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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 79: From All of Us to All of You
Gail was sitting in the common area with Mairen. Mairen was darning one of Kaylee's stockings, and Gail was sewing up a small tear in one of Megan's plain dresses. She was rather pleased that she had remembered how to do a backstitch from years ago, and it was coming along nicely. She was rather proud of herself, considering that she had not done much hand-sewing for ages. Steve and Avorn had gone with Kaylee and Megan to take Lucy for a walk, but she expected them to return soon. The other Elves, including Glorfindel, had been up and about since dawn, and Radagast had gone down after breakfast to the Houses of Healing.
Just then the door openly suddenly, and Steve came in, looking excited.
Gail glanced up. "Where are Kaylee and Megan? And Lucy and Avorn, for that matter?"
Steve grinned. "Avorn took the girls and Lucy to the paddock to see the horses there. Lord Denethor sent for me." He took a roll of parchment out of his belt pouch. "The messengers from the Army came today, and this came for us. I haven't opened it yet, but I think I have an idea of what it is."
Gail didn't even notice she had pricked her index finger, as she put her sewing down beside her. "News of the kids?"
"I'm pretty sure it probably is," said Steve.
Mairen glanced over at Gail. "I think I shall go down to the kitchens and see if I can bring up a mid-day meal." She went out of their quarters serenely, and Gail smiled.
"Mairen always knows when she should make herself scarce. She is such a good friend. I really can't appreciate her enough." A wistful look crept over her face. “I’m going to miss her when we return to Oregon.”
With a smile, Steve sat down next to her, and with his thumb, popped off the little blob of wax that held the parchment sealed, and unrolled it.
Gail gasped. "Oh!" Tears pricked her eyes. She reached up to wipe them, and noticing the blood oozing out of her finger, she wrapped her handkerchief around it. It would be fine in a couple of minutes.
Steve looked at her, his own eyes a little moist. He cleared his throat. "Kevin wrote first."
Gail looked at the top paragraph. Although it was blotted with ink, and clearly written with a quill, it was definitely Kevin's rather blocky, half-printed handwriting. She and Steve began to read the letter silently.
‘Dear Mom and Dad,
‘We were really floored to get a message from Minas Tirith that you guys were in Gondor with Kaylee and Megan and all. The message Lord Boromir got from his dad the Steward said you were looking for us. I've got no idea how you guys got here to Middle-earth.
‘We kind of got caught up in this war thing with Sauron and were separated for a little while, but we had some good people looking after us, and the Lord took good care of us, too.
‘I kind of ended up being a soldier, helping to fight in Rohan, and in Minas Tirith, and then over here at the very end. There was a lot of exciting stuff and some really scary stuff. I think I’ll have to talk to you in person, especially Dad.
‘Don't worry much about us. All the fighting is over now, and we are safe with Aragorn (he's the new King, and they call him Lord Elessar now) and with Gandalf the White, who is a wizard (but not like in fantasy at home—he's a good guy. But hard to explain in a letter), and with Lord Boromir, who is the main General of Gondor; they call him "Captain-General".
‘Anyway, we should be heading out to the staging area at Osgiliath in a few days, and just a few days more after that for everyone to get to Minas Tirith. I can't wait to see you all. The three of us have been having devotions together in the evenings. Love you both, Kevin.
‘I will let Jennifer write some now.’
Jennifer's handwriting was somewhat blotted, but not so much as Kevin's. She wrote in a neat but loopy hand, with little hearts dotting her "i"s.
‘Hi Mom and Daddy,
‘I can't tell you how glad I am that I know you are finally here! It’s going to be so great to see you and Kaylee and Megan and Lucy. Lord Aragorn told me that Lord Glorfindel was with you all, so I guess you must've been in Rivendell. Did you go in the cave and come out in Middle-earth like we did?
‘We have traveled so far and had so many adventures—if we were in a movie or a book, no one would think it was realistic at all! But we've met some very good and wise people along the way. They’ve all taken such good care of us. I can't wait for you to meet Gandalf and Aragorn and Boromir and Legolas and Gimli, and especially Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. I don't know what we'd have done without them. I really love all of them after all we've been through.
‘We have all three learned a lot of things. I’m learning how to be a healer and take care of patients. I like doing it, though it's hard to see people suffering. But it feels like the Lord is really using me when I help them. I think maybe I might like to be a nurse when I get back—I mean, I know I have to finish school and all first, but it's the first time I've thought up a job I might like to do when I’m grown up.
‘You will be so proud of Kevin and Joey. They are so brave, and Joey is so grown up now. He still likes to have fun, but he knows now when it’s time to be serious. And Kevin has tried really hard to set us both a good example and stuff like that.
