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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 75: Let Me Be Good to You
“This city is like no city I’ve ever seen back home,” Gail said, wide-eyed, as she gazed up at the immense white stone walls; damaged as they were from the war, they still remained an impressive sight, even with the occasional break or crack or scorch mark.
“I know what you mean,” Steve agreed. “One thing’s for sure—we won’t find any suburbs around this city.” He looked around at the ravaged land, still littered with broken weapons, the dirt churned up by the battle, and the occasional huge chunks of masonry that seemed too far from the city walls to have merely fallen. As he looked, it occurred to him that perhaps they had been flung by catapults. If they had broken from the walls, the pieces would have fallen to the inside.
Gail grimaced. “No. We sure won’t.” She smiled wryly. “No traffic lights or stop signs either, I suppose.”
Steve shook his head and rolled his eyes. "You think not?"
Gail grimaced again, ruefully, and gave him a very light swat on the arm. Then she noticed the Gondorians giving her a shocked look. Obviously, they did not understand the humour. She blushed. "We were simply teasing," she said to Sador, who really looked dismayed. Perhaps adults did not tease one another in public in Gondor.
Steve gave Gail a nod, and also clambered into the waggon next to the driver. Gail and the girls were on a small bench-like seat behind the driver and facing the back of the waggon. This meant that Steve was facing the opposite direction and seated behind them.
Behind the waggon, he knew that Glorfindel and the other Elves were going to walk with Ondahil. To their surprise, however, Radagast climbed into the waggon. He had Lucy in his arms, whom he handed over to Kaylee, and then he sat atop the luggage alongside Sador, who sat facing Gail and the girls. The driver flipped the reins, and the cart horses started off.
It was hard not to notice the way the land was torn up on the north side of the road; almost no grass remained, and there were piles of rubble which had yet to be carted away. The south side of the road was even worse, for there was a stench like rotten meat being burned wafting their way with every breeze, and much of the actual rubble was still where it had been abandoned after the battle. Fortunately, the smoke from the huge fires was far in the distance.
Gail overheard Steve asking the driver in a low voice what was burning, and felt nauseated when she heard the answer, that was also spoken softly: "'Tis the bodies of the enemy, as well as the bodies of the slain beasts, especially those of the mûmakil, giant creatures brought by the Southrons to ride into battle." Gail was very glad that Kaylee and Megan had not heard what the driver had said.
Radagast sighed. "It is such a shame, for the mûmakil—or as they call them in the North, oliphaunts—are marvellous and wise creatures. But they would not have survived here in this climate, running wild." He bent his head and reached over to pet Lucy.
Gail stared at him, wide-eyed. “Oliphaunts?” She looked towards Steve. “Could that be some breed of elephant?”
Steve shrugged, but Radagast said, "In the far South, there are common elephants, but the mûmakil are at least ten times the size of those. It has been very long since I have travelled that far to the South. Perhaps now that Sauron is no more, I might journey there again."
“I hope we won’t run across them,” Gail said in a soft voice. “Kaylee and Megan love elephants, and they would hate to see any killed.” Steve nodded agreement.
The little girls had not been paying much attention to the adult conversation which had been held in almost whispers, but had been rather staring at Sador. Kaylee smiled at him. "Hi. My name’s Kaylee. How old are you? Do you have brothers and sisters?
"I am eight years of age," he replied. "My only family is my big brother. He is a guard and grown up, so he went off to fight. I am staying in the Houses of Healing along with the other errand lads."
"Only a brother? Where are your mommy and daddy?" Kaylee was dismayed. Even when she and her older brothers and sisters had come here, they’d had their parents back home, at least.
"I would have had a sister, but my naneth died when she was born, and the baby was dead, too. And my father sailed the Anduin and down to the Sea at Pelargir, but his ship was taken by pirates, so he was either captured or killed. It was long ago—I barely remember him."
"So, you are in Minas Tirith alone?" Gail asked. She could tell that Kaylee and Megan were on the verge of tears at Sador's story. "How did you come to be friends with Joey?"
