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ON HIATUS: Dear readers: once more, we beg your indulgence for another hiatus. Unlike previous ones which either dealt with my (DF) health, or (for both of us, computer problems) this one is for KG. Her mother is very ill, and she and her sister are having to deal with some difficult decisions. As when I (DF) was recovering from my burn accident, we cannot give an exact date for when we will return. We ask for those of you who feel inclined to do so, to add KG's mom to your prayer list, and to send good thoughts her way. Thank you for your patience.
Summary: In the spring of 2012, four American children find themselves thrust into an unfamiliar world and part of an unexpected adventure. This story is AU, and blends Lord of the Rings book-verse and movie-verse. This story also contains a lot of spiritual and religious content as a part of the AU elements.
Disclaimer: The world of Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien; the three films of The Lord of the Rings belongs to New Line Cinema and to Peter Jackson. This story is not for profit, but is a gift for the enjoyment of those who read it.
Citations: In most chapters, there will be some quotations directly from both the books and/or the movies. Quotations from Tolkien's books are in italics, and quotations from the movies are underlined. Occasional quotations from other sources as well as silent dialogue, words spoken in emphasis, and passages from the Bible will also be in italics, and those citations will be footnoted at the end of each chapter in which they occur. We will also footnote research sources and credit the ideas of other people.
Thanks: We would also like to acknowledge the invaluable help of our beta, Linda Hoyland, another well-known and prolific LotR fanwriter, whose many wonderful stories also grace this site.
Chapter 90: “Almost There”
Joey woke up in the waggon and stretched. He sat up and saw Kevin sitting on the driver's seat. "Kevin!" he hissed sharply.
Kevin turned. "Hey, Joey! Awake already?"
"Yeah. I need to go. I'll be right back." Moving carefully so as not to waken anyone else he climbed over the side of the waggon, and then hopped down, and made a dash for the latrine, which was just a pit over near a small copse of trees. Then he headed back, though not moving quite as quickly this time. The hobbits were now heading in that direction, and they passed him as he was returning. Frodo and Merry gave him sleepy nods, and Sam smiled and waved, while Pippin wished him a merry "Good morning!"
Jennifer was already gone when he returned. "Where's Jen?" Joey asked Kevin.
"She's off to wash up and fetch us some bread. Just bread and water this morning; no time for the cooks to set up. They baked last night, before they took the mess tent down and quenched the fires."
The hobbits returned. All of them had slept in their clothing, but Merry and Pippin had taken off their livery and mail. They helped one another to get into their gear; Joey helped them as well. All he needed to don was his surcoat, since he didn't wear armour.
Jennifer came back with a basketful of ash cakes, enough for all of them to have at least two. They ate their bread, washed down with water from their waterskins. Merry finished first and then trotted off towards the encampment of the Rohirrim. Jennifer only wanted one of the little breads baked in the ashes, so Joey and Pippin split a third, and then they set off to find Boromir.
Jennifer got up and sat next to Kevin. "They said they did not need any more help among the few healers that are left. Nearly all the patients were sent over last night."
"That's good," Kevin replied. "I'm supposed to stay with the waggon. It will be my responsibility to get us in line once we start moving."
"Do you suppose that Dad and Mom will meet us on the other side of the River?" Jennifer asked.
Kevin shook his head. "I don't think so. I asked Gandalf about that yesterday, and he said there would be too much chaos there today. I don't think they'd want Kaylee and Megan under everyone's feet, and they probably wouldn't want to leave them alone."
Jennifer nodded. Like it or not, the three of them would just have to wait until they were in Minas Tirith before they were reunited with the rest of the family. How are we gonna explain all this to Aunt Janet and Uncle Ryan when we get back home? she wondered.
Brother and sister just sat together, appreciating a quiet time together. There were sounds around them of horses and orders being called out, but it seemed distant in the early-morning sun, especially without the chatter of the hobbits and their younger brother.
