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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 73: Too Good to Be True
In the Steward's chambers, Lord Denethor and Lord Faramir were having a working breakfast as they sat among the remnants of their morning meal and were reading over the latest of the dispatches from Cormallen.
"Boromir says that the two hobbits who saw to the destruction of the Ring are still sleeping, though he also says that they may waken any day yet," Denethor said, as he perused one of the reports.
Faramir nodded. "Yes, and Uncle Imrahil writes the same. I am very glad that Frodo and Samwise survived their deadly errand, Father. I was convinced that I should never lay eyes upon either of them again when we parted at Henneth Annûn."
"I would have believed the same." Denethor nodded. "I am very glad that I had the chance to hear what Boromir had to say about the Ringbearer and his quest. I admit that I would have been very wroth with you, had your brother been slain, as I believed him to be." The Steward drew in a long wheezing breath and began to cough. There was a goblet containing a tonic on the table, which he picked up and swallowed down, making a face as he did so.
"I understand, Father." Faramir picked up the small cup of tea by his empty plate and took a sip. "Yet it seems that all things worked out for the best in the end."
There was a sharp rap at the door, and when the Steward called out, "Enter," it opened.
Lord Denethor's Chamberlain stepped in and bowed. "My Lord, one of the scouts sent North into Anórien has returned with news of import."
Denethor nodded. "Send him in."
The scout came in and bowed. Faramir recognized Eradan, one of his own men from the Rangers of Ithilien, who clearly had been travelling in haste.
"What news do you bear, Eradan?" he asked.
"My lords, as Gelmir and I explored the Western banks of the Anduin, in the Northern reaches of Anórien above where the Entwash empties into the river, we found an encampment of Elves, who have been travelling here in boats."
"Elves?" Denethor asked in sharp surprise.
"Yes, sire. There were eight boats, which were led by an Elf who named himself Lord Glorfindel, and who was accompanied by twelve of his people, as well as a wizard styled Radagast the Brown. There also with them was a family of Men: a husband, his wife, and their two small daughters. The husband gave his name as Steven McCloud, and said they were on a quest to find their older children, reported to be here in Minas Tirith."
Denethor and Faramir looked at one another. Faramir smiled and said, "That is welcome news, indeed! Young Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey will be pleased to reunite with their family! Yet they are not now in the City, but in Cormallen."
Eradan smiled to hear this, for it meant that he had been right in thinking that the leaders of the city would have news of the strangers.
The Steward took another swallow of his tonic, and then made a gesture at the table. "Sit and join us, Eradan, and tell us more of this group you found."
Surprised, the Ranger hesitantly took a seat across from his commander. Faramir chuckled, and then he stood up and fetched a cup and poured some tea. Denethor frowned at Faramir waiting on one of his men, but said nothing. Faramir was the man's Captain, after all, and he knew that the Rangers were far less formal than the soldiers of the Guard.
Faramir sat back down and pushed the teacup over to his man. "Tell me now, Eradan, what of Gelmir? Did he remain with them?"
"No, my Lord. We thought it best that he continue scouting for stray enemies. I knew that I could ride directly here and yet arrive ahead of the travellers to give report."
Faramir nodded. "That is well, then. How soon do you think they may arrive here in the city?"
"They said they had two days of travel, yet their boats were slender and swift. It is my thought that they might arrive sometime today, perhaps in the afternoon, if they had no delays and started their journey early in the morning. It seemed to me that they were most eager to arrive."
Denethor nodded and asked if this Lord Glorfindel had said aught of when their journey had begun, and from whence they had set out.
"Yes, my Lord. The company had set out from Imladris, but had broken their journey in the Golden Wood. There, the land came under assault from orcs, and they were forced to await the end of the battles before they could set out once more."
The Steward turned to Faramir. "Ask Ondahil to fetch us the maps showing the way they would have come. And then we shall need to find a place for our guests to stay, and to make them welcome. Then we shall send word of this to Boromir." Faramir went back to the door, and gave Ondahil his orders, and then returned to the table. With the map, they would soon have an idea of exactly when their unexpected guests should arrive.
Steve stopped rowing briefly and hunched his shoulders. The fog had finally burned away, and they could see where they were going. There had been a tense moment the night before; Glorfindel had suddenly been very alert as they had passed that island in the River...
"What's wrong?" Steve had asked.
Glorfindel shook his head, and relaxed. "We were being watched. Yet we were neither haled nor attacked. I sensed no malice. Perhaps whoever it was, was simply wary. After all, a war has just ended."
So, Steve had relaxed as well. He had every confidence in the Elf who had brought them all this way...
This had been a long and stressful journey, and now it was almost over. But now he was feeling a different sort of stress. They had been apart from Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey for a long time—and, as Steve reminded himself—even longer on their part. And they could not know for certain everything his older children had experienced—but considering that the three children had been trapped in a war zone for weeks? They had to have seen some pretty bad things. And it seemed pretty clear that Kevin, at least, had been in battle. War was brutal, even for full-grown adults. What could he find to say to his son? And to think of Jennifer and Joey in a city under siege was terrifying. How had they managed? What had they done?
