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An Unexpected Adventure  by KathyG

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 Ringsbelongs 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 84: Can't Do Nuthin' Right, Part 2

It had only taken half a day of travel the following day for the Army of the West to arrive at the camp at Osgiliath, where the staging area for the crossing of the Anduin would be established.

Everything had been cleared, and the various campsites had been marked off ahead of time by the scouts.  It had not taken terribly long for everyone to be set up for the next several days until they crossed the Anduin and set up one more camp before the coronation of King Elessar.

That evening, the McCloud children had not had a chance to have their family time; Kevin had been assisting in setting up camp, Jennifer had to help with the patients that night, and would not be off until midnight, and Joey was attending Boromir.  There had been no time for talk or for devotions—at least together—and although each of them silently prayed when they could, it was not quite the same.  

Kevin had then gone to the night watch at midnight, tired and a little sad.  As he stood guard, Anborn looked at him.  "Did you ask her yet?" the older Guardsman said.

Kevin blushed.  "Not yet; I've scarcely had a chance to talk to Jen yesterday.”  He recalled his conversation with Anborn...

"You have a sister, do you not, here among the healers?" Anborn had asked.

Kevin's eyes grew wide.  He sure hoped this was not going where he thought it was.

"She has a friend, I noticed.  Tall, wears her hair in a long black braid?  I see her often with your sister.  Do you know her name?"

Kevin let out a breath of relief.  "I know who you mean, Anborn, but I don't know her name.  I can ask Jen what it is.  Do you want me to ask if her friend has a boyfriend?"

"Boyfriend?"  Anborn sounded puzzled, but Eradan chuckled.

"I believe that Kevin means, should he ask his sister if this friend of hers has any attachments.  She might be betrothed, you know…"  Eradan grinned when Anborn blushed.

In a very low voice, Anborn said, "That would be acceptable, Kevin, if you do not mind."

"Sure thing," Kevin said, only too relieved that his friend was not interested in Jen.  His sister was way too young to have an experienced soldier after her!...

Kevin shook the memory out of his thoughts and turned to Anborn.  "I'm sorry, I didn't get to talk to Jennifer yet, Anborn!  But I'm sure I’ll see her today.  I can talk to her then."

Anborn looked disappointed, but said, "That is all right, Kevin.  It is a very busy time, setting up a new encampment.  I shall make the rounds while you watch the fire."

Kevin nodded.  He'd speak to Jen in the morning and get it over with.  He wasn't very comfortable about all this romance stuff.  But Anborn was a good guy, and Lalaith seemed like a nice girl, so it might be good if they got together.    

The next morning, before he went to his own rest, he found Jennifer by the food tents at a table, sipping from a mug of hot tea, the scraps of her breakfast in front of her.  She looked tired.

"You okay, Jen?" he asked as he approached her.

She jumped.  "Kevin!" 

"Sorry, sis, I didn't mean to scare you."

"I know you didn't, that's okay, I'm just tired from working at night.  I'm going to catch some sleep as soon as I'm done with my tea."

Kevin nodded.  He was pretty tired himself after night watch, but he had begun to get used to it to a certain extent. "Uh, listen, sis, I have this friend Anborn, and he wanted me to ask you something."  Kevin blushed.  He was thankful that his sister did not look up and see him blushing. 

She glanced up.  "What does he want to know?"

"It's about your friend, Lalaith."  

Neither brother nor sister saw Lalaith coming up behind them.  She froze at the sound of her name.  "Do you know if she has a boyfriend?  I mean, well, is anyone courting her?"

Lalaith's eyes grew wide, and she turned on her heel and headed back the way she came, her head spinning.  Jennifer's handsome brother was interested in her!

Jennifer looked up.  "Do I know Anborn?"

"I don't think so, Jen.  But he's really a nice guy."

"Well, I can say that she does not have a boyfriend.  She grew up on a farm far from any other families, and since she went to Minas Tirith to get her training as a healer, she has not had any time for guys.  She's kind of a serious person."

"That's good, then," Kevin said.  "I'll let Anborn know.  I'm not cut out for this Cupid stuff."  He blushed again.