Jennifer sighed contentedly. "This is nice. I hope nothing goes wrong for the Coronation tomorrow, and that the weather is nice."
Kevin nodded and took his sister's hand. "Lord, please help everything go well for Aragorn today and tomorrow, and please grant him a beautiful day for his crowning. He is a good man, and he will be a good king.” He paused. “And once he’s crowned, please give him wisdom and discernment as You did Solomon—or will do Solomon. Amen."
"And," added Jennifer, "please help us to be patient tomorrow as we wait to see Mom and Dad and Kaylee, Megan...and Lucy."
“Hi, Steward Denethor!” Kaylee greeted Denethor as she opened the door at his knock. She made a little curtsey.
“Hello, young Kaylee.” Denethor nodded towards the little girl. “Are your parents inside?”
“They sure are, sir!” Kaylee nodded.
“Well, I need to speak with them, if you would announce me, then?”
Smiling, Kaylee took his hand and led him through the door. “Mommy! Daddy! Steward Denethor is here!” she called. Then she turned to him. "Did I do it right?"
Denethor suppressed a smile and nodded. "Indeed, you certainly did."
“So, I see.” Steve smiled as he entered the room, followed by Gail and Megan. “To what do we owe the privilege of this visit, Lord Denethor?” he asked, exchanging a look with his wife as he did so. The three adults sat down, but Kaylee remained on her feet.
"I hoped to have a chance to speak with you before we all are far too busy with the preparations for tomorrow. Faramir had hoped to join me, but there were some last-minute problems in arranging accommodations for many of the nobles arriving to attend the ceremony. Most have always had houses in the City available, but several had sold their properties when it seemed advisable to evacuate, and while there was little damage to the upper levels, there was some, especially in the fifth level, so a few homes are in need of repair. But we are concentrating our efforts on the lower levels, which took the most damage. Those nobles shall have to be hosted here at the Citadel, and Faramir is quite good at soothing ruffled feathers." Denethor shook his head, with an appearance of chagrin. "That, of course, is just an explanation of his absence today."
Steve and Gail looked at one another, puzzled. He still was uncertain of the purpose of the Steward's visit this morning, unaccompanied by anyone. Kaylee leaned against the couch’s left armrest and gazed at him. Megan sat on her mother’s lap.
"We are hoping that you will continue to be guests in the City, for a time. The new King has also written to us that this is his hope as well. But I know that your own purpose will be fulfilled when you are reunited with your older children; perhaps you may wish to go back to your own homeland right away. I must say that I have much curiosity about your home, and have had very little time to indulge it, but we would not wish to restrain you if it is your wish to leave right after the Coronation."
Steve glanced at Gail, and she nodded to him that he should answer. Honestly, neither had been thinking that far ahead, as they had no idea how they would even get home yet. They had figured they'd have to go back to Rivendell to find their way home, but even that was uncertain. He took a deep breath and shook his head slightly. "I know that Lord Glorfindel has received word from Master Elrond that he and his family will be coming here around midsummer. It is quite unlikely that we'd leave before that, since we came here with his people. And I do know that Kevin, Jennifer, and Joey have taken on some responsibilities since they got here. They may need time to be ready to leave."
"It is good to hear that," said Denethor. He coughed, putting his hand over his mouth, and the coughing went on for a few minutes. After a moment, it eased off, and he noticed that Kaylee had brought him a goblet of water without even being asked. Megan stood at her sister's side, looking worried. "Thank you, Kaylee. That is kind of you."
"It's OK, sir. Megan was worried that you might be sick."
"Were you, then, child?" he asked, turning to the younger girl. "I am not sick, but I still have a bad cough from the smoke I breathed in during the siege."
Megan blushed and looked down at her toes. "I hope you get better," she said softly.
Denethor took a few small sips of water, and then a longer drink from the goblet. He smiled at Steve and Gail. "Your daughters are very polite."
Gail was also smiling at her little ones. Kaylee approached her mother and climbed onto the couch by her side. "We are very proud of them." She held out her arms, and the two girls leaned into her embrace.