At least Kaylee had been kept safe the whole time; until Steve and Gail had arrived, her biggest problem had been missing her parents, and her brothers and sister. She still had her innocence, he hoped. There had been some scary moments on the journey, but Kaylee and Megan had been spared the worst of it.
These were thoughts that Steve had been pushing out of his head from the time they had set out of Lothlórien, but now that the time grew close for the whole family to be reunited, he was unable to set aside the worry. He gave a sigh. Lord, he prayed silently, please take this burden from my mind. Help me to give my cares to You. I love my children and want them to never have any dangers or fears. But You love them even more; help me to remember that. You had a purpose in this whole adventure. Please help me to give it all over to You.
Kaylee stirred at his side. "Daddy! I'm hungry!"
Steve grinned at her. "Are you, then, kitten?" He reached over and handed her a waterskin, and she took a drink without dribbling it down her chin, something he had yet to master. Then he opened the food box which was just behind them in the stern. He glanced at the leaf packets that contained the lembas, but did not touch it, because it was up to Glorfindel to pass that out. He also passed up the journeybread. It was a lot of work to chew. Instead, he took up two little bags—he was hungry, too, come to think of it—and handed one to Kaylee. Each bag contained a mixture of sweetened grain, dried fruit, and nuts. He thought of it as Elvish trail mix, though they had a word for it he had never quite been able to pronounce.
He chuckled at his daughter as she took it and opened it eagerly. "Just a minute, Kaylee. Did you forget?"
"Oops! Almost—sorry, Jesus." Then she took Steve's hand, and the two of them bowed their heads, as Kaylee recited the second prayer that she had learned to pray at mealtimes:
"God is great!
God is good!
Let us thank Him
For our food.
"And 'amen'," added her father.
Steve watched with amusement as Kaylee picked through the bag, carefully eating first the grain, her least favourite, leaving her favourite part, the fruit and nuts, for last. While she had learned to no longer be a picky eater, and to eat what she was given, she still had some foods she liked better than others. He put a handful of the mix into his own mouth. Honestly, he really preferred it all mixed together.
He glanced over to see that in the boat next to them, Gail was feeding Megan the very same thing. His wife looked up and waved at him, smiling. Steve waved back.
He thought how much more enjoyable this journey would have been if they could all have ridden together in the same boat. But of course, it had made more sense to have an Elf in each boat, both because they knew the way, and because they were more skilled in steering the crafts.
Kaylee had finished her breakfast, and now she reached behind her neck to untie the ribbon that held her hair back. It was tangled into her hair, so Steve reached out and managed to untangle it, and when Kaylee handed him her wooden comb that she carried in the pouch on her belt, he began to gently comb out her hair, going slowly and methodically so he wouldn't pull. He found the task rather soothing. Kaylee winced when he accidentally pulled into a knot, but she did not complain out loud.
"How soon do you think we might get to Minas Tirith, Glorfindel?" he asked, as soon as he had finished combing Kaylee’s hair.
"The day is fine, and the current is swift. If all goes well, we should arrive near noontide, for we got a very early start," was the answer.
"That's really good," Steve said. "Do you think it is far from the River to the City?"
"Not far," the Elf replied. "Perhaps a mile or two, depending on where the landing is. If the scout Eradan was swift, he should have reached the city before us. It is possible that there will be someone to meet us when we arrive." Steve nodded with a smile, pleased at the prospect.
Kaylee took up her little panpipes and began to play, and Glorfindel began to sing a song along with her. Of course, the melody he sang was not what Kaylee played, but there was no conflict with her random pleasant notes. First, he sang the song in Elvish, and then he translated it into Westron for them:
"East of the Moon, west of the Sun
There stands a lonely hill;
Its feet are in the pale green sea,
Its towers are white and still
Comes never there but one lone star
That fled before the moon;
And there the Two Trees naked are
That bore Night's silver bloom,
That bore the globéd fruit of Noon
There are the shores of Faëry
With their moonlight pebbled strand
Whose foam is silver music
On the opalescent floor
Beyond the great sea-shadows
On the marches of the sand
That stretches on forever
To the dragonheaded door,
The gateway of the Moon,
West of the Sun, east of the Moon
Lies the haven of the star,
The white town of the Wanderer
And the rocks of Eglamar.
There Wingelot is harboured,
While Eärendil looks afar
O'er the darkness of the waters
Between here and Eglamar—
Out, out, beyond Taniquetil
In Valinor afar." *
"That's pretty," Kaylee said. "All the Elf songs are so pretty!"
"Thank you, little one," he said. "You sing some pretty songs, too. Perhaps you can sing your song of the rainbow? I find I like that one very much more than the one about the dead witch." Glorfindel winked at Steve, who grinned.
Kaylee giggled and then began to sing.
"Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high,
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.
