sling, but otherwise hale.  Well, he thought, it was worth getting squashed by the troll, since I saved them and Beregond, after all.

Merry was to be knighted first, and he was more than a bit nervous.  There had been no ceremony when he had given his allegiance to Théoden.  For love of the king, who had reminded him so much of his own father, he had offered his sword and his fealty, and Théoden had accepted.  They’d been on their way to war at the time; there had been no time for formality.  And then, in the House of Healing, he had given that same allegiance to Éomer—once again, hastily and without ceremony.

Now Merry would step up and lay his sword at his King's feet, and he would offer a solemn oath before witnesses.  It was a bit daunting, yet there was a feeling of pride as well, that Éomer had found him worthy of the honour.

He stood now, apart and a bit alone near the centre of the area, feeling very small indeed.  There was a stir, and all the men-at-arms came to attention as the two Kings, accompanied by the White Wizard, approached.

Aragorn and Gandalf stopped at the edge of the clearing, and Éomer went forward a few more paces.

"Approach, Meriadoc."

Merry stepped forward, outwardly confident, inwardly quailing.  He knelt and drew his sword, and he laid it at Éomer's feet.

"Will you accept my sword and my oath?" he asked, according to formula.

"I will.  Speak your oath."  The young King of Rohan held out his hands, and Merry reached up and placed his own small ones between them.

"I promise on my faith that I will in future be faithful to Éomer, King of Rohan, and will observe my homage to him completely against all persons in good faith and without deceit.*  His enemies shall be my enemies, and his friends shall be my friends, and his word shall be my law, from this day forward."

"And I say: that Meriadoc, Saradoc's son of the Shire, is sworn unto me.  His enemies shall be my enemies, his friends shall be my friends, and his welfare shall be my consideration, from this day forward."  He looked down with a smile.  "Arise, Sir Meriadoc, Knight of Rohan."  And he bent and placed a kiss on the hobbit's brow.  He picked up Merry's sword and handed it to him. 

"Receive back your sword and bear it hereafter on my behalf."

There was an outburst of cheers from the gathered witnesses, and Merry blushed.  The King drew him back to his side, and they moved back a few paces.

And now Aragorn moved forward and summoned Pippin.

"Approach, Peregrin, son of Paladin of the Shire."

Drawing his sword, he presented it hilt first to Aragorn, and then carefully Pippin knelt.  He was still more than a little stiff.   

Kevin watched Pippin make his oath and took a deep breath.  He was next.  He was so nervous that he almost did not hear Aragorn summon him, but he gave a little start, and then took his place to kneel at Aragorn's feet, and began to recite the oath he had memorized.

"Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor, and to the Lord and King of the realm, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or in plenty, in peace or in war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world end.  So say I, Kevin son of Steven, of Oregon."

"And this do I hear, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and I will not forget it, nor fail to reward that which is given: fealty with love, valour with honour, oath-breaking with justice."**  Aragorn returned Kevin's sword, which he placed in its sheath, and then he took a place between Kevin and Pippin.  Placing a hand on each of their shoulders, he proclaimed, "I present to you Sir Peregrin Took and Sir Kevin McCloud, Knights of the Citadel and Guards of the Tower.  They are sworn to my service.  Let all who see bear witness that good done unto them are the same as good done unto me, and that harm done unto them is the same as harm done unto me.  So say I, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Heir of Elendil."

Cheering broke out, the loudest from Joey and Bergil, who used their fingers to whistle.  Seats were brought forward, and the Kings sat down next to their new knights.  Now they brought out the chests containing the stipends.

Merry's contained a hundred silver pennies.  Thunderstruck, he stared up at Éomer, who said, "By the way, when you pass through Edoras on your return, Stybba will be waiting to bear you to your homeland.  He is yours."

Mindful of the young King's admonition the day before, he nodded.  This was incredibly generous!  And Stybba!  He had grown fond of the pony before he had to leave him behind.  How lovely!

After goggling in amazement at Merry's stipend, Pippin took his with a bit of trepidation.  He opened the lid, and then he shut it quickly after a brief glance and glared up at his new liege.

Aragorn just grinned at him.  In a low voice, he said, "One hundred fifty," and then with a twinkle in his eye, added, "Oh, and the pouch contains another fifty from Faramir, as a gift.  Which, by the way, you cannot decline, as he is not here."

Pippin's jaw dropped.  Two hundred silver pennies?  When the average hobbit of the Shire did well to earn the equivalent of fifteen or twenty a year?  Even the Thain's annual income did not normally rise above eighty!

After he saw what had been given to Merry and Pippin, Kevin was somewhat prepared when he was told that his stipend was also one-hundred-fifty.  His eyes grew wide at the sight of all the gold; it was hard for him to think of it as real money.  The gold coins looked like props from a pirate movie to his eyes, which were accustomed to paper money; he had trouble really understanding the wealth he held.

Trouble is, I won’t be able to spend any of it back home.  A smile spread across his face.  Wait till I tell Mom and Dad I’ve become a knight!

They sat for a while by their Kings as the sun set, accepting gifts from well-wishers, and sharing out the ale and pastries, but Aragorn was keeping a sharp eye on Pippin, who soon began to flag.  "I think, Sir Peregrin, that it is time you returned to your cot."  It was a measure of how tired he was that Pippin turned a grateful eye on his healer, who lifted him and bore him within the tent.

Merry soon followed, and the party began to break up.

Kevin had remained outside, talking to Jennifer, Joey, and Haleth.  Aragorn soon returned after he had made sure Pippin would rest.

