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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 76: The Life I Lead
Boromir gently shook Joey's shoulder. The boy was sleeping soundly in his cot at the foot of Boromir's cot. Joey sat up instantly, and then gave a gasp of dismay as he saw that his liege was already dressed for the day.
"I'm sorry, my lord!" he said.
Boromir chuckled. "You had a big day yesterday, and a long evening as well. I thought to let you sleep a little longer than usual. While having a page is helpful, I am capable of dressing myself at need. And it will not be many days before Pippin is once more able to share your duties. I only wakened you because I have been summoned to council, and also because if you sleep much longer, you might miss the morning mess. But if you do not want breakfast, by all means, go back to sleep for a while."
Joey shook his head and sat up. Boromir ruffled his hair and said, "Farewell for the nonce. I will send for you when the council is ended." The Captain-General left his tent, and Joey hopped out of bed and got dressed.
When he got to the mess tent, he found Kevin and Bergil there, along with Pippin and Merry. They were sitting on a bench, eating porridge. "You just missed Jen," called Kevin, as Joey went to get one of the wooden bowls and serve himself some porridge from the big cauldron by the fire. He filled it up and wandered over to join the others.
"How's Jen doing?" he asked his older brother as he sat down.
"She's fine. She just had to hurry, because the healers needed her. As for me, well, I had…" Kevin stopped to yawn, and continued, "...watch last night, so as soon as I am done eating, I am going to my bedroll."
Kevin's yawn made Joey yawn as well; Kevin laughed at him. "Yawning is contagious." He scraped up the last of the porridge for one last bite and stood up. "I'll see you later, sport." Kevin bent over and gave Joey a rough hug with his elbow, went to leave his bowl over where it would be washed, and then wandered off.
Joey turned to his remaining friends. "What are you going to be doing, then?" he asked.
Bergil shook his head. "I'm reporting to the Guardsmen, where Ada is. They will no doubt have tasks for me, but I don't know what those will be yet. Most likely, I shall be running messages or fetching things."
Merry chuckled. "I know exactly what I will be doing. Éomer King had me start a list of all the horses that his army still has here, so I must finish that. And then Lord Éothain and I will go among them to see which might be suitable for pulling waggons instead of being ridden."
"What for?" asked Joey.
"Well, sooner or later we'll be leaving Cormallen. And many of the wounded will be unable to ride or to walk," was Merry's answer.
"Oh." Joey hadn't thought of that—of course, they had to leave, now that the war was over.
Pippin grinned. "I don't have any tasks at the moment, as I've heard nothing from Lord Boromir yet. I thought I would go visit Frodo and Sam, and take them some breakfast. Although they were up and about yesterday, they still are not completely recovered, and Strider insists that they rest today, and not walk around all over the camp."
"I could come with you," Joey said. "Lord Boromir is at council with Lord Elessar and the other captains, and said he would send for me when he needed me. And he said it would probably be a few days before you could come to squire him again."
So, Bergil and Merry went off to their duties, and Pippin sat and kept Joey company as Joey finished his own breakfast. Pippin took out his pipe and lit it up. "You don't mind?" he asked.
Joey shook his head. Pipe smoke didn't bother him as badly as cigarette smoke did, and Pippin only smoked for a short time, since he did not have very much pipe-weed on hand. Besides, what breeze there was, was blowing away from them.
Joey finished his porridge and drank some water from the wooden cup he carried on a loop on his belt, and then the two went off in search of Frodo and Sam.
Jennifer strode quickly back to the healer's encampment. It was not far from the mess tent, but she knew there would be plenty to do today. She was very glad to have seen Kevin, whom she often did not see all day until evening, when all three of them would get together to have devotions. She was so glad that they were at least able to do that. She had begun to wonder if she should tell her brothers yet that it was possible their parents were also here in Middle-earth. Actually, more than possible, from what she had gathered from Lady Galadriel. But up until now, she'd been at peace keeping it secret. After all, until the war ended, there really had been no guarantees that things would work out. But in the last few days, she had become more and more convinced they would be seeing their mom and dad, and their little sisters, too, very soon. Maybe even in Minas Tirith!
Lord, she silently prayed, help me to know if it is the right time to tell Kevin and Joey. And please, Lord, don't let them be mad at me for not telling them sooner.
"Lady Jennifer!" one of the healers called her. Unlike many of the other healers, this one was a man, Master Sorel.
"Yes, Master Sorel?" She went in his direction.
"I am glad to see you. You seem to have a way with some of the younger warriors who have been wounded."
She blushed. "Thank you, Master Sorel. I have two brothers; I guess that's why."
