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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.
A/N: Dreamflower and KathyG apologize for the lateness of this chapter. It was a rare occasion of both of us being under the weather at the same time. We are better now, thank you. And thank you for your patience.
Chapter 82: Sing the Day
Jennifer woke early the next morning. She was curled up in her blanket in the wagon. Next to her were three of the four hobbits. Merry and Pippin had been given permission to join Frodo and Sam at night on this journey; Sam was sandwiched between Frodo and Pippin. She looked at the curly heads and realized Merry was not in the little pile of hobbits.
"Jennifer!" She heard his voice in a low exclamation and glanced up to see him sitting on the driver's seat, half-turned so as to face her. "Here I am."
"Where's Kevin?" she asked.
"Well, he was asleep under the waggon, since I took over his watch, but now he's gone off to find us all some breakfast."
Jennifer nodded. "Okay, well, I am going to freshen up, and I'll see if I can catch up to him and help him carry stuff." She scooted carefully to the back of the waggon. She didn't want to wake the rest of the hobbits up. There she sat up and slipped on her shoes, and then she ran her fingers over the braids fastened at the crown of her head. She was glad she had pinned them up well, as trying to comb them out and re-do them every morning as they travelled would be a pain.
Looking around, she tried to see where everything was. It had been dark when they had stopped for the night, so she had not really been able to do that at the time. She took herself off to find a place to relieve herself and wash up—trying to spot the little tented cubicle usually set up for the female healers and apprentices. She soon spotted it. Thank goodness it isn't far off.
The caravan had not stopped last night until moonrise. Once they had finished supper and settled down for the night, Jennifer had kept thinking about her parents and little sisters. I can’t wait to see them! she had kept thinking while waiting for sleep to come. It’s been so long since any of us have seen Mom and Dad and Megan; it’s even been a long time since we last saw Kaylee. I am so glad she was in Rivendell when they arrived! At least, that way, she got to be reunited with them first. She missed them so much. We all did, but it was hardest on Kaylee.
Once she had finished washing her face and hands, she headed off in the direction of where the food was. She could smell it cooking.
Kevin was glad he wasn't having to juggle anything to drink. The waggon had its own small barrel of drinking water, so that was fine. He had one of his gloves on to carry the little cauldron of hot pease porridge, but it was hard to carry with one hand, as he had to concentrate on not dropping the small loaf of brown bread wrapped in a clean linen napkin which he had in the other.
So many things I'd rather have for breakfast than thick pea soup. He rolled his eyes at the thought. It's not that I hate it or anything, but I'd rather not have it for breakfast. I'd give a lot for an Egg McMuffin instead. Or a sausage and biscuit.
"Kevin! Wait up!"
It was Jennifer's voice. He stopped at once and looked around. There she was! "Hey, Jen!" he called.
She walked up to him. "Could you use an extra hand?" she asked, looking amused.
He handed her the bread, and so was able to use both hands to carry the cauldron. He put his left hand beneath the right, as he didn't have his left glove on. "Thanks, sis," he said.
"No problem. We have four hungry hobbits to feed. Do you suppose there will be enough for us?" She giggled.
"Maybe one or two bites," he said. "Although if it was something besides pease porridge, I might fight them for more."
"You'd probably lose. Never come between a hobbit and his food!"
Kevin laughed out loud. "I shouldn't complain. It's not that bad, just…"
"...not for breakfast," Jennifer completed his sentence. "But it's better than nothing. And the bread really smells good."
By that time, they had reached the waggon, and found all of the hobbits awake and awaiting first (and only) breakfast.
Joey could feel his body ache as he stretched. He had become used to sleeping on a cot or a bed after they had come to Minas Tirith, and even in Cormallen, he'd had a camp cot. But they wouldn't be putting up tents or camp beds on this brief journey; even the wounded were sleeping in the waggons. The only pavilion that was up was the mess tent, and it would come down easily enough. So, he and Boromir were sleeping on the ground in their blankets, just as they had on the journey from Rivendell.