‘I can't wait to see you and have you meet all our friends that we have made here! I'm going to let Joey have a turn now.’
Joey's hand was neatly printed, with hardly any blots, though some parts of the letters were much thicker than others.
‘Hey, Mom and Daddy!!!* You came! I am so glad you came. I know we've been gone for ages and ages. I hope you didn't worry too much about us. I hope Uncle Ryan and Aunt Janet are OK. And you brought Megan that's almost the whole family! Since you have Kaylee you must of been in Rivendell. Did you get to meet Bilbo Baggins? He's an old hobbit! Aren't hobbits cool? I think you will really like Pippin. He's been kind of like a big brother to me when Kevin wasn't around but shorter.
‘We traveled a lot, and I learned how to start a fire and use a knife and cook and row a lot better than at camp, and I can shoot stones out of a sling real good it's a sling like in David and Goliath. Sam taught me how and it's a good thing he did cause I knocked out an Orc!! We had some scary times too but I think I want to tell that part in person because you might worry if I tell it in a letter. Also, guess what—I'm a page! Just like in the Middle Ages! I work for Lord Boromir—I got to say an oath that I would obey him, and he said one to me that he would take care of me like a father until I could be with you again Daddy! But I get to wear livery it's like a uniform and shine his armor. And guess what! Kevin's a knight now! I'm a page and he's a knight! Guess that makes him Sir Kevin, huh?
‘Anyway that's all of us written now, so bye till we see you in maybe a week or two. Or it might be more, since it's Middle-earth and we don't have cars. Love Joey’
As they read the end of the letter, they turned to one another, and Gail took both of Steve's hands in her own, as they stared at one another. Gail's eyes filled with tears. "We are so close, Steve. We are so very close. Can't we go to them?"
Steve took a deep breath and closed his eyes to think. After a moment of silence, and a brief silent prayer, he said, “Much as I would love to do that, hon, it does not mean we'd see them much sooner. As Joey pointed out, they don't have cars here. But more to the point, I am not sure we could go—they are in a military camp, and strange as it may seem to us to think about, they have their own duties to see to. We would simply be a distraction to both them and to the army there."
Gail sighed. "You're right," she said sadly. "Not only that, but it probably would not be safe to take Kaylee and Megan, and while I know Mairen would take care of them here, it wouldn't be fair to her, or to the girls—I think Megan, at least, would be frightened if we went away and left them here, and it's not unlikely that Kaylee might be as well."
"That's true as well," Steve replied. "I think the Lord is telling us that we need to be patient a little longer."
Gail feigned a scowl. "I don't recall praying for patience anytime lately."
Steve chuckled. "Well, the Lord gives us trials to learn patience, because He knows that otherwise we'd never pray for it." He gave his wife a hug, and then sat back. "But there is one thing we can do: we can write them back. Military messengers can move pretty quickly, even in places without modern methods."
Gail nodded. "That would be great, Steve. Do you suppose that the Steward would mind if it went with one of his messengers?"
"I don't think he would mind at all." Suddenly he laughed. "We may need to find some parchment—but we won't have to write with quills!"
Gail raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
Steve smiled. "I've hardly used my ballpoint pen since we left Rivendell!"
It turned out that they had no need for parchment, either**. There was a supply of actual paper inside a desk in the common room—Mairen showed them when she returned with a servant bearing a tray with some soup and fresh bread and some fruit.
Steve and Gail were hungry, and the soup of chicken broth, lightly flavoured with lemon juice and rosemary and small dumplings, hit the spot. They read the children's letter out to her, and asked about answering it, which was when she showed them the desk.
"I didn't even realize it was a desk," said Steve. "I just thought it was another table." The long flat drawer under the tabletop had not even registered with him. Mairen opened it.
"There is paper here, made by some of the older women servants. They use rags of linen to make it, that they not go to waste," Mairen told him.
The sheets were narrow, but rather long. Steve picked up the first sheet and used a small penknife from the drawer to slice it in half, so that the two halves were almost the size of a standard sheet of paper back home.
"You write, Gail," Steve said as he pulled out the chair for his wife, and handed her his ballpoint, which had been in his belt pouch. "Your handwriting is much better than my chicken scratch." Gail nodded and started writing as Steve, leaning over her shoulder occasionally, reminded her of things to include in the letter.
‘Your dad and I were really surprised and pleased to get a letter from you! We have missed you so much, and we worried so much about all of you from the moment we realized that you were no longer in that cave.