"And how are you feeling now, Sir Kevin?" Aragorn asked.  

Kevin replied, "I'm fine, sir—I mean, er, sire?  Or should I say, ‘your Majesty’?"

Aragorn chuckled.  "Do not worry about how you address me, lad.  You are a friend and companion, and unless we are among many people, we shall dismiss with the formalities.  But I was not asking as a king or as a friend, but as a healer.  How do you feel?"

Kevin sighed.  "Really, I do seem to be all right.  I'm still sore and stiff if I stay in one position too long.  But I haven't had a headache all day today, and I slept pretty well last night."

"That is a good thing, then," Aragorn replied.  "If you remain feeling well, you might be able to take on a little more light duty.  Speak to my cousin, Lord Halbarad, and see if he has something you can do."

Kevin grinned.  "Yes, sire!"  Aragorn laughed, and Kevin left his presence.

Jennifer had to return to the medical encampment, and Joey had to report back to Boromir, so Kevin went to find Lord Halbarad.  The Dúnadan Ranger had been unable to take part in the battle at the Black Gate, because of his injuries from the Battle of the Pelennor.  But he had soon arrived with many of the supplies sent from the City, and he had been helping his cousin with many of the small duties needed to keep the entire camp safe and in order.

Kevin found him sitting at a table just outside the command tent.  He had a number of parchment documents before him, weighted down with stones to keep them from blowing away; a lit candle stood near the edge of the desk.  Kevin gave a brief bow and stood to attention.  "My Lord Halbarad?"

"Yes, Sir Kevin?"  The grey eyes looked up at him expectantly.

"Aragon—I mean, Lord Elessar—he’s said that I am fit for more light duty, and told me to ask you what you would have for me to do?"

"That is good news."  He thought for a moment, and then moved one of the stones, picking up the document beneath it to scan the list as he held it towards the candle.  "We are keeping watch over the River from Cair Andros.  I still need one more guard for the watch from midnight until dawn.  Do you think you could do that?"

"Yes, sir."  After all, Kevin had taken watch many times on the journey from Rivendell.

Halbarad nodded.  "Very good.  In that case, since you have already had an early supper, I suggest you get a snack and sleep while you can.  Someone will wake you in time to join those who will also be watching.  You are dismissed."

"Yes, sir."  Kevin gave another bow and headed off to the mess tent to get something to snack on.

-oo000oo-

He was roused by a hand on his shoulder.  "Sir Kevin!"  The voice was louder than a whisper, yet still quiet and crisp.  "Sir Kevin, it is time for the watch."

Kevin blinked and sat up.  "Huh?"

There was a low laugh.  "I am Eradan, in charge of the River watch this night.  Please accompany me down to the dry dock.”

Kevin was instantly alert.  He sat up and turned to pull his boots on, and then stood up to follow Eradan.  Just at the edge of the camp, four other men awaited them.  Kevin stopped briefly at the water bucket that stood not far from the banked campfire.  He drew up a ladle of water, took a sip, and then poured the rest over his head.  It was a little something Sam had taught him to do on their journey, when everyone had to get up early.  He spluttered, rubbed his forearm across his face, and then quickly caught up to Eradan and joined the others.

They all piled into the rowboat which awaited them and rowed the short distance to the island.  Kevin hopped out and helped pull the boat up onto the bank.  Then he went with Eradan, and another man named Anborn, on the brief trek to the Western side of the little island, while the other three remained to watch the Eastern side.  When they arrived there, the previous three guards were waiting to leave, and after a brief greeting and a "nothing to report", they made the same walk down that the new watch had taken up.

The Western bank was really a low cliff, and so they would have had an excellent view of that side of the River had it not been for the mist and fog that clung to the water.  Still, they all remained alert, for there could still be enemies lurking on the other side who would catch them off guard if they were not vigilant.

There was a small pit about ten feet from the edge of the cliff, surrounded by rocks.  There was a little stack of firewood next to it, and the embers from the previous fire still glowed.  Eradan added some wood, but made sure to keep it low.  One of them would watch the fire for a while, and then switch over, so that someone would always be "fresh" on watch.  Anborn would watch the fire first.  It had been a couple of hours before it was Kevin's turn to sit by the fire, and then a couple of hours more until Eradan came to take his place.  Now Kevin stood upon the cliff looking into the River, when he thought he heard something in the water—splashing?

"Hst!  Anborn, do you hear anything?"

Anborn hurried to his side and listened also.  "Yes, and look!"

Even though the stars were low and there was a faint tinge of dawn in the sky to the East, the mist and fog was still thick.  Yet they could easily hear the rhythmic splash of oars, and as it grew closer, they could make out the faint shadows of boats.  The boats moved slowly and showed no sign of coming near the shore.  One, two, three...eight in all floated past and vanished into the fog.  The boats looked familiar from what he could make out.

He turned to Anborn.  "I think those were Elvish boats," he said.

-oo000oo-

A/N: *Parts of the opening paragraphs are taken from Dreamflower's story, "Kingly Gifts" (http://storiesofarda.com/chapterlistview.asp?SID=2310).

**The first part of the oath is taken from an actual 12th-century oath.  I cannot post a link here, but the information can be found at the site of the SCA group Dragonbear.  Here is the link: http://www.dragonbear.com/fealty.html. The entire section of the knighting is also adapted from "Kingly Gifts" by Dreamflower.

***Adapted from The Return of the King, Book 6, Chapter 1, "Minas Tirith"

****Taken from The Return of the King (1980 animated film) soundtrack





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