Oh, somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where trouble melts like lemon drops...”**
She continued the song and then sang it again, and Steve joined in with his pleasant tenor while Glorfindel listened. They followed up with a couple of folk songs, and then Kaylee lost interest and took out her spindle. She had quite a respectable ball of yarn going, and now she was nearly out of wool. Steve thought it was a good thing they were nearly to their destination. Unless Minas Tirith had some wool available that Kaylee could practice with, she was shortly going to have to stop where she was.
Sador stood with his hands behind his back, though his right foot tapped very slightly, showing his nervousness. "Master Ondahil? Dame Ioreth sent me along. She said you had an errand for me?"
"Is it true that you have become friends with the boy known as 'Joey, son of Steven'?" Master Ondahil asked.
"Yes, sir. At least he and Bergil befriended me, and the hobbits did, too." Now Sador's nervousness left him as his curiosity grew.
"Very well, I would like you to accompany me down to the wharf on the River. We are receiving guests from afar to our City, and I have been told by His Lordship the Steward that among those guests are not only Elves, but a wizard, and the parents and younger sisters of Joey and his brother and sister."
Sador's eyes grew big, and he just barely stopped himself from squealing, "Really?" But that would not have been at all proper. Instead he simply said, "l am glad to hear that, sir. Are we to go down straightaway?"
"Yes, Sador. Two Guardsmen and several porters await us at the gate to the sixth circle."
The little procession made their way all the way down to the first circle, and then took the road leading to the Eastern Gate of Minas Tirith, and that led out of the City to the landings and wharfs upon the Anduin. It had been quite warm within the walls of Minas Tirith, but once they were outside the wall, the breeze from the water was fresh and cool, if slightly fishy in smell.
As the welcoming group stood just above the wharfs where they could have a good view of the boats when they arrived, Sador found himself wondering how his friends were faring in Cormallen. Joey would be so sorry to have missed the arrival of the rest of his family.
Sador was glad of the breeze, for the Sun was nearly at her height. But soon he heard a commotion, and the porters moved down towards the first of the landings to join those whose job it was to watch for boats, and to tie them up. In the distance, he spotted a flotilla of elegant boats, and as they grew close enough to count eight of them, he could see that in each one stood an Elf, plying an oar with graceful moves towards the landings. An actual Elf! For an instant he tensed, and would have darted eagerly down there, but Ondahil put a staying hand upon his shoulder and shook his head gently. Of course. They were representing the Steward; they would have to be dignified. Only once all the boats were secured, and those within were beginning to disembark, did the two of them begin to walk down to the landing.
At first, when Steve had glimpsed a little boy among the ones who were coming down to greet them, he had at first thought it was Joey, and his heart gave a leap. But no, it was not his little boy, but some stranger. The child was clearly younger and smaller than Joey.
The man came up to Glorfindel. "My Lord Glorfindel, we have had word of your coming. I am Ondahil, Chamberlain to the Lord Steward Denethor son of Ecthelion, sent to greet you on his behalf. We are honoured to have visitors of the Eldar once more in our White City." Ondahil bowed deeply.
Glorfindel gave a slight bow in return. "We thank you for your welcome. May I present those on whose behalf we undertook the journey?" The Elf gestured for Steve and his family to come forward. "They have travelled far in search of their older children, who we have reason to believe had come to Minas Tirith: their eldest son Kevin, their elder daughter Jennifer, and their younger son Joey. This is Master Steven McCloud of Ore Gon, his wife, Mistress Gail, and their daughters, Kaylee and Megan."
Steve proffered his hand, forgetting for the moment just to bow his head briefly. Ondahil hesitated for an instant, and then realized this must be the greeting custom of Ore Gon. He held out his own hand, and Steve took it and gave it a single shake before releasing it. "We're glad to meet you, Chamberlain Ondahil, but were hoping that our children would be here, too."
Ondahil nodded. "I regret to tell you that at this time, they are not in the city. However, they will be returning soon. They are currently in Cormallen, on the Eastern side of the Anduin, near the isle of Cair Andros."
Gail made a disappointed gasp, and Steve's heart fell. They had passed right by the kids last night and never knew it!
"We are here to conduct you to the Citadel," said Ondahil. "There, the Steward will tell you more details. In the meanwhile, I should like for you to meet young Sador here. He became friends with your son, Joey, and can tell you somewhat of their time here in Minas Tirith."
Ondahil turned to the porters, who were beginning to gather the baggage in the boats and load it into the waggon. A carter had been engaged, and the waggon was soon ready to go. Gail, Kaylee, Megan, Radagast, and Lucy would ride within, while Steve would walk alongside Ondahil and Glorfindel, with the rest of the party to follow behind on foot.
"May Sador ride with us?" asked Gail. "We'd like to hear about how he became friends with our son."
With Ondahil's permission, Sador clambered up and perched himself on a large bundle, facing Gail, Kaylee, and Megan. The carter shook the reins, and the horses began to clop up the road towards the Gate into the City.
*From The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two, Chapter V, "The Tale of Eärendil", "The Shores of Faëry"
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