He chuckled at her. "I daresay it could be. The young fighter from Rohan who had a dislocated knee has been relieved of his splint this morning. The knee will need to be reminded of how to move, but it is yet too tender to walk upon. Have you been shown how to help manipulate a recovering limb?"
Jennifer nodded. "Yes, sir. Dame Ioreth showed me how to do that in the city, before we left."
She knew right where the young man was. His name was Folca, if she remembered correctly. She'd brought him meals a time or two, and she’d helped when one of the healers had needed to re-wrap the splint once.
He was lying upon his cot, both hands behind his head, and a scowl upon his face.
"Good morning, Folca! How are you today?" she said cheerfully.
"I am well enough that they took that thing off my leg," he said. "But still, they will not allow me out of bed yet. I must lie here like a babe, when I should be up and about!" He frowned.
"Well, Master Sorel does not think so. But he has sent me to help you exercise your knee. You'll have to do that often if you don't want to fall down, the first step you take!"
"You sound just like my sister!" he said.
"Probably. You sound just like my brother! Now, I need to move the blanket and get hold of your leg. I will support it as you lift it up just a little—not enough to pain yourself, now! And then I will gently bend it and lower it. We'll do it five times, and then rest, and if you are not too tired, we will do it five more times."
He scoffed. "Only five at a time? I could do much more!"
"No, you can't. I won't let you." She carefully pushed the blanket off his right leg. “Ligaments can only heal so quickly, Folca, and you’ll jeopardize your knee’s recovery if you try to use it too much, too soon.”
Suddenly he blushed bright red and tried to push the blanket back.
"Oh, don't be silly! You said I am like your sister!" Jennifer scolded; though she felt a little embarrassed herself, she did not let on. Healers were outside of certain conventions, Dame Ioreth had told her, and he was just another patient. With determination, she put her left hand just above the knee and her right hand just below, and very slowly lifted. She could feel the leg trembling a little, so when it was only about four or five inches up, she very carefully allowed the knee to bend.
Folca gasped and turned pale, but Jennifer ignored that as well, and lowered it back to the bed. She counted to ten in her head, and then lifted and bent the leg once more. The second time, he did not gasp, but held his breath. Then she repeated the exercise three more times. The fifth time, she stopped and stepped back.
Folca gave a shuddering gasp this time and Jennifer watched for signs his body was relaxing.
When he once more had a little colour in his face, she asked, "Are you up to doing it again?"
"Yes. I want to at least be able to ride when we leave, and not be dragged about in a waggon like a child."
Jennifer smiled at him and stepped forward to do another five repeats. This time he did not gasp, but he still turned very pale. After the five repeats, he said in a very tired voice, "Thank you, Lady Jennifer."
"Oh, it's no bother," she responded, glad to realize that really was true. "Let me bring you some water." She took the small wooden cup from the floor by his cot and took it to the small barrel of drinking water just inside the tent. She carried it back to him, and he drank it all and then fell back, as though exhausted. Jennifer pulled the blanket up to his chin, like she would have done for Joey, and was soon rewarded by his eyes closing and his breath evening out.
Then she went to find out what else she could do to help.
Joey and Pippin found Frodo and Sam in the beech grove, sitting on a blanket thrown over the roots of one of the trees. The breeze was mild, and the rustling of the leaves and dappled light made for a nice setting. Frodo was leaning back against the bole of the tree, his eyes closed, but Sam, who was sipping from his waterskin, looked up and grinned at them.
"Mr. Pippin! Master Joey!" he said. "How are you both today?"
This alerted Frodo, who opened his eyes and issued his own greeting.
"Well, we've some time on our hands," said Pippin. "Boromir's at a meeting with Strider and the other captains, and probably Gandalf, too. He left Joey some free time, and he has yet to call me back to duty. So, we thought we would come and pester you two for a while."
"Pippin!" said Joey, feeling a little embarrassed at how informal the hobbit was being. But Pippin just winked at Frodo, who laughed.
"Ah, Pip! How I have missed your nonsense! No one else I know is quite so silly!" Frodo also winked, this time at Joey.
"I think," Sam said slyly, "it's because Mr. Pippin takes after you so much!"
This made both Frodo and Pippin laugh, but Joey looked at Sam thoughtfully. Sam might be joking around, but he was also right—Pippin did kind of take after Frodo in some ways. Joey plopped down next to Sam, and Pippin did the same on the other side of Frodo. Frodo reached over with his left hand and ruffled Pippin's curls, as if he was a little kid.
Pippin glanced over. "Well, you look a sight better than you did a few days ago. I had begun to think you would never wake up! That was some healing spell Strider had you under! You too, Sam."