"As I said," Denethor said, his cough having subsided, "I am glad to hear you will be staying for at least a little while. Lord Elessar has agreed that you shall remain here at the Citadel for as long as you wish. And he has extended that courtesy to myself and my sons, as well."
They hadn't thought of that, but they supposed that it was not something to be taken for granted. "Thank you for letting us know, Lord Denethor," said Gail. "You and your people have been very hospitable to us."
Denethor dipped his head in acknowledgement. "It is the least we could do. Your older children had no ties to Gondor, save their friendship with Boromir and with Lord Elessar. Yet they took it upon themselves to do what they could to help us, even to fighting and risking their lives in order to help our people."
"We are extremely proud of our kids," said Steve, smiling fondly, and with an equally fond, proud smile, Gail nodded agreement.
Denethor looked slightly puzzled, and then chuckled. "You refer to your children as 'kids'. I do not believe I have ever heard of children being called baby goats before you did so."
"It's a common way to refer to children where we come from."
"I have heard such expressions from your children, as well as others that are puzzling. Perhaps you can explain the meanings behind some of them…"
Kevin slowly eased the waggon over the bumpy stones of the causeway. He felt like he was just crawling along, but he was still a little new at this waggon-driving thing; besides, everyone was going slow, anyway. The causeway was safe, the engineers had said, but it was not as smooth as it had originally been before the destruction of Osgiliath. Every turn of every wheel was a bump.
Only Sam and Frodo were in the waggon. The two of them were sitting up on the driver's seat alongside him, and they were satisfying Kevin's curiosity about their lives in the Shire. Pippin was riding with Boromir, Joey was riding with Gandalf, Merry was with Eomer, and Jennifer had gone to walk alongside her friend Lalaith. Kevin could see them up ahead giggling and talking just the way that Jen had always giggled and talked with her friend, Nicole, back home. He supposed it was just a girl thing everywhere.
"So, you hobbits always eat six meals every day?" he asked.
"Yes, Mr. Kevin," said Sam.
Frodo laughed. "Except when we can get seven."
"So, that's like, every two hours? I know you have two breakfasts, and something called elevenses, and then lunch. And what else?"
The two hobbits laughed. "Then there is teatime, and supper, and then if it is a special occasion, there will be a feast, or a late supper, depending on the occasion," Frodo replied. "And yes, it does seem to be about every couple of hours, although once in a while, if our day was running late, Uncle Bilbo was fond of 'tupper', which was when he combined 'tea' and 'supper' into one meal."
"And then, there's 'long breakfast',” added Sam. "Mr. Merry said as Brandybucks was fond of that one, and Tooks as well. Long breakfast is when you start eating first breakfast and then just keep on eating right through the second."
Kevin shook his head. “If you cook six or seven meals a day—or five, if you count long breakfasts—how on earth do you have time to get anything else done? I mean, you have to cook everything from scratch, and that takes a while! Not to mention the time you spend eating them, and then you have to wash the dishes every time!” He rolled his eyes. “How do you manage to do all that, and get your regular work done, too?”
Both hobbits laughed heartily at that question. "We just do," said Frodo. "We prepare things ahead of time; a stew meant for supper may cook on a low fire all day long. First breakfast is often just porridge, some fruit, and a cup of tea. Enough to break the night's fast, while second breakfast is a little more hearty. And luncheon is often leftovers, or sometimes cold meats, cheese, and bread. And of course, you wash the dishes as you go, so that only the plates are left at the end."
Kevin nodded. And the glasses and silverware, he thought. Hopefully, that job doesn’t take long, even if they do have to boil the dishwater before using it. Seems to me everybody in Middle-earth’s at a disadvantage, having to manage without water faucets and hot water heaters.
"We was right surprised that other folks don't eat so much," said Sam. "Why, we thought Big Folks would eat lots more than hobbits do, they got so much more room to fill up! But we hobbits do know how to do without in a pinch, we do."