"Well, when my brother became a Guardsman, he made arrangements for me to become an errand lad at the Houses of Healing. I am the youngest, but there are many of us. Bergil is ten, and he is my best friend. I miss him now, because he went with Jennifer and Joey to Cormallen because his father was wounded in the battle. But Bergil was friends with Joey and Pippin, and he introduced me to them. We had a lot of work to do during the time of the battle outside the walls."
"What kind of work?" Gail asked. She was aware that Steve was also listening closely to the youngster.
"Well, Bergil and I were errand lads, of course. We carried messages and delivered supplies and medicine and things like that, and sometimes we helped with cleaning. But at first, Pippin and Joey were with the Captain-General, Lord Boromir. Joey was his page, and Pippin was his squire, and they did his bidding. When the Captain-General went off to war at the Black Gates, he took Pippin along, but he left Joey with Dame Ioreth to take care of him—she's the matron at the Houses, so then they did the same kinds of things as we did. But during the battle, they got to help take care of the wounded. Dame Ioreth said I was too young for that. I mostly just got to roll clean bandages and deliver them. Pippin and Joey got to see the fire! And Pippin saved Lord Faramir—that's the Captain-General's brother; they are sons of the Steward, Lord Denethor! I wish I could have done something brave like that! But Pippin is the Ernil-i-Pheriannath, so I guess that's why he's so brave! The Pherian are really, really fierce! But Pippin says to call them hobbits. That's a funny word, and it's hard to remember."
Gail glanced sideways and noticed Steve's expression. "Did you get to meet our older son Kevin and our other daughter Jennifer?" she asked.
"Not until after the battle," Sador answered. "Lady Jennifer came to the city on the big ship with black sails, along with Lord Elfstone and some warriors all dressed in grey. And Lord Kevin came riding with the Rohirrim and fought in the big battle on the Pelennor. His friend Haleth was injured, so he came with him. Anyway, Lady Jennifer stayed to apprentice with the healers and help out, and Lord Kevin rode off to fight with the rest of the Army of the West."
Gail was stunned into silence. She had learned in Lothlórien that it was likely Kevin would have to fight, but to hear it was true, had actually happened—that was a different story. She felt light-headed and somewhat ill. She felt Steven's hand on her shoulder. Because he was facing in the opposite direction, Steve could not really take part in the conversation, but his gentle squeeze let her know he felt the same.
Kaylee spoke up—it had been interesting to listen to Sador, but he had not told what she really wanted to know. "So, why aren't Jennifer and Kevin and Joey here now?" Her voice sounded plaintive.
Sador seemed surprised that they had to ask. "Why, because Lord Kevin was injured! So was Pippin, and Bergil's father, Beregond. They all went to see them; Pippin's cousin, the Wraithslayer Merry, went with them as well."
Gail winced. She wished that she could be there with her eldest son right now, looking after him. Before she or anyone else could say anything, though, there was a difference in the horses' gait and the rumble of the wheels. They had come to the broken gate of the City, and were now driving on cobblestones, which were much louder than a dirt road. Conversation had become impossible as they moved up the winding road that ran through the many levels of the debris-strewn city, through gate after gate. There was much evidence of fire and a lot of badly damaged buildings throughout the lower levels, which lessened as they went further up and in.
They finally ended up at the top of the city, as they entered one more gate. Handlers came to take the waggon and the horses, and everyone clambered down. Ondahil paid the carter, who was sent off to get something to drink and eat in the kitchens, and Sador was sent back to his duties at the Houses of Healing. Steve looked around; the huge tower before them was, he had been told, The Citadel. It was the tallest building he had yet seen in Middle-earth. They were in a large courtyard, and in the centre next to a large marble fountain was a very large and very dead tree. Four guards stood around it.
Lord Glorfindel and the Elves gazed at it in awe, and then all of them went over and bowed. Steve heard Glorfindel say, "Greetings, scion of Nimloth. May the day come soon when one of your own children will stand here in your place and thrive."