Jennifer laughed at him.  "Of course, you aren't!  You're a guy."

Normally he'd object to that, but in this case, it happened to be true.  He stood up and kissed his sister on top of the head.  "Go get some rest, sis.  I'm going to get my breakfast, and then find a place to sleep myself."

He watched as Jennifer went off in the direction of the healers.  They were no longer staying together in the waggon with the hobbits.  He hoped she was able to have a good nap before she had to get to work again.  He got in line to grab some breakfast.  It smelled like frumenty.  That was nice; he had enjoyed having that in Rivendell.  There were bits of dried fruit in it—raisins, maybe, dried apples, and other sorts of fruit.  This was a real treat.  He heard one of the other people in line ask about it.  I’ll have to get their recipe for frumenty while we’re here.  Maybe Mom could make it when we get back home.

"Prince Imrahil, he had some foodstuffs sent up from Dol Amroth for everyone," replied the cook's helper, who was serving.  "That fruit was part of it."

Kevin found a spot to sit, and was surprised when a feminine voice said, "Do you mind if I join you?"

He looked up to see Jennifer's friend, Lalaith.  What luck!  Now he could tell her about Anborn, if he could just find the words to say.

"Uh, sure. You're Jennifer's friend, right?"  He felt really dumb.  He ate some of his food, to hide his embarrassment. 

"Yes, I am.  You are Kevin, right?  My name is Lalaith."

He nodded.  "Jennifer told me your name."

She hung her head and blushed.  "Were you asking about me?"

Here was his chance!  "Er, yes I kind of was.  I have this friend, his name is Anborn, and he sort of wanted to know about you.  Like if you had a, a…"  Kevin tried to think of the right word to use.  They didn't seem to say "boyfriend" here.  "A suitor!  That's what he wanted me to find out!  Anborn wanted to know if you already had a suitor!"  He felt rather pleased with himself that he had gotten his question out.

"Anborn?  Your friend?  Not...oh."  She looked disappointed and embarrassed herself.  "I…I am sorry.  I thought…"  Suddenly she got up and abandoned her breakfast and ran off.

Kevin stared after her, wondering what had gone wrong.  He thought about the conversation, and slowly the light dawned on him.  "Oh, great!  I messed that up.  She thought I was the one who liked her."  He put his hand over his face and moaned.  "What am I going to do now?"

He looked at his breakfast with distaste.  He'd completely lost his appetite.  With a sigh, he left his bowl on the grass and rose to his feet.  Shaking his head, he trudged off.  He didn’t know how to go about fixing the hurt he had inadvertently caused Lalaith.

I don't like her like that, and it wouldn’t be fair of me to encourage her since I don’t!  I don’t want to hurt her, but I do need her to understand that.  But how can I tell her that and not hurt her feelings any more than I already have?  And besides, what about Anborn!  He's the one who likes her, and he's my friend.  How did I get in this mess?  He shook his head and sighed.  He might get mad at me…

He wished he could go talk to Jennifer; she could fix it—but she needed her rest after working at night.  He needed to find somewhere to get some sleep.  He didn't want to encounter Anborn again right now, not after the way he'd messed things up.  

-oo000oo-

Jennifer ambled into the healers’ sleeping tent and, with a yawn, started to spread out her pallet.  She was all set to lie down and get some sleep.

“Lady Jennifer!”

Startled, she straightened up and whirled around.  One of the healers, Adanel, rushed into the tent.  “I am so sorry to hinder your sleep, child, but you are needed in the healers’ tent now.  Falastur is sick, and you are the only apprentice available to take his place.”

With a sigh, Jennifer looked longingly at her pallet and turned to face Adanel.  “All right.  Show me where I’m needed.”  Yawning again, she followed her friend out of the sleeping tent.

"Is he terribly sick?" she asked, as she accompanied Adanel towards the healing tent.

"He ate something which disagreed with him.  He is very sick right now, but thankfully he will be much better once everything is out of his body."

