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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 85: Can't Do Nuthin' Right, Part 3

Gail had to admit to herself that spring in Minas Tirith was lovely, in spite of all the damage from the war.  The sky was clear and blue, with a few wisps of white clouds here and there, and some people had planted flowers in their window boxes, some of which were blooming.  And in the sunshine, the White City fairly gleamed.  They were on the upper levels, so a lot of the damage was not visible, save where the one wing of the Houses of Healing had been scorched by the fire.  Master Ondahir and Steve had been talking about the recovery, and Steve had been surprised at how quickly the clean-up was going.

"The people are eager to get life back into the city," said Ondahir.  "Most of the work is being done not by the Steward, but by those who live here, out of the goodness of their hearts.  The lower levels, though, were much harder hit by the enemy's armies."  He paused.  "We are nearly there," he said, pointing to the iron gates of the Minas Tirith home of the Prince of Dol Amroth.

The Princess Lindiriel greeted them cordially.  They had been there once before, so they were not surprised when they were brought into the front room where they had been received the last time.  They stood, and Steve gave a small bow of the head, and Gail the brief curtsey she had learned in Rivendell.  The Princess gestured for them to be seated.

"I am most pleased that you wish to help with the new orphanage.  So very many children have been left orphaned and homeless by the War with Sauron.  The old house has been empty since the days of Echthelion, and has been neglected since.  Fortunately, most of the structure is sound.  Marble holds up well to the ravages of time.  But the interior has much woodwork, and that does not do well over decades of disuse.  My husband, Lord Imrahil, has provided some funds, along with those provided by the Steward, for the repairs.  But we will of course need to raise more."

Gail blushed, and Steve sighed.  "We made this journey quite unexpectedly," he said.  "We really have very little in the way of personal money."  Like none at all, he thought wryly.  Our money's no good here.

The Princess nodded in understanding.  "Faramir made me aware of this.  But he did mention some of the ideas you have used in your homeland to raise money."

"That's true," said Gail.  "Our children's school often has special days where parents organize entertainments and contests which raise money.  One popular thing is a bake sale—parents bake treats like cakes and cookies—I mean sweet biscuits, as they call them here.  Then they have booths to sell them, and the proceeds go to the school."

"Hmm...I am not sure that the Baker's Guild would care for that idea."  Lindiriel looked thoughtful.

"Here's a thought," said Steve.  "Some communities will have a special day when merchants agree to contribute a portion of their profits to a good cause.  They have special bargains to bring customers in, and many people spend a little more when they know the money is going to charities.  Sometimes there is a competition between the businesses to see who can raise the most contributions.  The winner gets a special award, and there is often recognition for all the businesses that take place."

Lindiriel's face lit up.  "Never have I heard of such a thing!  But it could most certainly work!  The Guilds frequently will have contests of one sort or another, but this would be quite different!"

"You could also set aside a place for entertainments to hold at the same time.  I'm not sure what sort of entertainers you have here, but singing and dancing and so forth draw a lot of crowds," Gail added.

"What do you think, Master Ondihir?" the Princess asked 

"I think it has many possibilities.  Some of the bards, minstrels, and jesters are beginning to return to the City.  And there are good-natured rivalries between many of the Guilds—the Wool Merchant's Guild and the Weaver's Guild often find harmless ways to try and best the other…”

But just then there was a loud knocking on the front door.  One of the Princess's servants went to answer.  The person who had been knocking sounded quite urgent, though no one could hear what he was saying.  

The servant came into the room, escorting a youth in the livery of the Houses of Healing.  He bore a black tabard, with the emblem of Estë, the Valië of healing, embroidered on the front.  "I am sorry, my Lady," the servant said with a small bow, "but he bears urgent news from the Houses of Healing for Master and Mistress McCloud."  She turned and nodded to the boy.

He bowed deeply, and addressing Princess Lindiriel, said, "My Lady Lindiriel, I have been sent to bring your guests to the Houses of Healing.  Their daughter Kaylee is there.  I am to say she is not badly hurt, but she was found down in the Fourth Circle when the errand lad Sador got injured and had to be brought up to the Houses.  I am also to say that she followed him down there, and that he saved her from getting hit by a cart in the street.  The Elven lady Mairen wished to be sure that you knew this."

Steve and Gail had stood immediately.  "We are sorry, but we must go now!"

Lindiriel stood also.  "Of course, you must.  Please hurry to your child.  We can speak another time."

Ondihir stood, as well.  "We shall make all speed," he said.

Soon they hurried up to the Sixth Circle as quickly as they could go, following the errand lad.  They didn't run—but they certainly walked fast.  Steve and Gail held hands and saved their breath for walking uphill.  Ondihir did not speak either, save to tell others to get out of the way in the name of the Steward.  Thankfully, the streets were not very busy, and most people seeing the youth in his livery, and the Steward's Chamberlain, moved anyway.  They soon passed under the gate to the Sixth Circle, and before long were heading up to the main building of the Houses of Healing.  Dame Ioreth stood by the door and ushered them to the room where Kaylee and Sador were.  Mairen was there with Megan, and she was seated next to Kaylee on the side of a cot.  Megan was seated on Mairen's other side, watching.  A young healer's apprentice was washing Kaylee's elbow.  

Kaylee glanced up and saw her parents, and her eyes grew wide.  "Mommy!  Daddy!"

Steve and Gail hurried over to her, and Kaylee burst into tears.  "I'm sorry!  I'm sorry I was bad!  I didn't mean toooo...!" she wailed.  She had grown agitated and tried to jump down to reach her parents.