He knew it would be cold once he sat up and dropped the blankets, but he did so anyway, and shuddered as he stretched once more, to ease the soreness away. He slipped on his shoes, and then stood up and grabbed his blanket, and wrapped it close around him. He spotted the watch fire nearby, where a couple of Guardsmen who were on duty stood, and shuffled over. There was a small barrel of fresh water there. He grabbed the dipper that hung at the barrel's edge, and took a swallow, and then poured the rest of the water in it over his head, neck, and hands, spluttering and shivering.
He heard the guards chuckling. "Good morning, Joey," said one of them.
"Good morning, Artamir," he replied. "Was everything okay last night?"
The other Guardsman, Borondir, answered. "Everything was, as you say, Oh-Kay," he said, chuckling. Joey blushed. The Gondorians had picked up on that word, and he had even heard them using it among themselves a time or two. He wasn't entirely sure if that was a good thing or not. But he didn't think it would change the past or anything.
He nodded at them and, still wrapped in the blanket, went back over to put on his tunic and his cloak. Then he turned and softly said, "Lord Boromir?" He had learned long before not to approach either Boromir or Aragorn or Gimli too suddenly when they were sleeping. All had told him that they might lash out if they were startled out of sleep. Legolas, however had just laughed when he heard that—Joey had never caught Legolas sleeping, ever—even though he knew he had to sleep sometimes.
It was enough. Boromir opened his eyes and sat up. "Good morning, Joey. How are you, this morning?"
"Just fine, sir. I can go get us some breakfast, if you want," he offered.
"That is quite all right, lad. The bread smells good even from here. Just bread, I think, and if they have it, small beer. Otherwise, I shall make do with the water."
"Yes, sir." Joey trotted off in the direction of the smell of fresh bread.
He just got bread for himself as well. He wasn't too fond of pease porridge for breakfast, and besides it would be hard to carry back. There was no small beer available this morning, so his liege would indeed have to make do with water. Joey confessed to himself that breakfast time was often when he missed home the most. Sometimes it seemed really weird what Middle-earth people thought was good for breakfast. Of course, from his conversations with the hobbits, they thought things like Cheerios or Pop Tarts sounded weird to them, but he wouldn't mind having either of them right now.
But Boromir was glad of the bread, though disappointed about the small beer. "But that is no fault of yours, Joey. I did not consider that it would have been that much more to take out and put away. I will not ask for it again until we are set up in Osgiliath."
"It's no big deal, sir. They didn't get upset when I asked, just said it was too hard to get at, this morning." Joey was rolling up his blanket and packing the rest of his stuff in his backpack. Their gear would be put in one of the waggons, since Boromir and Joey rode Hrimfax bareback.
They were almost ready to head out. Pippin came trotting up, slightly out of breath. "Oh, good! Gandalf's not here yet, so I'm not late," for Pippin would ride with Gandalf. "Oh, Joey—Kevin and Jennifer said to tell you hello."
"Thanks," Joey said. He felt the teensiest bit left out since Kev and Jen got to be together, but at the same time he felt very grown up. He had a job, to take care of Boromir, and it was important. After all, Lord Boromir was the Captain-General of the Gondorian army, and only the King and the Steward were more important than that.
"Would you like to stay at their waggon tonight, Joey?" Boromir asked.
"No, thank you, sir; I belong here." He smiled up at his boss. Boromir probably knew he missed being with Kevin and Jennifer. But he was going to stick to his duty.
"Very well, then."
Pippin grinned at him. "I know Boromir lent me out only for Frodo's sake, Joey! Frodo and Sam need Merry and me to take care of them when we can."
Joey nodded. "I know, Pip. Oh—look! Here's Gandalf!"
Gandalf rode up on Shadowfax, and reached down a long arm to Pippin, sweeping the hobbit up in front of him. Boromir picked Joey up and put him upon Hrimfax's back, before mounting himself. Then they set off in a slow walk to join Aragorn, Éomer, Prince Imrahil and his sons, Halbarad, Elladan and Elrohir, and Legolas and Gimli, and others of the Captains who were riding in the van.