Jennifer grimaced.  She could just imagine, and after weeks of working with the sick and injured, her imagination was rather accurate.  She gave a huge yawn and reached around to the back of her head.  Her braid had fallen loose, so she awkwardly tried to get it fixed as she walked.  Finally, she gave up.  It could just hang down her back for now.  She trudged along after Adanel to see what she would be needed to do.  She sighed.  Now’s when I could really use some coffee or even a Coke!

Adenel showed her into the tent and showed her where the medications were.  Each bottle was lined up in small vials, and Jennifer listened as it was all explained to her.  "I will be back in a little while,” she said, and left.

Jennifer looked over the vials of medicine.  Each was labelled.  Jennifer squinted at it; she had been working on learning to read and write the alphabet letters of Middle-earth, and she had acquired a measure of skill in doing so, but the writing was rather small.  At least it was written in the Common Tongue, and not in Sindarin.  She hoped she could remember everything Adanel had said.

-oo000oo-

Joey and Bergil had decided to take advantage of a rare chance to spend time together.  Boromir was in council, and he had Pippin with him, and had allowed Joey to go have some rare free time.  

Bergil, too, had been allowed some free time after he had done some small brief tasks, and like Joey, had gone in search of his friend.  Luckily, they quickly found each other at the mess pavilion, and sat down to have a breakfast of frumenty and fruit.

As they ate, they overheard a conversation of a couple of the warriors nearby.  "Yes, they found it this morning," one of them said, "and took away the Southron's body, what there was of it.  His mûmak must have stepped on him when the big war tower fell off its back.  Most of it was smashed; there were some weapons there, but the scouts took those away as well."

"Was there anything else of interest there?" asked his companion.  "I never got to see the mûmakil.  I was fighting from the battlements in the fifth circle when those creatures were down on the battlefield."

"No, not that I heard."  The first speaker yawned.  "If you want to after we get some rest, we can go look after we wake up.  It was on the bank just south of the camp.  But I am too tired to be tramping down there now."

The other warrior nodded.  "I will be glad when we are no longer on the third watch."  He tossed out the water in his tankard and hooked it to his belt.  "Let us find somewhere to sleep for a few hours."

Joey looked at Bergil.  "Kevin told me about the mûmakil.  He said they were humongous!"

Bergil looked puzzled.

"Really, really, really huge!" Joey clarified.  "He said they were like an animal that we have back home called an 'elephant', but like ten times bigger!  And they had men riding on them in little buildings on their backs!"

Bergil nodded.  "I heard about them, too.  Maybe we could go down there and check and see if we can find anything else."

"Why not?" asked Joey.  "It might be fun!  I want to see a gigantic elephant!"

"Well, so do I," said Bergil, "but it is not here any longer.  Still, we might find something interesting in its gear."

Joey shrugged.  “Probably just as well that it’s gone.  I sure wouldn’t want to be stepped on by one!”

"I do not believe the one who was driving it wanted to be stepped on, either," was Bergil's reply. 

“I don't expect he ever thought he’d fall off, if he was the one riding on it.  He sure didn’t need to be afraid of being stepped on by one, not while he was on its back,” Joey said.  "I wonder why the thingie fell off."

Bergil shrugged.  "I do not know.  I guess he was surprised.  I think those things were called wartowers, or at least that is what Ada called them."

The two quickly finished their breakfasts, and got up, strolling down to the riverbank, and heading southwards out of the camp.

They looked for signs as they went, and they were somewhat further out of the camp than they were expecting to be, when they spotted the first signs of the broken war tower.  

"Look!"  Joey pointed.  Several yards ahead, they could see a jumble of colour: brilliant red, yellow, green, and bright blue—a pile of broken wood, mostly, but they sprinted to get closer and see what more there was to see.

"Wow!" Joey exclaimed when they got there.  "Look at the footprints!  They’re huge!"  There were great round indents all around the broken tower.  Joey shuddered.  "I don't think I want to see one of those up close after all."

Bergil nodded.  "Look at the broken war tower."  Some of it was not quite as smashed as the rest.  There were leather straps still fastened to the rest of it at certain places, with buckles attached, though the largest buckle was bent and twisted, and the leather had broken there. 