"Little mistress!" exclaimed the apprentice.  "Please be still until I am finished."

Kaylee stopped instantly and bit her lower lip anxiously.  She hissed a little when the apprentice had dabbed her elbow with some liquid from a bottle.  "It stings a little."

The girl nodded.  "So, it does," was the calm response.  "Now for your knees."

She pushed up Kaylee's skirt, and began to wash the scrapes on her knees.  Gail noticed with concern that they had bled a little, but did not say anything.  In spite of the fact that the young person tending her didn't look any older than Jennifer, she clearly seemed to know what she was doing, and truthfully, if Gail hadn't been available back home, she'd have trusted Jennifer to apply a disinfectant and a Band-Aid.

The girl stood up and reached in her pocket.  "You have been as brave as a hobbit, little mistress.  Would you like a sweet?"  She took out a little ball wrapped in a twist of paper, and handed it to Kaylee, who automatically unwrapped it and put it into her mouth.

"Oh!  That's good!" Kaylee said.  "It tastes like flowers!"

The girl leaned down.  "It has lavender in it," she whispered.  Then she stood up and spoke to Steve and Gail.  "She is not badly hurt," she told them.  "She fell upon the cobbles and scraped her elbows and knees.  The skin on the palm of her hands was not broken, but I washed them, while that on her elbows and knees was broken and bled a little, so I also washed them of any dirt and grit and put a disinfectant on them.  They are not hurt badly enough to bind.  The air will be good and help speed the healing."  She paused and then carefully looked them in the eye as she told them, "Truthfully, she was more distraught over her friend when she came in.  She was hysterical at first, until Lady Mairen and her little sister arrived."

"Thank you very much…" Gail said and paused, realizing she did not know the teenager's name.

"I am Firiel.  Your daughter Jennifer stayed with us in our apprentice's quarters, before she left for Cormallen."  She stopped and glanced over at another bed.  "I hope Sador is all right.  He took quite a blow to the back of his head."  She gave Steve and Gail another nod, and then said, "I have some other duties to attend to."

Kaylee was still sitting on the bed, and now she was looking downcast.  Megan had crept over to Gail, who automatically picked up her youngest child.  Mairen looked up.  "I was just about to go and look for Kaylee when a messenger came looking for the two of you.  I sent him on his way to find you, and Avorn came with me.  We met those who had brought Sador and Kaylee here.  Avorn took charge of Lucy, and Megan and I came here to await you."

"Thank you, Mairen." Steve looked at Kaylee.  "Kaylee, what happened?  We told you not to go too far away."

"I know," she said sadly.  "I didn't mean to.  It's just—I saw Sador, and he couldn't hear me call, and I ran after him, and when I caught up, he was too far, and he had to finish his job, and he couldn't bring me back right away, and—and we were coming back right after the man got the message, and then there was a cart, and he pushed me but then...then…"  Her voice faltered, and she burst into tears.  "He pushed me out of the way, but he got hurt!"

Steve stood there silently, shaking his head.  This was his fault.  He had trusted Kaylee to watch out for herself, forgetting that they weren't at home with a convenient fenced-in back yard, forgetting that she was only five, forgetting that Minas Tirith had a lot of danger in it still, even with the War ended...

“I didn’t mean to be bad,” Kaylee said, her face etched in misery.  “I’m sorry.”

Steve jerked himself to attention at the sound of her voice, and he looked at Gail.  "I know you didn't mean to, kitten.  But we will talk about it later."  He looked at Gail.  "Do you and Mairen want to take the girls back to our rooms?  I want to find out how Sador is, and then I will be along."  Gail nodded, and she and Mairen took the little girls out of the room.

Steve looked at the back of the room, where Ondihir was speaking with one of the Healers, near the bed in which young Sador had been placed, and then he slowly headed in that direction.  There were not many patients in the room, he noticed.  Firiel was apparently giving some medicine to an elderly man, and another bed held a sleeping woman, but that was it.

Ondihir looked up as Steve neared them.  "Master Steven McCloud, this is Master Healer Seregon."  

Steve nodded.  He resisted the urge to hold out his hand.  They didn't shake hands here.  "Master Seregon, can you tell me how the child is?  Kaylee is very worried about him."

The Healer also nodded.  "He has a concussion.  He has been awake twice, and he knows who he is, though he does not recollect how he was injured.  That is not unusual.  We will keep him here and watch him for a few days.  But he should soon heal."

Steve smiled, relieved.  "Thank you, Master Seregon.  Kaylee will be relieved to know that."

Now he turned and left the Houses of Healing, his mind full of reproach at himself.  Lord, he silently prayed, please forgive me for failing my duty as a father.  I really thought she had matured enough to watch herself for a while.  I don't know why I was so stupid!  I should never have given her that much freedom.  She could have been the one with the concussion!  Or worse, we could have lost her.  How could I have lived with that?  If my decision to let her play alone was the cause of that!

But as he was beginning to start reproaching himself all over again, he thought he heard another Voice, that still, small Voice in his heart that he had long since become so familiar with.  Be still, My son, and know that I am God.  Coming to a sudden halt, Steve stood stock-still, as he had been commanded.  That Voice was so clear.  My child, do you not know that giving your children freedom is the only way for them to grow?  The world would be far simpler if I never gave you freedom.  Yet freedom there must be.  You will learn how much to trust to your child's judgement, and she will reward your trust, but she will also fail from time to time as well.  Go in peace.  You will know what to say to her.

Steve bowed his head.  “Yes, Father.  Thank You,” he whispered.  Raising his head, he began to stride back toward the Citadel.  He knew now what he would say to his daughter.

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