‘You may be surprised to find out that we were not too far behind you when we entered it to look for you. It happened fairly soon, as we had Kaylee's backpack, which we intended to give her, along with a talking-to about leaving it behind. But when we came out and discovered we were no longer in the camp, you were all far ahead of us. So far as I can tell, the four of you ended up in Rivendell in the early fall, but it was nearly spring there by the time we showed up. Your Uncle Ryan and Aunt Janet are still at the campground so far as we know, perhaps still in the same time as when we left.
‘Master Elrond and his daughter were very kind to us, and as soon as they deemed it safe, we also started to go look for you three. Master Elrond sent Lord Glorfindel and several other Elves to escort us (along with Kaylee, Megan, and Lucy). Later, we were joined by a wizard named Radagast the Brown, and then we ended up in Lothlórien. Unfortunately, we could not leave from there right away, as the war had heated up, and it was no longer safe to travel.
‘As soon as we could, when everything was over with, our whole party started downriver in boats, fully expecting to find you in Minas Tirith when we arrived. It was very disappointing to learn you were not. But we were so glad to get your letter!
‘We have met Lord Denethor and Lord Faramir, who have both been very kind and hospitable to us. If Lord Boromir is anything like them, we know he will have taken great care of you. Of course, we will always worry about you until we see you, but we know the Lord is looking over you.
‘Kevin, we are very proud of you, although I think if we had known before the sort of fighting you might be in, we would have been terrorized at the thought of your danger.
‘Jennifer, as you can tell, you guessed correctly about the cave and about Rivendell. We can't say how proud it makes us to know you are helping people and learning healing skills. If you still want to be a nurse (or even a doctor, Daddy says) when you graduate from high school, then we will do all in our power to help you achieve that goal.
‘Joey, your dad says to make sure that I write that to us, you were only gone a very short while before we also got caught up in Middle-earth, so though we were worried, at least we had news of you. We are so glad you decided to leave Kaylee in Rivendell—that was a very good decision.
‘We did, indeed, make the acquaintance of Bilbo Baggins, and if the other hobbits are anything like him, then they are certainly "cool"! He became a good friend while we were in Rivendell. He taught Kaylee and Megan and me many things during our stay there, and your daddy took lessons from Glorfindel.
‘Joey, it is certainly something to be proud of that you are a page to Lord Boromir, and that your brother is a knight. We can't wait to meet Boromir and thank him for taking such good care of you.’
Gail looked up at Steve. "Anything else we want to say in writing?" she asked.
"Just this." Steve took back the ballpoint and leaned over her shoulder, and wrote:
‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.***
‘Love,...’ Steve handed the pen to Gail. ‘...Mom and…’ After she had handed the pen back to Steve, he added, ‘...Dad’
"I think that now it’s time for us to see about finding a messenger—so we need to speak to Lord Denethor or Lord Faramir, if we can find one of them. Or perhaps Master Ondahil would know." Steve stood up. "Do you want to come with me, honey?"
Gail nodded. "Let me put away this mending and let Mairen know where we are going."
A few moments later, the couple were navigating the wide corridor down to the room where Master Ondahil could be found in between his various rounds of the Citadel. It served as his office, although there was also a sleeping chamber attached to it.
There was no answer to their knock, but as they turned away, they spied him coming up the hallway in their direction. He came up to them. "Master McCloud, Mistress McCloud—how may I help you?"
"Our older children wrote us a letter, which was brought by one of the military messengers," said Steve. "We've written a reply, but we need to find out just how we can get it to them."
Ondahil nodded. "Indeed. The Steward sends and receives messages from Cormallen at least every day, and sometimes more than once a day. Lord Denethor is in Council with the City leaders and those Lords who are within the city today. But I am sure that Lord Faramir can help you."
"Thank you," said Steve.
"Is that it?" Ondahil asked, pointing to the loosely rolled papers in Steve's hand.
"Yes, it is."
"It will need to be sealed. Step into my office, and we can see it properly prepared."
"Thank you," said Gail. "We were not sure if perhaps it might need to be looked at, since it's going to the army camp."
Ondahil chuckled. "It is a private letter to your children, and the war is ended. Come along." He opened the door, and they stepped into a very small room, mostly taken up by a large desk and some shelves along the walls. There was another door to the left, which Steve and Gail assumed led to his bedroom. He went over to one of the shelves, and picked up a wooden tube, one of several on that shelf. Then he went over to the table and picked up a small leather drawstring bag. He opened it and took out a small stone and a small bar of metal. Ondahil held them over a candle in a candlestick on the desk and struck them together. The candlewick lit immediately.
Steve handed the letter to Ondahil, and he and Gail watched in fascination as he quickly rolled it up, and then took the candle and splashed some of the hot wax on it, where the end of the paper was. A generous blob of wax hardened quickly, and Ondahil slid their letter into the tube, handing it back to Steve.
