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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.
Author's Note: The hiatus will have to be extended until next month, because Dreamflower is going to have to have some more medical procedures before she's up to doing much writing once more.
Chapter 87: Just Give Me a Chance
Mairen offered to take Megan out for a walk on the Citadel grounds, so that Gail could deal with Kaylee. Megan knew Kaylee was in trouble, though she did not quite understand why, but she hugged her sister before Mairen took her away, and she whispered rather loudly, "Say 'sorry', so you won't have too much time-out."
Kaylee didn't answer out loud, just nodded and returned Megan's hug.
Gail pulled her up onto her lap as they sat on the edge of Kaylee's bed. "I am sorry, Mommy! I should get lots of time-outs. It's all my fault Sador got hurt," she said, tears welling up in her eyes once more.
Gail rocked her gently. "We will see. When Daddy gets back, we will talk about your punishment." She held the little girl and rocked back and forth until Kaylee's eyes drooped in sleep. Then she gently laid her upon the bed and carefully left the room.
She sat down in the common room. As usual, it was empty of Elves. They seemed to much prefer wandering the city during the day to staying in their quarters. Leaning back, she allowed herself a moment of fear for what could have happened. If young Sador had not acted so quickly, Kaylee could have been badly hurt; as it was, Sador was the one who had come to harm—and that, too, could have been much worse, so much worse! How would Kaylee feel if he had been killed? It didn't bear thinking about!
Silently, she prayed, Lord, thank You for not letting it be worse than it was. Thank You for looking over Kaylee and Sador. Ever since we got to Middle-earth, it seemed as if You were teaching me not to be so protective of my babies. But then it seems when we decide not to be, it's not the right decision. How can we walk the line?
She closed her eyes and tried to think, but she must have drifted off, for she gave a start at the sound of Steve's voice. She blinked and looked up at him. "You're back." She spoke with a slight note of surprise.
"I've been gone about an hour," he replied. He sat down next to her. "We need to talk."
Gail nodded. "Yes, we do."
Steve sighed, and said, "Kaylee has matured so much since she has been here. I guess I overestimated just how much so. She's still only five. I'm sorry."
"You don't need to be. I agreed to allow her the freedom of the grounds and the Houses of Healing."
"But you would not have come up with that idea on your own."
"That's true. But I've learned since we've been here not to be so overprotective. I've learned that she is capable of a lot of things I wouldn't have dreamed of letting her do back home. I think I will be teaching her to do some things I've held off on doing because I thought she was too little to learn."
Steve nodded. "That’s a good idea. But I have been overestimating her. While she is capable of doing a lot of things that people think she's too young for back home, she still has the judgement, emotional maturity, and memory of a five-year-old. She really didn't intend to disobey, but she forgot everything in her attempt to catch up with Sador. And this city is not made for little ones who did not grow up here to be wandering around." He smiled ruefully. “The good Lord reminded me today that without freedom, we cannot grow, and that I would have to learn how much to trust to her judgement. We’ll both have to learn that. He also told me that she would reward our trust, but she will also fail from time to time.” Just like we do, he thought.
Gail nodded. "That’s true. Still, she does need some sort of punishment, and we will have to figure out how to let her stretch her limits without letting her run loose all the time."
"Well, my first thought when this happened was never to let her out of our sight until we get home. But that was before I listened to the Lord."
"How about grounding her for a couple of days, and then we can start allowing her down in the Citadel gardens without us? That should be enough freedom for her for now. Mairen will certainly help with that." Gail sighed. She would miss Mairen a lot when they went back to Portland.
Steve nodded. "And we can let her go a little farther than our reach when we go out together, but she will have to stay where she can still see us."
Gail thought for a few minutes. "Unless we are in parts of the city that we don't know as well, in which case she will still have to hold a hand."
"That's reasonable. A lot of places are still filled with dangerous debris." Steve rose to his feet. “Well, then, let’s go tell Kaylee what we’ve decided about her punishment.”
Gail stood up, and the two of them went to Kaylee and Megan’s bedroom, where they discovered that Kaylee had awakened. She sat on her bed with her head down and her shoulders slumped, running her fingers over the bed covers. She raised her head as her parents entered the room, unhappiness still welled up in her eyes. She looked up at them, though her posture was still dejected.