Steve's eyes grew wide. He could have sworn that he heard the sound of the wind rustling in the leaves, even though there was no wind to speak of, nor any leaves at all!
Ondahil led them through two immense doors, also guarded, and into a wide anteroom. It was decided that the children and Lucy would remain there with most of the Elves. Only Lord Glorfindel and Avorn would represent the Elves, and Steve, Gail, and Radagast would accompany them into the audience chamber.
Ondahil led the five of them into the audience chamber. It was a great hall, almost as big as a professional basketball gym. Huge windows and high pillars of black stone flanked the room on either side. A number of people stood to each side, and behind them were tall statues of Men, solemn and stern-faced, and rather looming over the people. At the end of the room, across what seemed to Steve to be a vast distance of polished marble floor, atop many steps was a huge empty throne beneath a carven canopy. Upon the bottom step was another seat, a large chair carved of black stone. A man sat there, garbed in grey and white, holding a white rod. They had been told this was Lord Denethor, the Steward. He was an older man with grey hair, and he looked very pale, as if he had been sick. Beside his right shoulder stood a good-looking young man with dark hair and a beard, and Steve recalled that he was Lord Faramir, the younger son of the Steward and the brother of the Captain that Kevin had ridden off with.
In front of them, and even further to the right, stood another man, somewhat pudgy and middle-aged, dressed in a long robe of dark grey. Over it, he wore a tabard of black. It was embroidered on the chest with a White Tree, and on the left shoulder was a small round badge of royal blue, with two golden trumpets crossed emblazoned in the centre.
The man took a deep breath and called out in a deep bass voice that filled the room: "We call into the Steward's presence the delegation from Imladris."
Ondahil had instructed them to walk forward with Lord Glorfindel in front, with Radagast next to him, and with Avorn, Steve, and Gail walking just behind them. They were to go up to about ten feet away, and the menfolk would incline their heads, and Gail was to give a very small curtsey. She was glad that she'd learned that skill in Rivendell. Having lived her whole life in the USA, she had never had any occasion to curtsey until they had come to Middle-earth.
"Lord Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower, representing Master Elrond of Imladris," called the herald. Glorfindel pulled a small sealed document from his robes and handed it to the herald, who handed it to the Steward. Denethor nodded and placed it in his lap. Glorfindel then stepped to the side.
"Radagast the Brown of Rhosgobel, the Brown Istar," called the herald. Radagast nodded, not a nod of subservience, but an acknowledgement of the introduction. He stood quite straight and looked both Denethor and Faramir in the eye before he went to stand on Glorfindel's left.
"Avorn Avamenion, second to Lord Glorfindel,” said the herald. Avorn gave another nod and stepped over to the right of his captain.
"Master Steven McCloud, son of Thomas, and his wife, Mistress Gail," called the herald. The two of them both took one step and repeated the nod and curtsey.
The Steward looked at each of them, and then said, "Long has it been since we have received visitors from the hidden realm of Imladris in the North. We look forward to renewing Gondor's ancient ties with the North. Please, accept our welcome. Ondahil will show you to your chambers, where you may refresh yourselves, and then join my son and myself for the day meal, where we may talk of what brings you here…" The Steward seemed out of breath for a moment, and then he went on. "I do know some of it, yet we should speak of it in more comfortable surroundings."
All five of them nodded once more, and then Glorfindel spoke. "We are glad of your welcome and your hospitality. Thank you, Lord Denethor.”
Denethor rose and seemed to sway a bit, and then Lord Faramir took his father by the elbow and guided him to a door at the back of the room.
Gail watched them, concerned. The Steward seemed to be unwell; she hoped it was not something serious. Ondahil appeared, to take them to their quarters along with the others.
Apparently, Steve had also noticed the Steward's laboured breathing. "Is the Steward all right, Master Ondahil?"
"He breathed in much smoke during the fire at the Houses of Healing as he exerted himself to save his wounded son. It is thanks to him and to the Ernil-i-pheriannath that Lord Faramir lives. But it is possible that the Steward may never recover from the smoke.”
Steve winced. Smoke inhalation could be very serious, especially for someone older.