“I can see that,” Kevin said. “It appears that you hobbits have faster metabolisms than we Big Folk, as you call us, so you can burn off the calories you take in much faster and more efficiently than we can. Which is lucky for you, ‘cause you don’t have to worry about getting fat if you eat a lot.”
"Metabolism?" asked Frodo.
"It means some people burn off more of their food more quickly than others, so they have to eat more." Kevin paused. “If you eat more than your body can burn off, it gets stored in your body as fat. A small amount of fat stored up isn’t so bad, but too much of it creates health problems. That would be a problem for us, I fear, if we tried to eat like hobbits.”
Sam nodded. "Kind of like birds. A bird eats a lot more than its weight in food than a body'd think it would. You'd be surprised how much a little bird can eat. My sister Marigold used to feed the birds breadcrumbs and such when she was little. But you hardly ever see a fat bird, less'n it’s a chicken being fed up to be et for dinner."
"Well, hobbits do get a bit fat in the middle," Frodo said. "It's how we get by in hard times." He caught Sam's eye. "The two of us haven't been fat in the middle for a good long time, but then the fat in the middle goes first when food is scarce."
The conversation fell silent for a while. The reminder of the two hobbits' journey through Mordor was sobering.
Joey had not ridden with Gandalf for a long time, but it was nice to be seated once more behind him on Shadowfax. They were riding slowly and carefully along the causeway. The workers had done their best in the short time allowed, to keep the stones level, but still, it could be tricky. Not all of the stones were the same size, after all. Gandalf leaned forward and said to Shadowfax, "Be careful, old friend. I know you would rather be galloping over the plains of Rohan than picking your way over stones. But take care, for I would not have you come to harm on these stones."
"I think Shadowfax really understands what you are saying, Gandalf," Joey spoke up.
"Of course, he does; he is the Prince of the Mearas, after all!" Gandalf's tone was proud, and he gave the horse a pat on the withers. Then he sat up straight. "So, Joey, you will soon have your reunion with your parents and little sisters. I know you must be looking forward to it."
Joey nodded, and then, remembering that sitting behind the wizard, Gandalf could not see him. "Yes, sir, I am really, really looking forward to it." He smiled at the prospect. “Kaylee’s going to be glad to see you again! I can’t wait for you to meet my mom and dad. And Megan!”
"You do realize that you will have to get through the Coronation first. There will be much pomp and many speeches before that can happen. Can you be patient and concentrate on your duties until then?"
Joey laughed. "I don't know, but I can try. It makes me remember a song I learned in Vacation Bible School when I was Kaylee's age."
"Would you mind singing it for me?" the wizard asked, smiling.
"I can—I think I can remember it…" He sat silently, jouncing on Shadowfax's back, until he was sure he recalled it all. It helped that Kaylee liked to sing that one, too. Finally, he drew a deep breath and sang out:
The wizard threw back his head and laughed. Joey grinned. Gandalf laughed a lot more since he'd come back from the Balrog and everything, and his laugh sounded a little different, too. It made Joey feel like he could really imagine the old wizard as an angel. "I, too, have had to learn lessons in patience. Such lessons could have been much easier, had I such a jolly song to help me remember. You should teach that song to Pippin."
Joey furrowed his brow in bewilderment. “But you’re an angel! Angels don’t get impatient.”
"So certain of that, are you, young Joey?" Gandalf shook his head and chuckled. "In the Timeless Halls, there is no reason for patience. But for a very long time, for more than half an age, I have been also a Man, and a grumpy old man at that. Here, East of the Sea, there are a great many reasons for impatience, and patience can only be learned by discovering impatience and experiencing its frustrations. I assure you, when I first set foot in Middle-earth, I found many such reasons. It was from Cirdan the Shipwright that I first learned the uses of patience, but the learning was a long and humbling task, never mastered completely to this day."
"I never thought about it that way before," Joey said. "I guess nobody's born patient. Except angels don’t get born; they get made."
