It was a couple of hours before dawn when a faint groan was heard coming from the boy. Aragorn’s eyes opened immediately at the sound and he sat up looking alert and ready for any possible danger. “I think the boy is waking,” Merry, who was on watch, said quietly. Aragorn arose and quickly walked over and knelt down by the boy who now had his eyes open, though you could barely see them in the pre-dawn darkness. Aragorn felt his head and frowned at the slight warmth he felt there.
Thomas pulled away in fright as soon as he felt the hand touch him. He tried to see where he was and who had touched him, but it was too dark. It felt like he was lying outside, but that didn’t make any sense. His body hurt everywhere, from the pounding in his head to the throbbing around his chest and in his legs. There were thick bandages on his head and his shoulder and his arm. Thomas tried to remember what had happened to him as he tried again to look around.
Suddenly he heard a deep, yet gentle voice right next to him, “It is going to be all right. You are among friends here. I am sure that you are in pain and very sore, but you can rest easy, no one here will hurt you.” The boy tried to see a face to match the voice in the darkness, but all he could see was just the faint outline of a large man and a child sitting beside him. Yet there was something in that voice he felt he could trust and so he lay back down. He hissed in pain as his right shoulder hit the ground and his head continued to throb with pain.
The man turned to the child, “Merry, go and build up the fire and start some water boiling, then bring me my pouch of herbs. Oh, first wake up Gandalf.”
“All right, Aragorn.” Merry scurried off to do Aragorn’s bidding.
Thomas thought that the person named Merry had a strange sounding voice. Not like a child at all. Maybe it was just a different accent or something and what did he call this man sitting next to him - Aragorn? He was jerked out of his thoughts by the sound of the man’s voice.
“...your name?” the man asked.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I wanted to know your name.”
“Oh, my name is Thomas Morgan. But most people call me Tommy or even Tom. Who are you?”
“I am Aragorn son of Arathorn. Though, I too am called by other names at times,” he replied with a hint of amusement in his voice.
As dawn crept nearer, Thomas could more clearly see the man sitting beside him. He had dark, shoulder length hair, which looked rather strange on a man. He also had a scruffy looking beard and mustache. But it was the eyes that captured most of Thomas’s attention. They were grey and somehow those eyes looked both stern and kind, though how that was possible, he didn’t know. Thomas’s eyes opened wide as he suddenly realized that Aragorn was carrying a sword, which both startled and frightened him. He opened his mouth to ask why he had a sword when a second man walked up. This man was dressed in grey robes and was wearing a tall, pointed, grey hat. Thomas’s blue eyes widened in disbelief as he looked the old man up and down.
The man sat down next to Aragorn and looked at Thomas with piercing blue eyes. “Ahh, you are awake, young one.” He gave Thomas a brief half smile.
“Yes, sir,” Thomas replied somewhat nervously though he didn’t really know why he was nervous. The man seemed nice enough and he had smiled. Still, there was something about him that seemed ancient and seemed to demand respect.
Aragorn’s voice pulled him from his thoughts, “Thomas Morgan, this is my friend, Gandalf.” Thomas nodded his head at Gandalf, forgetting his pounding headache and groaned in pain again. Aragorn looked at him with sympathy, “Merry is coming now with the hot water and I will make you something for the pain and to help with the fever.”
“Don’t you have any aspirin?” Thomas asked, surprised. “Wouldn’t that be easier than making me something?” Gandalf and Aragorn glanced at each other in confusion, but Thomas didn’t notice. “I’m sure that a few aspirin would be okay...” his voice trailed off as if he suddenly realized something. He sat up suddenly, ignoring the pain racing through him. “Why am I lying on the ground outside? Shouldn’t I be in a hospital when I’m this hurt? Did the bus crash? Where’s my mom?” His voice was getting loud and he woke the rest of the Fellowship members who looked over in surprise, but didn’t move or say anything. He looked around wildly at the people, at the woods and a note of panic entered his voice, “Where am I? Why do you all have swords?” Thomas looked up at Merry and realized he was not a child. “What...what are you?” he whispered as he noticed Merry’s ears. He swallowed his rising panic and tried to calm himself down.
“I’m a hobbit, and my name is Merry.” He said gently as he set the pot of water next to Aragorn. “Those are my cousins, Frodo and Pippin and our friend, Sam.” He pointed to each of the other hobbits, who gave Thomas a small wave, but remained quiet.