Faramir led his father into the small room behind the audience chamber, where his servant waited to help Denethor out of his heavy robe of office and assist him to a seat. Faramir took another seat nearby.
The servant poured out a goblet of wine, sprinkled in some of the herbs the healers had recommended to ease the Steward's breathing, and then passed it to his master. Denethor took a deep swallow, and breathed in through his nose, letting it out slowly. He passed the letter from Elrond to his son.
"Would you read it for me, son?" he asked.
Faramir nodded, and using his thumb to break the seal, opened it and started reading it aloud:
By the hand of Erestor
From Elrond, Master of Imladris,
Unto Denethor son of Ecthelion, Steward of Gondor
“Greetings from the people of Imladris and the Last Homely House.
“My Lord Denethor,
“It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to renew the ties between the valley and the White City, Minas Tirith, though I well recall its days as Minas Anor. May it one day shine once more as brightly as it did then.
“I send to you this delegation of Elves of my household. They journey with a two-fold purpose. One is in the hope that they shall arrive perhaps in time to be of assistance in the upcoming war, or failing that, that they may be of succour in the aftermath.
“The second is that they are escorts of guests of mine, who have their own quest in the South. I recommend to you Steven McCloud Thomasion, and his wife and two small daughters. They are in search of their three older children, Kevin, Jennifer, and Joseph, also called Joey.
“The three children accompanied those who were sent on their own errand, led by the wizard Mithrandir and by one known as Strider. Your own son Boromir was among that company, as well as an Elf, a Dwarf, and four of the periannath. Of the purpose of their mission, I may not write, although if you have spoken with Boromir by the time you receive this missive, you will likely know already what that is.
“If there is any way in which you may be of assistance in their search for their children, I beg of you to facilitate it. As one father to another, you will know of their fears until they are brought together once more. Please be good to them.
“Of your son, Boromir, know that he arrived here safely, and is even now heading for home. He may even have arrived there before this letter, and if so, I rejoice with you at the reunion.
“There is much more that I have confided in Lord Glorfindel, who may be able to answer questions about matters which at this time are unsafe to place in a letter.
Master of Imladris”
Faramir looked at his father, who leaned back and steepled his fingers. Denethor thought for a moment, and then said, "The letter is a fair one, and a cautious one. Do you believe that these Elves and this new wizard can be of help to us now?"
"I do not know them yet, save that I have heard tales of this Lord Glorfindel, if he is indeed the same Elf of legend. Master Elrond does not mention the wizard in his letter." Faramir looked puzzled.
"Perhaps he joined them later in their journey. The herald announced him as being of Rhosgobel, which if I recall correctly, is near Mirkwood," his father said. "I am not familiar with him. The only wizards I know are Mithrandir and Saruman, and Saruman joined the Enemy."
Faramir nodded. "I think I recall some story that Mithrandir told me as a child, of a friend of his, a fellow wizard who could speak with birds and other animals. That might have been this Radagast."
"Alas, my son, that these McClouds arrived too late to find their children in the city. But they will soon be reunited."
"Yes, Father, they will be. But it is our duty now, as hosts, to break bread with them." Faramir rose and helped his father to rise.
"Thank you, Faramir. Let us attend them." Steadying himself with Faramir's elbow, he drew a breath, and the two left the small office. "I hope that our hospitality may go someway to ease their disappointment in not finding their children here in the city.”
Ondahil led the group up several flights of stairs to a wide corridor. The left-hand side of the corridor was lined with tall arched windows through which the sunlight poured. In a couple of places, instead of windows, there was an arched door leading out to a small balcony. On the right-hand side, there were doors interspersed with small alcoves. The alcoves had tables displaying small statues or pottery. The walls occasionally had tapestries hanging upon them, and in one spot, there was a shield hanging on the wall with two swords crossed above it.
Megan had fallen asleep in Mairen's arms, but Kaylee walked by her parents, with Lucy at her heels. Kaylee stared wide-eyed at everything, and then tugged on her mother's sleeve. "Mommy, where are the princesses?"