The two boys began to poke among the remains.  Bergil found what appeared to be a metal rod nearly as tall as he was.  One end looked as though something had been broken off from a socket of some sort.  Bergil swung it around.  "I think it is the haft of a spear."

"The scouts who found it first must have the spearhead," said Joey, not stopping his own investigation of the ruins.  "That's really cool!  I hope I can find something neat."

The ground was torn up and muddy, but that did not deter the two young explorers.  Joey was not nearly as concerned over dirty clothes as he should have been, given that he had been needing to wash out most of his own clothes when they got too dirty.  They had been searching for several minutes when Joey stepped on something hard, that was hidden beneath the mud.

"What's this?" he asked, bending down, and running his fingers over the place where he had stepped.  "Bergil, this feels like metal, maybe."  He used his hand to dig around it and pulled it up out of the muddy footprint in which it had been embedded.  It was oddly shaped, and hard to make out, but appeared to be some sort of weapon with a wooden shaft, and at the end of the metal was a spike of some kind.  The shaft had broken, and it was only a foot or so long.

"Let's wash it off," Joey suggested.  The two boys went to the edge of the riverbank and bent down to swish their finds through the water.

"I think that mine really is a spear shaft," said Bergil.  He pointed to the empty socket, which was not actually broken, but something else had been in the socket and then had come out.  "I think the spearhead was here, and came out after it was broken."

Joey looked at his own find, which was quite unusual.  "I'm not sure what kind of weapon this is," he said, puzzled.  It was made of brass, and it consisted of a long wickedly pointed spike with a small brass elephant (or mûmak, as they called them here in Middle-earth, he recalled) on one side.  Below it was a curved hook, which curled away from the spike.  On the other end was a socket, into which a longer shaft of dark wood had been inserted, but was now only a little over a foot long after being broken.  "What do you think it could be?"

Bergil studied it.  "I am not sure, but if it was a lot smaller, it might look kind of like the prods some of the carters who use oxen to pull their carts use to get the oxen to move more quickly."

"Well, I guess you'd need a pretty big one to prod one of those...mûmak.  Anything that big would have an awful tough hide."  Joey grimaced.

The two boys set their finds on the grass and went to poke around in the ruins once more, but had no luck in finding anything else.  They sat down to rest on the grass and talked for a while.  The Sun rose higher, and both of them fell asleep to the soothing sound of the rushing water.

They awakened a short while later, feeling refreshed.  "I guess we should get on back.  It'll be lunchtime by the time we get back into the camp," said Joey as he stretched.

As they walked back with their souvenirs in hand, Joey started playing at poking the air with his find, and Bergil tried swishing his through the air like a sword.  Joey looked at his friend.  "On guard!" he said.

Bergil looked around, alarmed.  "'On guard' for what?" he asked.

"No, no, at home, 'on guard' is what guys say if they're going to spar with swords."  Joey was not entirely sure of that, actually, but it sounded like what they said in movies and TV shows when they were sword-fighting.  “That’s what they say just before they start.”

"Oh!  I understand now!"  Bergil turned and took hold of one end of his spear with both hands.  Joey held the broken shaft of his prod with one hand, like a fencer.  They started swinging at one another rather wildly, neither of them remotely coming close to hitting the other's weapon, as neither one of them was actually trying to hit each other.  They were laughing hard at their own clumsiness, and Joey was backpedalling away from his friend's longer weapon when he suddenly tripped backwards on the uneven ground.  He was on his back, and tried to use his prod to help him stand up, but Bergil had also lost his footing and fell forward.

Before Joey could even realize what had happened, Bergil screamed, and Joey saw in horror that the prod's spike was sticking right through Bergil's shoulder, and there was blood.

Joey sat up and stared at his friend, horror-struck.  "Bergil!  Bergil!"

But though his friend had stopped screaming, he was breathing hard, and making moaning sounds.  