Definitely not like using an envelope and a postage stamp to mail a letter! Steve thought. He gazed down at Ondahil’s stone and bar of metal and shook his head. I wish I was as good at using my striker set that I was given in Rivendell. It usually takes me four or five tries to light a fire with it! Too bad my matches ran out long ago—they’re so much easier to use!
"Now, I believe that we may find Lord Faramir in the gardens of the Houses of Healing. He often takes a walk there with the Lady Éowyn at this time of the day." Ondahil led them out of his office and accompanied the two of them in their search of Faramir.
They did find him there, he and Éowyn sitting on a bench and talking next to one of the herb beds, while his aunt, Princess Lindiriel, strolled not far away.
Gail smiled slyly and indicated the princess's presence with a tilt of her chin. Steve grinned and said in a very low voice, "An old-fashioned chaperone, huh?"
With an amused smile, Gail nodded, but Master Ondahil was bowing as he approached Faramir. "My lord, Master and Mistress McCloud have a request."
Faramir stood and nodded to his guests; by standing, he indicated that this encounter was an informal one. "How may I help you?"
"We have answered a letter from our children who are at Cormallen in the army camp there, and we were wondering if one of your messengers could deliver it for us," said Steve. He held out the tube to his host, and Faramir took it as he nodded.
"Of course. We can send it by our overnight messenger, and it should arrive sometime on the morrow. We usually send at least two messengers a day, so certainly it will be of no difficulty." Faramir tucked the tube into his belt. "Will you not join us?"
Steve looked at Gail, who nodded. "Yes," she said. "Mairen will see to Kaylee and Megan when they get back from their outing with Avorn." Smiling, Steve nodded agreement.
Faramir reached a hand down to the Lady Éowyn, who also stood up, and the four strolled on, joined after a moment by Princess Lindiriel. Master Ondahil excused himself, as he had other duties to see to.
The women all stopped at a fragrant rose bed. The roses were not as colourful or large as those of the modern world, but Gail thought their scent was even better. And it was very interesting to listen to the Princess explain all the medicines and foods that could include roses.
Faramir and Steve stood back and carried on their own conversation. "I'm surprised," said Steve, "that it would be so easy to send a message to the military camp. Where we come from, most such mail must be examined and approved by the officers in charge of the camp before it can be delivered."
The Gondorian gave him a puzzled look. "While it is unusual for those who have gone to war to get messages from home, once the war is ended, there is no reason to fear them." He paused. "Yours must be a suspicious land, to be so fearful."
Now Steve frowned. "It may seem that way, and perhaps it is suspicion and fearfulness, but it also seems to just be the way things are done, both during war and peace."
"Is it, then, that Ore Gon keeps a standing army? And not simply ceremonial guards as we have here in Gondor? While we have kept a standing army since Sauron returned to Mordor in my grandfather's time, it is not our common practice during peacetime. Most of our army consists of the muster brought by our various fiefs, and our guardsmen are trained in the art of war as well as in the rituals of guarding the White Tree, but now that Sauron is no more, we will go back to more peaceful ways, I hope."
Steve thought carefully about his answer. He didn't want to leave the wrong impression, but on the other hand, he didn't want to lie, either. "Oregon is one of many states who have banded together to create one nation. The Union of our states does keep a standing army, and many young people spend a few years as a part of it—as I did. Some people, in fact, become career soldiers. But they do not fight in our lands these days. We have treaties with other nations, and honour those when necessary. But there has not been a war on our own soil since almost a hundred and fifty years ago. We had a Civil War at the time, and it was awful and bloody." He fell silent at that point. It was not a good time to attempt to tell Faramir about the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812, the only other wars that had ever been fought on American soil.
Faramir nodded. "Gondor, too, has had its Kin-strife. Though ours was much further in the past—it was nigh on 1,600 years ago, give or take a few years, yet still the wounds remain." He shook his head. "Let us speak of more pleasant things, shall we?"
Steve was glad to allow the subject to die. He already knew that trying to explain the issue of slavery would not go down well in Gondor, and that the concept of states’ rights would be complicated. With a relieved smile, he nodded agreement, and they began to discuss other things.
Soon they finished their stroll and parted ways, but not before the Princess invited all of them, including the little girls, to dine at her home that evening. Gail was eager to get back to their daughters, and she knew that they would need to take a nap if they were all going to dine out that evening.
A/N: *Joey's grammatical and punctuation errors are deliberate. He's only a third grader, after all.
**Paper has been around for about 2,000 years, when it was first invented in China. It later came to the west by way of the Crusades. Making "rag paper" was sometimes a hobby for women.
***The Bible verses are Numbers 6:24-26 NIV.
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