Startled, Gail glanced down at Kaylee, and smiled. "What did you ask me, sweetie?"
"Where are the princesses?" Kaylee repeated. "We’re in a castle. There should be princesses."
Gail laughed. "I don't know if there are princesses here or not, Kaylee. There might be one, I guess, but I don't know."
Steve looked down at his daughter and chuckled. "Well, they said this is a Citadel, not a castle. And the Steward is not a King. There might not be any princesses."
"Oh." Kaylee sighed and looked disappointed.
"But," said her father, "there might be. We’ll just have to wait and see." Amusement creased his forehead. “And even if there are, they may not be wearing beautiful gowns and tiaras like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.”
Just then the corridor came to an end, and in front of them was a large set of double doors. Ondahil opened them both wide and ushered them in. The room was large, and like the corridor, it had windows all the way down the left-hand side. There were four doors at the back of the room, evenly spaced, and on the right-hand wall were four more.
There were window seats below the windows, and several servants were bustling about setting up a large table. Ondahil led Glorfindel, Radagast, Mairen, and Steve and Gail to the back of the room, where he assigned Glorfindel the first and Radagast the second of the bedchambers behind the doors. Steve and Gail were given the third bedchamber, and the fourth had been set up for Mairen and the two little girls. Lucy would also stay with them. Each bedchamber, they were told, had a small water closet. The rooms on the right-hand side were allotted to the other Elves, three to a chamber.
"The bathing rooms are all on the floor below," said Ondahil, "but there is fresh water in the ewers on the washstands. You have time to refresh yourselves and, if you wish, to change clothing. The meal will be announced once the Steward and Lord Faramir arrive."
Gail took the first turn at the washstand, a set-up very much like the one in Rivendell; Steve checked out the door into the water-closet, which was on the left side of the room, next to a wardrobe.
"Whoa! Gail! They have plumbing!" he called out.
Gail quickly dried her face and went to see what he was talking about. The room was very small, with nothing in it but a very old-fashioned toilet. It was made of copper. The bottom part was just a seat with the base engraved with an embossed design of leaves and flowers, and a copper pipe led up to a large rectangular tank mounted high on the wall. A pull chain hung down from the tank.
Gail blinked. "I've only seen something like that in museums," she said.
While Steve did his own washing up, Gail changed out of her travel clothes into one of the dresses brought from Lothlórien. As soon as Steve changed, they and the others, followed by Lucy, went back out into the outer room, where they saw the table had been completely set up, and was now surrounded by wooden chairs with low backs. The table was covered with a snowy-white cloth. On wheeled serving carts set up on the window side of the room, servants were preparing plates. Standing close to Gail and Kaylee, Mairen held Megan on her hip.
Gail noticed that the two shorter ends of the table were set up with one elaborate chair at each end, and there were eleven chairs down each side, only slightly less elaborate. As some people started entering the room, Kaylee tugged on Gail's sleeve. "Mommy! Look! Maybe they might be princesses?"
Denethor had entered the room with a very attractive older lady who was wearing a white veil, held in place by a jewelled coronet, and she wore a gown of deep blue and a tabard of lighter blue, embroidered with a white swan. Behind him, Faramir was escorting two younger women. One of them looked as though she might be a year or two older than Jennifer. She had long dark hair, which she wore loose, and was also wearing blue. She bore a strong resemblance to Faramir, and Gail wondered if she might be his sister. The other was a tall and striking blonde. She, too, wore her hair loose, and her gown was white, though it had an elaborate embroidered belt that hung down in front nearly to the hem. She was smiling at Faramir, and he was returning the smile.
The group had stopped at the entrance, and now everyone waited. All eyes turned to the newcomers, as an older gentleman who bore a strong resemblance to Ondahil called out:
"The Lord Steward of Gondor, Denethor son of Ecthelion.
"Lady Linderiel, Princess of Dol Amroth.
"Lord Faramir, son of Denethor.
"Lady Lothiriel, daughter of Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth.