Thinking about that, Joey giggled. The others glanced at him. "What amuses you, Joey?" Boromir asked.
"Well, um…" Joey tried to think how to explain it so that it would not cause too many questions. "It's just that in my own country, 'van' means something different."
"Like what, Joey?" Pippin asked. "Is it something you can't really explain, like ‘teevee’?"
"Well, here, 'van' means the people riding in front of the army. But back home, it's something you ride in. It's kind of like a waggon, but it's enclosed and big and stuff." He thought for a moment, and then remembered something. "Sometimes people used to paint them with designs. My grandpa said he once had a van that had flowers and stuff painted all over it. But they don't do that anymore." He gave a sigh. He'd seen a picture of what Grandpa called his old "hippy van", and it seemed a shame nobody did that anymore.
"Oh," Pippin said. "That sounds like a tinker's caravan! Up north, I mean. They are house waggons, all bright and colourfully painted. Tinkers drive them—Big Folk, mostly, but sometimes Dwarves."
"What's a tinker?" asked Joey.
"They sell small household things, like needles and pins and such, and they can repair pots and pans and sharpen knives. Every once in a while, one will come through the Shire." Pippin paused. "Well, they used to. It's been ever so long since one's been there—I think the last time I saw one was before Cousin Bilbo went away."
Gandalf nodded sadly. "Things were growing more dangerous upon the road, and the Enemy's spies were everywhere. But perhaps that will change now." He sped Shadowfax to a trot, as they were nearing the others.
There wasn't much chance for talking now; they were soon lined up at the front, and they all headed on the way. The horses were walking, but there were so many that between their hoofbeats, the rumbles of the waggons, and the marching of the soldiers behind them, conversation would be difficult at best.
They would be mostly just riding all day, Joey knew, with just very brief stops to rest the horses, and sometimes the riders would dismount and walk around a bit while the horses rested. And as the hours passed, they did. Sometimes Joey took a drink from his waterskin—he was getting pretty good at not dribbling it down his neck. Around noon, there were helpers from the cook's waggon passing out little hand-held meat pies meant to serve as lunch. Sometimes, Joey still missed beef—a meat pie with beef would have been delicious! Preferably ground beef. But there was no beef in the camp, just what meat the warriors found when they went hunting. Joey was never sure what kind of meat was in the food. The stews and meat pies were good, but all of it had that gamey taste, like when Dad, Kevin, and Uncle Ryan brought venison back from hunting.
There were hours and hours of nothing to do except think or fall asleep. Joey did nod off a few times, but mostly he was just thinking. I wonder what Mom and Dad are doing, he thought. And how long it’s going to be till we’re back with them! I miss Mom and Dad. I wish I could tell my friends at home about all this, and introduce Bergil and Sador to them!
Joey spent some time wondering what his parents and little sisters were doing, now that they were in Minas Tirith. Were they out sightseeing? Shopping? Eating out? Had they eaten at The Golden Cockerel? Pippin had treated him and Bergil to lunch there once, the very day it had opened. The food was very good. Maybe they could all eat there again, when they were back with their parents. Too bad there were no zoos or amusement parks in Minas Tirith!
I can’t wait to see them again! He smiled at the prospect. Eventually, he fell into a sort of half-doze. He wasn't totally asleep, but his eyes closed, and the sounds around him were pleasantly fuzzy.
He blinked and opened his eyes. They had stopped. "Why are we stopping, Bor—I mean, sir?"
Boromir chuckled. "We are stopping while we still have nearly an hour of Sun left. It will make it easier to set the camp up."
Joey wriggled a bit and stretched, as he knew that they would soon dismount. "My butt is numb!" he said.
Now Boromir laughed outright. "Only to be expected, Joey! We have been riding for a very long time."