"Bergil, I'm sorry!  I'm sorry!"  Joey was in a panic.  They were too far from camp to have hope of anyone hearing them yell for help, and he didn't think Bergil could walk with that thing in his shoulder.  What could he do?  Maybe he could pull the thing out?  He reached over and put his hand on the shaft of the prod, but this caused Bergil to cry out in agony again, so he jerked his hand away.  Oh, no, no, no!  Tears running down his cheeks, Joey prayed.  "Jesus, please help us.  I don't want Bergil to die!  Please, Lord, please…"

He looked up, and in the distance, he could see two people, too far away to recognize, coming in their direction.  He stood up and began jumping up and down, waving his arms and yelling at the top of his lungs, "HELP!  HELP!"

-oo000oo-

Jennifer yawned.  She had been trying to keep herself busy.  It was not quite yet time to see about bringing the patients’ lunch trays, and she would have to wait anyway, for someone else to come.  She couldn't leave the patients to go and fetch the food until she had someone to relieve her, and Adanel had already been gone longer than Jennifer had expected. 

She had brought water to some, and she had also helped a couple of patients who were allowed to get up and walk in the tent, so long as they had someone to help them.  And she had been able to change the dressing on another patient's head wound.  Soon, she would need to pass out the medicine. 

One of the patients had complained of pain, so Jennifer decided to fix him some willow-bark tea.  There was a small brazier near the tent flap, so she went and set a kettle to boil and got a mug in which to brew it.  She was just starting to add the willow-bark powder to the tea to steep, and had put in the first scoop, when a voice made her jump.

"Jennifer!  What are you doing?"  It was her friend Lalaith.

"I was going to make some willow-bark tea for Hereweard."  He was one of the Rohirrim, and he had been brought in with a spear wound to his back.

"That is not willow-bark, Jennifer.  That's poppy!"

Jennifer recoiled in horror.  The helpers and the apprentices were only allowed to touch the poppy if a full healer was present.  "I didn't know!  I thought it was the willow-bark!"  She burst into tears.

Lalaith put her arm around Jennifer's shoulders.  "Do not weep, Jennifer.  The mistake was averted.  You must be really very tired."

But before Jennifer could answer, there was a ruckus at the entrance to the tent.  The two girls turned.

Two men she didn't know by name were coming in, one of them carrying Joey's friend Bergil carefully, while the other had his hand around some odd stick or something that was buried into Bergil's arm.  Joey was right next to them, tears running down his face as he kept repeating, "I'm sorry!  I'm sorry!  Please be okay, Bergil!"  

Right behind them entered two of the senior healers, and a couple of the older helpers.

"A bed!" shouted one of the healers.  Lalaith hurried to turn down the cover on an empty cot.  The healer carefully took Bergil into his own arms, as another healer took over grasping the shaft of the prod.

Jennifer swooped down to examine her little brother, who was filthy with mud and grass stains, as well as blood on him.  "Are you all right, Joey?  Where are you hurt?"

"I'm not.  I just tripped and fell and then—then I hurt Bergil!  I didn't mean to!  We were just playing.  It was an acci—accident!"  He flung himself into his sister's arms, his weeping intensifying until he began to hiccup.

The two men who had brought the boys in were now standing around at a loss at what to do, now that the child had been delivered to the healers.  Jennifer recognized their faces, but did not recall their names.  They had grey cloaks, and a brooch of a star, so she knew they had come with Halbarad, and had been among the northern Rangers she had travelled with.  She looked up at them.  "If you please, do you know my older brother Kevin, and Beregond son of Baranor?"

One of them nodded.  "Yes, we do, Lady Jennifer."

"Would it be too much trouble to find them?  Tell them what's happened?"

"It will be no trouble at all," said the other one.  "We will bring them here as soon as we find them."

Joey was still clinging to her, and still crying, though not as frantically as he had been.  Jennifer led him to an empty cot, and sat down on it, pulling him up to sit next to her.  He was far too big to sit in her lap anymore, but he sat leaning into her arms, and Jennifer rocked him back and forth, all her attention on trying to calm her little brother.

The healers were busy with Bergil, and Jennifer began to calm herself as she calmed Joey.  He wasn't hurt himself, and the healers would take good care of Bergil.  Just then she felt a familiar hand land on her back, and she looked up to see Kevin.