Joey giggled. "Do you suppose he had to kiss them to wake them up?"
The other three looked at him suddenly, as though he was crazy, and Joey blushed. "It just reminded me of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. But I guess you guys don't know those stories—they’re fairy tales back home. Those are a couple of Kaylee's favourite stories!"
"So, what are those stories about, Master Joey?" Sam asked. He appeared quite eager, and from the expression on Frodo's and Pippin's faces, they were curious, too.
"Well, I guess I could tell them to you.” He sat back and thought for a moment, trying to remember what he could—he knew there were some other versions of those two stories—when he’d been younger, he had read them, and he’d had them read to him—but he was most familiar with the Disney ones. "Well, you see, there was this baby Princess named Aurora, and the King and Queen had a big party for her, but they forgot to invite this one fairy…"
All three hobbits listened, enthralled, to the story, not interrupting, and then insisted he tell the Snow White one as well, although they did interrupt that a couple of times with questions about the Dwarves. Joey apologized for not remembering all the names—he could only remember Doc, Grumpy, Sneezy, and Dopey. After a brief discussion involving what the other three knew of Dwarves, they came to the conclusion that those were probably not their real names anyway, just nicknames, so it didn't matter.
Joey was tired of talking when he finished both stories, so he said, "Well, it's you guys' turn now! You should tell me some hobbit stories!"
The three of them obliged, each of them telling a different tale. Pippin told a strange tale of his Uncle Isengar, who had gone off to sea and had some odd adventures, and Sam told about the hobbit lass Buttercup, whose master was one of the Big Folk and had tried to make her fly*, and Frodo finished up with the story of the brothers Marco and Blanco, and how they had founded the Shire.
Frodo had scarcely finished his tale, when Pippin's stomach gave a mighty rumble, followed by a slightly less mighty one from Joey's own middle.
"My stars!" Frodo exclaimed. "We've talked the whole morning away!"
Pippin shook his head. "I would say we've missed both second breakfast and elevenses, if they had such things here. But an early luncheon would not go amiss!" He glanced over at his cousin and Sam. "Are you two up to a stroll to the mess tent? Or should we bring a basket to you both?"
Frodo sat forward. "I personally would like to stretch my legs. How about you, Sam?"
"I think I could manage that, sir," Sam answered.
Pippin gave both of them a look-over. "You are not nearly so pale as yesterday. And you did manage that whole walk all the way through the camp—the mess tent's not half so far. But if you get tired—" He gave a mild glare to Sam. "—either one of you, then say so, and we'll stop and rest on the way."
Frodo chuckled. "Yes, Mother," he said, reaching out his left hand for Pippin to haul him to his feet.
Sam smiled, and allowed Joey to do the same for him. "Thanks, Master Joey, you're a good lad."
Joey blushed, but he and Pippin flanked their friends as they strolled in the direction of food. They walked more slowly than either Pippin or Joey would have on their own, but Frodo was only a little winded when they arrived, and Sam seemed relieved when they got there. There was a small crowd, and Pippin was glancing around for a spot to park both Frodo and Sam while he and Joey fetched some food. Joey was looking around, too, when he heard a familiar voice call his name.
"Joey! Over here!" It was Kevin's voice for sure. He was waving an arm, and the four of them looked over to see him sitting near the end of one of the long benches near the tent entrance. There was some room next to him on either side. Kevin already had his food, though he did not seem to have started eating yet. They went over, and Joey gave his brother a one-armed hug. Pippin insisted on Frodo and Sam sitting down with Kevin, while he and Joey went off to find food and drink.
It turned out lunch was fish stew. Joey made a face and didn't say anything. Fish stew was not his favourite, but it's not like there was much choice. There was plenty of fish in the river, and lots of bored warriors, some of whom liked to fish. And since there was no cornmeal or breadcrumbs, it couldn’t be fried in the way he liked it. Pippin shook his head at the sight of the large bowls. "We'll have to make two trips," he said. "Those bowls are too large for each of us to carry two. And the broth is thin, so we won't need to bring drink."
So that was what they did, grabbing a few bread rolls that they could just place on top of the stew as they carried it. They also grabbed some of the wooden spoons that were on top of a barrel in a basket. The spoons were still hot, as if they had just been cleaned.
They handed the two bowls they had to Frodo and Sam, and then they went back over to serve themselves. Joey realized he actually was quite hungry.
Of course, they would have to stand in line again, and in front of them were three people together, with a small hand wagon that held a large pot. There was something familiar about the back of one of them. "Jen?" said Joey.
She turned. "Joey! Hey, sweetie!" Joey blushed a little at her greeting. But she called him "sweetie" a lot, and he'd learned not to make a fuss over it.