Again, Gandalf laughed. "We all get made, Joey, by the One who sang to us and gave us the Secret Fire. It is just that angels are made in a place where there is no challenge to us. The Children of Ilúvatar were made to waken first into a world that should also have been unmarred. But Melkor had marred it already, and so first Elves, and then Men, found themselves in Arda Marred."
This brought up something that had been puzzling Joey ever since he had realized that the stories of the beginning of the world were different, yet they were supposed to be in the past. "Gandalf, why are the stories different here? I mean, like the serpent and the apple—no one knows that here? Also, the Bible says God created the world, and it was good. And it was, till sin entered it and messed up everything."
Gandalf became more solemn and thought silently. Joey just waited. They'd just been talking about patience after all.
"I do not know, but I can tell you what I think. You have no tales of the Elves, the Firstborn, in your world—not as they truly are, at least. Your tales begin with the Secondborn, and we have little knowledge of their beginnings. And you said that 'the world was good until sin entered it.' And so, it was—and is—here as well." He paused, and then added, "And there are many other differences I cannot account for, but I know that in the end, there is no difference between your truth and the truth here in Arda. They are the same, but yet not the same."
"You really don't know for sure?" For some reason, Joey'd always thought Gandalf would have all the answers, especially since he was now Gandalf the White.
"Even those of the Ainur who never left the Timeless Halls have never known everything. That belongs only to Eru, the One who made us all."
Shadowfax's pace changed, and the ground beneath them was actual ground. They had come to the other side of the causeway, and Joey could see the White City shining in the distance. "Hey, we made it!" he said.
Gandalf laughed. “We certainly did!”
Joey smiled. When I get the chance, I want to ask Gandalf if he knows Gabriel! And Michael!
Just to the south of the causeway landing on the West bank, Jennifer and Lalaith hugged. "Are you sure, Jennifer?" Lalaith asked.
Jennifer had not told her brothers, but she had been offered the chance to return directly to the Houses of Healing with the other apprentices and helpers. Since Jennifer's standing was not exactly official, she was given the choice of whether she wished to stay with the Army or return with the healers…
Mistress Adanel had called for her to speak privately. "Jennifer, you have worked hard and learned as much as any apprentice. But you are not formally apprenticed to any Healer, nor are you a paid helper. I know your brothers are here, but you are certainly welcome in the Houses. Do you wish to go back with us to Minas Tirith tomorrow, or would you prefer to stay with your brothers and wait to return to the City until after the Coronation?"
Jennifer's heart leapt! She could see Mom and Dad and the kids tomorrow instead of waiting for the next day. Her imagination went wild as she imagined running into her mother's arms, and then her dad grasping her in a hug and swinging her around, and Kaylee and Megan grabbing her around the knees, and Lucy jumping and barking in excitement the whole time, and...and...where would Kevin and Joey be? They had responsibilities they couldn't just leave behind. It wouldn't be fair.
Her heart broke a little, but her soul felt satisfied. "No, thank you, Mistress Adanel. I appreciate the chance more than you know. But it wouldn't feel right to go without my brothers."
And I won't tell them, she added silently to herself. They'll feel bad that I gave it up for their sakes. They don't need to know. And she felt peace, but was still a little sad. I have to be patient, she thought. It's hard, but it's the right thing to do…
Shaking her head, Jennifer turned her attention back to her friend. Jennifer and Lalaith hugged again, and Jennifer said, "It’ll only be a couple of days, Lalaith, and I will see you again, even after I get together with the rest of my family."
Lalaith nodded and pointed. Gandalf had just helped Joey to slip off of Shadowfax, and he was waving at his sister. Jennifer nodded. "I'll see you again soon," she said to her friend, before she gathered her skirts, and ran towards her little brother. They'd find Kevin and the waggon together.
A/N: “Have Patience” is copyrighted to His and Hernandez in 2008. It was written by the Christian band Candle for the children's program Music Machine: Fruit of the Spirit in 1977.
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