"Oh, Kevin!  I'm glad you are here!  Joey's really upset—he accidently hurt Bergil."  She turned and noticed a number of people now crowded around the entrance.  Apparently Beregond had been on guard at the captain's tent, so now not only was Beregond there, but so were Aragorn, Boromir, Gandalf, Pippin, Elladan, Elrohir, and Halbarad, along with the two Rangers she had asked to find Kevin and Beregond.  She watched as Aragorn gestured for everyone else to remain there, and he stepped over and had a quiet word with one of the healers who were working on Bergil.  One of the healers answered him, and he nodded and went back to the entrance.  He sent everyone out except for Beregond and Boromir, and of course, Kevin.

Boromir came over to the cot where the brothers and their sister sat.  Kevin's presence had calmed Joey a little more, and he had stopped crying and his hiccups had ceased.

"Joey, son of Steven!" he said calmly.  "Can you tell me what happened?"

At the sound of Boromir's voice, Joey's head jerked up, and he sat up straighter.  "My liege!" he said formally.  Then he looked downcast.  "Am I in awful trouble?"

"Tell me what happened, Joey."  Boromir's voice was gentle, but also firm.

Joey nodded, and then he began to tell of their find of the broken weapons, and how he and Bergil had tried to spar with them, and how Bergil had come to be injured.  At the end, Joey repeated his question. "Am I in trouble?"

"Yes.  But it was truly an accident, so you are not badly in trouble.  Those were weapons, and should not have been used as playthings. You know that; it was one of the very first things I spoke to you about back in Rivendell, when you had your first lessons.  Moreover, they were broken, which made them even more dangerous.  And neither you nor Bergil have had any training in sparring recently."

Joey hung his head.  "Yes, sir." 

Boromir knelt down so that he could look Joey in the eye.  "Here now is my judgement.  You will begin to learn how to spar once more—only this time, pay attention to doing so safely.  Pippin will be in charge of your training, and I will also work with you when I have time.  Moreover, from now on, you will not go outside the camp unless you are accompanied by your brother or sister or another adult.  And you must think of some way to repay the injury you did to Bergil, who is your friend.  I do not think this sentence is unfair."

“Make it up to him, you mean.  Yeah.  That’s only fair.”  Joey nodded.  He didn’t think the sentence was unfair, either.  “Maybe I could take care of Bergil?  Since it’s my fault he got hurt.”  He bit his lower lip.  “I don’t know of any other way to make it up to him.  To repay the injury, I mean.  I wish I could fix it.”

"I know you do.  However, whether you will be permitted to take care of him will be up to the healers," Boromir answered.  "But I am sure they will allow you to at least keep him company when he is allowed to have visitors.  For now, I leave you in the company of your brother and sister.  Come to find me when you leave this place."

"Yes, sir."  He was still subdued, but looked a lot less miserable than he had.  

Boromir stood and patted Joey’s shoulder.  "You have a good heart, Joey.  I know that you and Bergil will not make the same mistake again.  In part, it is my fault as well; I should have at least made it clear to you lads that real weapons, whether broken or not, are not playthings, and given you more instruction and time to practice since we left Lothlórien."  He nodded at Kevin and Jennifer, and left the tent.

Joey watched Boromir leave, and then he said, "He is a good liege.  Don't you think what he said was kind of like what Daddy would have said if he was here?"

Jennifer squeezed her little brother's shoulders, and Kevin said, "Yep, it did kind of sound like what Dad would have done.  Dad might even have been a little stricter." 

"I feel better now.  I deserved to be punished."

Kevin and Jennifer looked at each other, and Kevin shook his head.  He knew Jennifer would try to tell Joey he didn't deserve it, but they both knew that wasn't true; while it had been an accident, Joey and Bergil still should have known better than to play with a real weapon.  They sat quietly for a while, and then Jennifer kissed Joey on the top of his head.  "Well, you need to think about it, I guess.  But don't think you are a terrible person.  It really was an accident.  Maybe you can pray about it."

Joey nodded.  But he didn't want to pray out loud right now.  He would pray in his head later on, when he was alone.  He leaned against Jennifer's side again and was very quiet.  After a moment, Kevin and Jennifer realized he'd fallen asleep.  The two of them got up carefully, and managed to lay him down on the cot, and Jennifer pulled up the blanket that was folded at the foot and tucked him in.