Once both of them had their feet on the ground, Joey rubbed his hips and stamped his feet. This sure isn’t like going on long car trips! he thought wryly. But at least it's better than the trip from Rohan to Gondor. Boy, was I sore after that! After he’d had a few minutes to get his legs to cooperate, Boromir looked down at him.
"I shall need to go and hear the scouts' reports and speak with the other captains. Take you the time to seek out your brother and sister. You may stay with them to take your evening meal. Afterward, you will find me at the fire with Lord Elessar and Gandalf and the others."
Smiling, Joey gave a little bow. "Thank you, sir." He set off to the back of the caravan, back to where he could see the waggons of the wounded being parked. Is parked the right word if it’s not cars? he wondered.
He ran a little, as he spotted Kevin's waggon near the front. Kevin was busy unhitching Bron and the other horse from the waggon, and Joey could see Frodo and Sam in the back, sitting up, but there was no sign of Jennifer.
Kevin glanced over. "Joey! Good to see you, bro!"
Joey gave his older brother a brief hug and asked, "Where's Jen?"
"Some of her stuff's still back in one of the other waggons, and she wanted to talk to her friends, and to check if she was needed by any of the healers. We didn't know you'd be showing up. But she should be back shortly."
"That's okay. Lord Boromir said as I could spend part of the evening with you guys."
Kevin laughed. "You've been hanging around hobbits too long! You said, 'said as I'! You sounded like Sam!"
Joey stared at him. "I did?" He shook his head. "Oh, well. I heard some of the guards say 'okay' yesterday. You don't suppose that will mess up the future, do you?"
Kevin briefly looked startled, and then shook his head. "No, I don't think it will." He paused. "Maybe we should ask Gandalf, though."
"All right." Joey was a little leery now of saying "okay". He bit his lower lip. I sure hope it won’t! Out loud, he added, “We need to get back home before we forget how to talk properly altogether!”
"I think you speak properly."
Kevin and Joey both were startled, as they turned and spotted Frodo and Sam standing right behind them.
"Um, thank you, Frodo…" Joey blushed and wondered how much of the conversation they had heard.
Kevin had finished unhitching Bron, and now he was starting on the other horse. Sam came to help him. "Thanks, Sam. I'm going to walk them down to the riverbank for a drink and let them graze a little bit on the grass there."
"I'll help you," the gardener said. He took the reins of the other horse—no one had told them its name—while Kevin led Bron.
Frodo and Joey talked a while, and then they were joined by Jennifer. She bent over and gave Joey a big hug, after slinging her pack into the back of the waggon. "Good to see you, Joey! I kind of missed you last night."
Joey nodded, but said, "Well, it's my job to stay with Boromir. But he said I could spend part of the evening with you guys. Can you stay, or do you have to go help the healers tonight?"
“That’s great.” Jennifer smiled. "No, I don't have to go back; they want me to stick with Frodo and Sam for now. Maybe we can have devotions tonight, together. We didn't get to, last night."
Frodo looked at them. "That's the time you spend together, to speak of your Holy Book and to sing together."
Jennifer looked surprised. "I didn't know anyone had noticed."
Frodo laughed. "Everyone has noticed. We think it is a lovely custom, and must lend you comfort so far away from your home and family."
Soon Kevin and Sam returned from the riverbank with the horses, and they were joined by Merry and Pippin, as well as Legolas and Gimli.
Legolas had with him a big fat duck he had brought down. "Samwise, I come bearing a gift!" he called as they approached. "Do you think that with a bit of fire, you could conjure some of your hobbit magic?"
All four of the hobbits looked quite excited, and Sam was quick to take possession of the Elf's offering. "Mr. Merry, while I was down to the bank to water the horses, I saw some cattails and some wild onion, and such. Greens are a-coming up, too, watercress and sorrel and dock, and maybe I saw some water chestnuts."
Merry grinned. "Come on, then, Pip! Do you want to come too, Joey?" With a grin, Joey nodded, and the three of them trotted off towards the riverbank.