Steve sat down next to her. “Kaylee, your mommy and I have decided that you’re going to have to stay here in our quarters for the next couple of days. That will be your punishment.”
"In addition," Gail added, "after today, when your punishment is over, you can only go as far as the Citadel gardens unless someone older is with you."
Kaylee hung her head down and looked at the bedcovers once more. Her shoulders remained slumped. “Yes, Mommy. Daddy.” Her voice sounded wan. “I was bad. It’s all my fault Sador got hurt.”
"No, you were not bad, but you were thoughtless to forget. Perhaps you will remember better now." Steve sat down beside her and wrapped an arm around her. "I know you must be very tired, and sad about Sador. Now this is just an idea, and not a punishment, but how about if you have a little light supper and go to sleep early tonight? You don't have to, but I'm sure it wore you out to run so far, and then to worry about your friend."
She looked up in surprise, and then nodded. "I am sorta tired." She gave a big yawn, and Steve chuckled and playfully pinched her nose. She gave just a little smile.
As Steve got up to find out if he could have some soup and bread and maybe some milk sent up, Gail, who had sat down on her other side, scooted closer. "Do you still think it is all your fault?" she asked Kaylee, who nodded.
"Uh-huh. He pushed me so I wouldn't get hurt. If I wasn't there, he wouldn't do that."
"I suppose you’re right, but if the cart had not been going too fast, it would not have happened, either. That was the fault of the man who was driving the cart; he should not have been driving so fast, not on a city street. He was bound to hurt someone by doing that. He’s got his own lesson to learn from what happened today, same as you. It's not all your fault, and it was also Sador's choice to help you. He didn’t want you getting hurt by that cart, either." She hugged Kaylee against her. “That cart would have hurt you badly if Sador hadn’t saved you, and while your daddy and I are not happy that he’s hurt, we are very grateful to him for protecting you from that cart.”
"Oh. Okay, maybe not all my fault?" She looked at her mother hopefully.
"Definitely not all your fault.” Gail kissed her on the nose. “Would it make you feel better to say a prayer for Sador?"
Kaylee nodded and clasped her hands and closed her eyes. “Please, Jesus,” she prayed, “make Sador all well again soon. And thank You he didn't let me get hurt. Amen.”
She leaned against Gail, and her mother soothed her brow for a while, until Steve stuck his head in. "Hey, kitten! Someone's bringing up a tray with some of that chicken soup with dumplings that you like so much, and some bread and a little cup of warm milk with some honey in it. Why don't you let Mommy help you get into your nightie before it gets here?"
Kaylee smiled again, this time a little more than before. "I like that soup. It's all lemony, and the dumplings are soft."
Steve nodded. "I know.” He gave her a smile of approval and backed out of the room so that Gail could help Kaylee clean up and get dressed for bed. He knew that when Mairen came back with Megan, she could easily get the younger child to bed without waking the older one up.
When one of the Citadel servants came with the tray for Kaylee, there was another servant with a larger tray for Steve and Gail. It contained larger servings of the same soup and bread rolls, but had a teapot and teacups instead of the warm milk. There was a silver cover to keep everything hot.
Gail took the smaller tray in and stayed with Kaylee until she had eaten, said her prayers, and been tucked in. Then she joined Steve in the common room for their own meal. They were just finishing up when Mairen and Avorn entered, with Mairen carrying a sleeping Megan, and Avorn with Lucy at his heels. Lucy immediately scampered towards Steve and Gail, wagging her tail, and after Gail rubbed her head, Lucy licked her fingers.
Mairen told Steve and Gail, "Megan dined with us in the main kitchen. Is Kaylee sleeping?"
At Gail's nod, Mairen leaned with a smile, to give her husband a peck on the cheek and then took Megan into the children's room. Avorn went to his own quarters.
Lucy leaped up to curl up on the settee between Steve and Gail. They began to pet her and felt themselves relaxing. Steve absent-mindedly scratched the little spaniel's ears as he said, "It's been quite a day."
"That it has," answered Gail, shaking her head. “I just thank the Lord that it wasn’t worse than it was.” Steve nodded agreement.