"Lady Éowyn, Princess of Rohan, sister of Éomer, King of Rohan.”
"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Princesses!" Kaylee was hopping up and down excitedly, and Gail's face flamed in embarrassment.
"Shush, Kaylee," she said firmly, leaning down.
Kaylee bit her lip and hung her head. She had learned better than that. But Princesses! Megan stared wide-eyed at the strange men and women and stuck her thumb in her mouth. Lucy tilted her head and then wagged her tail as she moved her head around from behind Gail's skirt and stared up at the strangers.
While Denethor and the older Princess (who, Gail guessed, was not his wife after all, since she seemed to be a queen of some other place besides Gondor) pretended not to notice Kaylee's gaffe, Faramir gave a gentle smile in their direction. As Denethor led the Queen over to introduce her to Glorfindel and Radagast, Faramir led the two younger ladies in their direction. Both the young women were smiling, and Gail felt relief that they didn't seem to take offense.
When the three arrived in front of Gail and Kaylee, Kaylee made up for her outburst with a beautiful deep curtsey. Gail also curtsied, but not so deeply—she was afraid she'd fall over if she tried. In Mairen’s arms, Megan stared at them and continued sucking her thumb. Lucy whined.
Faramir grinned, and then gestured to the dark-haired girl. "Lady Lothiriel, may I present Mistress Gail McCloud, and her daughters—let me see if I recall correctly? Kaylee? Megan?"
Kaylee nodded, amazed that he knew her name. She stared up at Lothiriel and nodded, speechless. Megan stared at them both, and then ducked her head shyly into Mairen's shoulder.
"Mistress Gail, this is my cousin, the Princess of Dol Amroth. Her father is my uncle, Prince Imrahil, brother to my mother.” Faramir then turned to the blonde-haired woman.
"Lady Éowyn? This is Mistress Gail and Kaylee and Megan," he continued, and then he introduced Mairen. "Mistress Gail, the Lady Éowyn is the sister of the King of Rohan." He looked down at Lucy. “This is your dog?” he asked.
Gail nodded, smiling. “This is Lucy." Faramir bent over to rub Lucy’s head, smiling. Wagging her tail, Lucy licked his fingers.
“Well met, Lucy,” Faramir told her.
As he straightened his back, Kaylee looked up at her mother and whispered loudly, "Is it okay if I talk?" Amused, Gail nodded.
Kaylee looked up at Faramir and asked, "How did you know my name and Megan's?"
He smiled. "I spoke often with your brother Joey, and with Pippin and my brother Boromir. I heard all about your family."
"Oh." She nodded, pleased that Joey had told him about her and Megan. She looked up at the beautiful lady, and then blushed and hesitated.
The blonde princess bent down to look Kaylee in the eye, smiling. "What would you say to me?"
"You have a hurt arm. Is it all right?" Kaylee furrowed her brow in concern.
"It is feeling very much better than it was, little one. I thank you for your concern." She smiled again and stood up.
Now Faramir bent down and spoke once more to Kaylee. "The White Lady is being modest," he said. "It got hurt when she slew an evil sorcerer in the big battle."
It was Éowyn who blushed this time. She might have said more, but Ondahil came over and spoke to Faramir, indicating that it was time to go to the table. Servants began to guide the guest to their seats. Faramir was at one end of the table, and his father at the other. Gail noticed that the Lady Éowyn was seated at Faramir's right hand, and Gail was guided to a chair next to her, with Kaylee. Steve was placed at Farmir's left hand. Mairen was next to him with Megan on her other side. Since Faramir and Éowyn were standing behind their chairs, Steve and Gail also waited. Once everyone was in place, there was a moment of solemn silence. Then Lord Denethor sat, and everyone else followed. Steve and Gail had their own moment of silent prayer as they cast their eyes down. Lord, thought Gail, grasping Kaylee's hand, thank You for bringing us safely here, among these people who are being so good to us. Help us through this meal, that we not offend anyone, and thank You for the food they are offering to us. In Jesus' name, amen.
Beside her, she proudly heard Kaylee whisper, "Amen."
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