Jennifer went to fetch some clean drinking and cooking water, and to get some bread from the mess tent; by the time she returned, Sam had the bird nearly cleaned and dressed, and Frodo had devised a makeshift spit over the small cooking fire Gimli had laid. Gimli also presented Sam with a small cooking pot.
"Where did you get that, Master Gimli?" Sam asked. He still felt bad about his pots he’d had to throw away in Mordor.
"It was a broken helm I found near the battlefield, laddie. It took but a few hammer-blows to turn it into a small pot." The Dwarf tried to look modest, and Kevin and Jennifer exchanged knowing grins.
The three foragers soon returned with several cattails, and Joey had pulled up his tabard and tied it into a makeshift pouch for the edible greens they had found, which had indeed included wild onions and some water chestnuts, as well as several kinds of greens that Sam recognized. Soon the duck was turning on the spit, the cattails were roasting in the embers, and the onions, water chestnuts, and greens were stewing away in the little pot. Before long, the seven of them were enjoying their small feast. Passers-by gave envious sniffs, but did not intrude on them. A few other groups had also done something similar. Joey could smell fish cooking several yards away.
They made a merry meal. "Too bad Strider and Gandalf and Boromir aren't here," said Sam. "I don't expect there's finer fare among the Captains."
"No," said Frodo with a smile, "I don't expect there is."
It wasn't long until their unexpected duck dinner was consumed. Sam banked their little fire, and they sat back to enjoy the warmth and light in the growing twilight as it settled into night.
Kevin looked at his brother and sister. This was usually about the time that the three of them usually managed to get alone together to have their devotions. Kevin caught Jennifer's eye, and then she looked across the fire at the others, and slightly shook her head. They'd be rude if they just up and left. Joey glanced at both his older brother and sister, looking a little confused. Kevin sighed. What should they do?
Just then Frodo glanced at his cousins, and then Legolas and Gimli. "Why don't we go for a walk?"
Now Kevin realized that their expressions hadn't gone unnoticed, and felt bad—what if they'd hurt their friend's feelings? Should he protest, or something?
This time, it was Legolas who spoke. "Kevin, if you wish to have your time with just your family, we shall gladly take ourselves for a brief walk. But I, for one, find myself curious. Often, I have overheard your singing and some of your speech among yourselves. If you do not think it would be an intrusion, we…" He stopped and glanced at all the others, and he saw anticipation in their eyes. "...would enjoy staying with you. We shall not often find a chance to be together this way for much longer."
Joey looked at his brother and sister. "It's okay with me," he said.
Kevin nodded, and Jennifer said, "Me, too."
Pippin laughed. "Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?"
Kevin grinned and held his hand out to Jennifer, who took Joey's hand. Then, hesitating only briefly, Kevin held his other hand out to Gimli, who sat on his other side. Legolas took Gimli's hand and then the hobbits each took a hand, ending when Pippin offered his other hand to Joey.
Kevin bowed his head. "Lord, thank You for our friends who have joined us tonight. Please guide us in what to say. In Your holy name, amen." He knew he didn’t have the option of saying “In Jesus’s name” as he and his siblings usually did. He looked up and searched his mind for an appropriate Bible verse. "Friend," he said. "‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.’ Proverbs 27, verse 6." He looked at Jennifer.
She closed her eyes and searched her memory. “Hmm.” She sat for a moment, thinking, and then a verse came to her. "‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ John 15, verse 13."
It was Joey’s turn. Furrowing his brow, he sat for a long moment, biting his lower lip. At last, his eyes lit up.
“I know! I know of a good one.” Smiling, he recited, "‘A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’ Proverbs 18—um...24, I think. Verse 24.” He grinned at their guests. “That sure describes you guys!”
"Thank you," said Frodo, smiling. "You learned those words from your Holy Book. I am sorry that you had to leave it behind," he added.