Kevin looked around.  "Can you get some rest now?"  He noticed how pale Jennifer was, and there were circles under her eyes.

She shook her head.  "No.  No one has officially relieved me yet."

He patted her on the shoulder.  He understood.  Then he noticed Lalaith, who was still helping out.  She had not looked at him, and he figured it was because she was busy.  She was making up a cot, now, though—not tending a patient.  He squared his shoulders.  "I have to go talk to Lalaith," he told Jennifer.

"Oh!  I’d forgotten about that.  Your friend Anborn is interested in her." 

"Yeah, and I did talk to her, only she misunderstood.  I need to go and straighten it out."

This put Jennifer in mind of her own problem.  "Okay.  I have something I need to straighten out, too."

Kevin approached Lalaith.  “Hi,” he said softly.

Lalaith stopped to look at him, tears in her eyes.  “I’m sorry,” Kevin said sorrowfully.  “Believe me, I never wanted to cause you pain, and I hate it that I did.”

“It’s just that I—I thought…”  Lalaith bit her lower lip.  “I feel so stupid, Lord Kevin.  I misunderstood completely.”

“Yeah, we both did.  If it helps any, right now, I’m feeling pretty stupid, too.”  Kevin smiled ruefully.  “You’re a pretty girl, Lalaith, and I know of one man here who’s very interested in you.  I haven’t found anyone around here who interests me.  Anyone I’m interested in is back home.”

He touched her arm.  “Why don’t you let me introduce you to Anborn?  I know he’d like to get to know you, Lalaith.”

She smiled.  "I would like that.  But perhaps tomorrow, as I am supposed to be relieving your sister."

Kevin heaved a sigh of relief.  "That's good to hear.  She's really tired, and this thing with Joey and Bergil wore her out even more."

"Your sister is a very good friend.  I hope she can get some rest as well."

Jennifer had seen Adenel helping the other healers out with Bergil, but now it appeared that they had finished their task.  The boy's shoulder was wrapped well, and he had been given a pain reliever.  That reminded her of her own almost-mistake.  She shuddered to think of the error she would have made if Lalaith had not stopped her.

Now Adenel was coming away from Bergil's cot with a basin of bloody water, and some soiled bandages.  Jennifer went over to the older healer and offered to take care of it for her.

"Why, thank you, Jennifer," she said as Jennifer took the basin.

"Um, I need to talk to you about something…"

Adenel smiled and walked next to her.  "Do not worry about your brother's friend.  He will be well healed in time."

"It…it's not about that," Jennifer said.  "I almost made a terrible mistake, just before all this happened."

"What do you mean, child?"  Adenel looked at her in concern.

"I almost mistook the poppy powder for the willow-bark powder.  I would have given it, too.  But Lalaith came in and she saw what I was doing and stopped me before I gave it to anyone."

Adenel stopped and gave her a serious look.  "How did that happen? The vessels were clearly labelled."

Jennifer blushed.  "Well, I am not used to the kind of letters you use here.  The letters of the Westron alphabet are different from ours.  I've been learning, but like I said, they are so different from the ones we have at home.  And I was kind of tired and didn't really look as carefully as I should have."

"I see."  Adenel thought for a moment. "You will need to study up on them more, and in the meantime, you can check with someone else about the medications.  I am sorry you had to be on your own earlier today.  We will make sure it does not happen again.  Do not fret on it.  You did not give it to someone who should not have had it, and you will learn better.  Everyone makes mistakes."  They had reached the tent flap, and Jennifer disposed of the dirty water into a trench dug for that purpose.  "Go and get some sleep, child."

"But what about Joey?"

"I will tell your older brother where you have gone.  He can stay here with your younger brother for now."

Jennifer sighed and nodded.  This had been an awful day for all of them.  She really did need some sleep.  "Thank you, Adenel."  She gave the healer a wan smile.

"You are most welcome, child.  Get some sleep."

-oo000oo-

FOR FFN AND SOA:

You can find a picture of the prod that Joey found at An Unexpected Adventure on Archive of Our Own, on this chapter.





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