"Hi, sis! Can you come eat with us? Kevin's over there…" He pointed at the bench, where Kevin sat with Frodo and Sam.
She shook her head. "I've already finished eating. We have to take this food back to the healers’ camp for the patients."
One of the other people she was with, a young man, spoke up. "You can take a few minutes to go speak to your brother and the pheriain. Gramand I will wait for you at the path."
"Thank you, Fin.” Jennifer waited as Joey and Pippin got their fish stew, and then she grabbed the bread rolls and spoons for them.
Jennifer handed them the bread and spoons when they sat down. Kevin was going to scoot over to make room for her, but she shook her head. "I can't stay but a minute, as I have to help get the food back to the healers’ camp for the patients. I’ve already had my own lunch."
She stood near the bench where they were sitting, and told them a little of her morning, while they ate. "...and the healers are letting me help with the therapy now! I got to work on this one Rohirrim's knee—it had been dislocated for a while before it got fixed."
"Oh," said Kevin. "I know him. He's a friend of Haleth—Folca, I think. I was going to get with Haleth for a while after lunch. Do you think we would be able to visit him? Is he allowed any visitors yet?"
"Sure. He’d probably like that. Well, let me get going. Fin and Gram are waiting for me, and we don't want the patients' food to get cold."
Joey got up and hugged his sister. She was very busy, and he didn't see her nearly enough now. "I'll see you tonight, won't I?" he asked her.
"Of course." Their evening devotions together were very important to the three siblings, and lately they had begun to have them in the beech grove.
Aragorn looked around at the other men at the table. After hours of reports of lists of men, both hale and wounded, supplies and horses, the meeting was very nearly at an end. "Lord Imrahil, you will be supervising the work at Osgiliath. How long do you think it will take in order to make it across with the wounded?"
The Prince nodded thoughtfully. "There will be some aid from the City, as my brother-in-law indicated, but not so much as I had hoped, for there is also much dangerous damage inside the walls of Minas Tirith. However, he is able to send an engineer with about five helpers, and I will take with me all from Dol Amroth who are hale and able to do the actual work. May I ask for volunteers among the other troops?"
"For my part," said Aragorn, "any men able and willing from among the warriors of Gondor are free to offer their aid." He glanced at Éomer, who was sitting back with his arms crossed.
Éomer nodded. "Many of my men are unhorsed, and many horses who were not killed or wounded are needed for the pulling of the waggons and wains of the wounded men. My own éored,I shall keep here mounted to patrol the area for any stragglers among the enemy."
Halbarad shook his head. "We Rangers of the North are here to guard you, cousin," he said with a stern look at Aragorn. "We will remain here. There are not so many of us that we can divide up."
Boromir spoke up. "The Guardsmen of the City are not mounted. I shall see how many may have skills to offer to you, Uncle," he said to Imrahil. "The Rangers of Ithilien are deployed to scout out the surrounding area."
"Thank you," Imrahil said. He looked back at Aragorn. "I think, my Lord, that given those resources, and weather permitting, we may have the causeway back in order and the landing repaired in about ten days."
Aragorn nodded. "Very well, then. We shall inform the camp that we will be departing in ten days. That will give you some time in case of delay, as with wounded and waggons, the journey should take about two to two-and-a-half days before we arrive at Osgiliath. I believe that is all we need to discuss. You are all dismissed."
Everyone stood, and with the exception of Gandalf and Boromir, all of the others filed out.
When everyone else was gone, Boromir pulled a parchment from inside his cloak. "My Lord," he said to Aragorn, "I have here a letter from my father, sent separately from the report we discussed. It seems that a group of Elves are on the way to Minas Tirith from Rivendell. They possibly may have already arrived in the City by now. And among them are four from the race of Men." He gave a mischievous grin. "They are a husband and wife and two young girls—Steven and Gail McCloud, and Kaylee and Megan."
Gandalf laughed. "I see that once more, the Lady Galadriel was right!"
Aragorn shook his head. "I am very surprised, but pleased. Should we send Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey back? Legolas could possibly escort them?"
Gandalf shook his head. "The Lady knows something of all this. She told me that should such happen, we should tell only Jennifer, and let her make that decision."
Aragorn looked at the wizard with a scowl at first, but then shook his head and smiled. "Who am I to gainsay my future grandmother-in-law?"
A/N: The stories told are references to two of Dreamflower's stories, "At the Sign of the Poisoned Apple" (http://www.storiesofarda.com/chapterview.asp?sid=6989&cid=30724) and "Why Hobbits Don't Like Heights" (https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8928199/1/At-the-Sign-of-the-Poison-Apple), found on this site.
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