Kevin nodded. "It was hard to leave it, but I’m glad we tried to learn lots of it by heart before we left Rivendell, and again while we were in Lothlórien. And I can always get a new one when we get back home. But I am sorry to lose that one."
“Well, don’t forget, we left mine in Rivendell, and Joey left his back home,” Jennifer reminded him. “You can share mine until we get home.”
Kevin smiled. “Thanks, Jen.”
"Your book is full of wisdom, as I have heard," said Legolas.
"It guides us," Jennifer said. "It has the answer to most any problem." Kevin nodded agreement.
Joey laughed and began to sing:
"Bind us together, Lord
With cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together, Lord,
Bind us together,
Bind us together with love."*
Kevin and Jennifer nodded, and the three of them repeated the song, and then again, when all of the others joined in. They knew this one well, as at their church, it ended nearly every service. Very often, the congregation also sang “The Family of God.”
When they finished, Kevin said, "I know one!" He looked at his brother and sister. "Just the first verse, so they can join in." He started the song, and Jennifer and Joey joined in. And once more the others joined in on the third repeat.
“For I'm part of the family
“You will notice we say brother
There was a brief silence, and then Pippin began to softly sing. The others soon joined in, as it was something he had sung during their journey from Rivendell.
"When night is longest,
When dark is strongest
We set candles burning
To wait for Sun’s returning.
To hope and home and hearth we hold,
Shutting out the dreary cold.
At this time when year has turned,
We think of all we’ve done and learned,
And look unto the coming days.
A song of light and hope we raise:
No night is so long,
No dark is so strong,
To dim the light of Stars above,
Or overcome the might of love."***
"I know it's a Yule song, but it does rather feel as if the year has turned again, you know," Pippin murmured. The others just nodded.
Then Legolas, too, began to sing. The song was in Elvish, and the others just listened quietly to his voice, so clear and ethereal.
"Á laita Ilúvatar! Eru Ilúvatar! Eru i or ilyë mahalmar eä tennoio!..."#As he continued singing, the others found themselves drifting into the song, as they sometimes had in the Hall of Fire in Rivendell.
As the Elf finished, Kevin noticed that Joey had nodded off, and he was feeling quite sleepy himself. He nudged his little brother and told him softly, "Hey, buddy, you need to wake up. You have to go back to Lord Boromir…", but his nudge did no good.
"That is not a problem, Kevin," Legolas said. "Since it was my singing that put him to sleep, I will carry him back to the officers’ encampment."
Jennifer smoothed her little brother's hair. "Thank you, Legolas," she said. She kissed Joey on top of his head and then moved so that Legolas could bend down and pick him up.
After they watched Legolas and Gimli walk off carrying the slumbering ten-year-old, Pippin offered to take the first watch, since Kevin and Merry had shared the watch the night before. Kevin took his blankets and made himself a pallet beneath the wagon, and Jennifer, Frodo, Sam, and Merry all crawled back into the waggon and made themselves comfortable.
As she drifted off to sleep, Jennifer silently prayed, Thank you, Lord, for a good day with friends and family. It was nice to share a little bit of You tonight, even if You aren't ready for them to know everything. We are going to miss them a lot when we go home. That was a nice hymn Legolas sang… but she fell asleep before she could say "amen".
A/N: *The hymn, "Bind Us Together, Lord," was written by Bob Gilman, 1973, copyright holder ThankYou Music; **"The Family of God" is by Bill and Gloria Gaither, 1970, copyright William J. Gaither, Inc.
***Pippin's song was an original by Dreamflower, and first appeared in her story, "To Wait for Sun's Returning," written for Cathleen in 2008, for the lotr_community's Yule Fic Exchange.
[#There is actually no rest of the song. The line appeared in a poem, "I: Like Inspiring Ilúvatar," written by Dreamflower for the 2007 Back to Middle-earth Month Alphabet Challenge. The phrase was "Praise Iluvatar! The One Iluvatar! The One who is above all thrones forever!”,and was kindly translated for me into Quenya by the late Fiondil.]
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