In the days that followed, Kaylee remained thoughtful and somewhat subdued, but accepted her punishment and her new restrictions without complaint. When Kaylee’s two-day punishment was over, each morning after breakfast, either Gail or Steve would accompany her to the Houses of Healing to visit Sador, who seemed to be feeling much better.
About the third day after the end of Kaylee’s punishment, Gail took Kaylee to the Houses of Healing to visit Sador and found that Dame Ioreth was there. As Kaylee chatted with Sador, the good dame told Gail that Sador could have been released by then, but since he had no family to supervise him, they had kept him a-bed longer than necessary, as he would still need to take it easy a little longer.
"Can't he stay in the dormitory for the errand lads?" asked Gail.
"Alas, I have little time to watch over him. I have many other duties that keep me trotting all over the place, so I cannot stay in the dormitory all the time. If I had more helpers, it would not be a problem, but most of my helpers went away to the battle and have yet to return, and the others are all busy in the wards." The older woman sighed. "I wish that I could bring him back to the dormitory. There are small tasks he could do, but he is a young boy, and I do not wish to leave him unwatched until the healers decide he is well enough to run errands again."
Gail had an idea. "Are they tasks that I could supervise him doing?" She was not sure exactly what was entailed.
Dame Ioreth smiled. "Nothing too difficult, truly. Mostly I would have him sorting bandages and folding them, or folding linens for the beds. Small tasks of that sort. But I should not burden you with such things, my lady!"
Gail laughed. "I am not a lady as your people think of it. I hold no special title or rank. And honestly, I would like to have something to keep me busy. Just sitting around, waiting for my other children to return, is really wearing me down. Could I bring the girls with me?"
"Why, I suppose that you could. Kaylee would certainly be able to help Sador in his tasks. And I see no reason why even Megan could not learn to fold bandages."
"Well, then, after Kaylee's visit is ended, how about you and I walk down to your office, and you explain what I need to know. Then Sador can be released, and my girls and I can make ourselves useful for the next few days!" The truth was, Gail was getting very impatient waiting for Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey to return, and she had been itching for something useful to do to fill in her time. Steve was yearning for something to do, too, she knew. Perhaps he would also like to help out at the Houses of Healing until their other children returned. She would find out when she saw him later.
But it turned out that Steve had also found something to do. As he explained to her when he returned to their quarters later that afternoon, Lord Faramir and Master Ondahir had requested his help in organizing things for the return of the King and the Coronation. The Army of the West would be camping out on the Pelennor until the actual ceremony. But the field had been badly torn up by the battle, and there were places where it might be difficult to place pavilions, or to have many heavy waggons, as the ground was pocked and unsteady. Lord Faramir recalled that Steve had said his job had to do with soil.
Steve laughed as he told Gail of the request. "Of course, it doesn't have a lot to do with geology or testing the soil in the way that I do at home. But I can certainly give them some advice about how to stabilize various areas enough to be able to set up the pavilions or avoid bogging down the waggons. It's not the kind of thing I normally do, but just sitting around doing nothing or doing the tourist thing walking around the city is getting kind of old."
"I am glad we have both found ways to be useful," said Gail. "I have tried to be patient, but it's hard." She gave a rueful laugh.
"The Lord knows we won't pray for patience," Steve said, with a chuckle. It was an old joke, but sort of true as well: if you prayed for patience, you might be given trials that would force you to learn it. "So, He just takes care of it as needed."
And so, the next few days were busier than they had been. All needed to be made ready for the return of the King, and Gail found that far from just sitting around watching Sador, Kaylee, and Megan fold long strips of linen, she also was able to take messages and assign them to the other errand lads, and so forth.
As for Steve, he found that while his experience as a geologist was not that much help, things he recalled from a summer job back in his younger years came in handy. The summer before his senior year in high school, as well as during the summer after graduation before he had entered college, he and Ryan had taken part-time jobs at the fairgrounds, which really came in handy now. While there was no heavy machinery available in Gondor to speed up the work, there were plenty of draft animals, a lot of useful broken stone, and plenty of willing hands to help in the task of levelling off the field, especially those places where the mûmakil had churned up the ground, or where the siege engines and ladders had dug holes. So, he found his advice and direction to be very useful after all.
And then the word came: the Army would begin making their way across the Anduin the following day.
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