Thomas took a couple of deep breaths and looked back at Aragorn and Gandalf who were watching him closely; Aragorn with his kind, yet questioning eyes and Gandalf with eyes that were hooded and thoughtful. Finally, Aragorn broke the silence that had descended on the camp after Thomas’s outburst. “I honestly cannot answer all of your questions, Thomas. All I can tell you is that last evening we found you and the young lady in the middle of the clearing behind you.”
Thomas first looked at the girl, whom he had not noticed before, and then carefully turned his head and looked at the clearing to see if he could remember anything.
Aragorn continued, “Legolas and I..."
“Leglass?” Thomas interrupted.
“Legolas.” Aragorn bit back a smile as he corrected the boy’s pronunciation of his friend’s name. He could hear the chuckles of the hobbits as they began to tease Legolas. “We carried you and the girl here and tended to your wounds. As to how you got here, we were hoping that you could tell us.” He glanced at Gandalf to see if he had any ideas, but the wizard just shook his head slightly and kept watching the boy.
Thomas blinked his eyes rapidly a few times, took a deep breath and then slowly looked around again being careful not to move too quickly. Mostly he looked at the ‘people’ and their clothes and their weapons. He wondered why they had weapons and, if they needed weapons, why swords and knives. The tall blonde guy even had a bow… it made no sense, he thought with a bit of panic.
“Here, drink this.”
“What is it?” Thomas asked looking down at the cup in confusion.
“It will help with your pain and the fever.” Aragorn reminded him patiently.
Thomas took a small sip and started choking. “That’s awful!” he exclaimed. There were quiet chuckles and smiles, and Thomas looked up as the short man snorted, “Better get well quick, lad or you’ll be drinking lots of those foul-tasting teas of Aragorn’s.”
Aragorn glanced over at Gimli with a faint smile, “I shall remember your words, Master Gimli, and if you ever have need of my skills, I shall brew you the most horrible tasting drinks that I can.” Gimli sputtered and mumbled an apology. “As for you, Thomas, I know that it tastes bitter, but it will help with your pain and fever and you need to drink it all.” Thomas nodded in compliance, took a deep breath and swallowed it in one gulp. He shuddered from the taste and Merry handed him a funny looking pouch.
“What is this?” he asked, confused. Merry looked at him in surprise. “It’s a waterskin.” When Thomas still didn’t seem to know what to do with it, Merry pulled the plug, took a drink and handed it back to Thomas. He looked at it and took a long drink before returning it to the hobbit with his thanks.
Merry wandered off to see about breakfast just as Boromir and Legolas came to talk to Aragorn and Gandalf about the plan for the day. Thomas was lost in his own thoughts when he heard his name mentioned and he looked over at the four of them. “...Thomas needs to rest and the girl is still unconscious. We cannot move on today.” One of the men, whose name he didn’t know said, “Well, we have been pushing the little ones pretty hard, it will be good for them to have some rest.”
Aragorn noticed that Thomas was listening to their conversation. “Thomas Morgan, I want you to meet Boromir son of Denethor and Legolas son of Thranduil.”
“Hello, nice to meet you.” Thomas said politely, slightly embarrassed now about his earlier behavior.
Boromir nodded and turned back to Gandalf, while Legolas responded with a small bow and said, “Mae govannen, Thomas.”
Thomas wondered what that meant and then gave a small start as he noticed Legolas’s pointed ears and he looked him over carefully, noticing the long partially braided blonde hair, which was so different from the others here. He turned and looked thoughtfully at the hobbits and remembered that Merry also had pointy sort of ears and now he noticed they had bare, hairy feet. He sighed and then turned to look back at Legolas and blushed bright red when he saw four pairs of eyes looking at him with amusement.
“I’m sorry...I’ve never...uh...never met anyone...with pointed ears before.”
“Say no more, Thomas;” Legolas said gently, “many mortals are surprised the first time they meet an elf.”
“An elf?” Thomas exclaimed, quite loudly, causing the hobbits and Gimli to look up from their breakfast again. “But elves aren’t real...” he started to say before stopping mid-sentence. Legolas raised an eyebrow at that, while Aragorn and Boromir chuckled. Gandalf, however, continued just to observe Thomas and his reactions.
“I’m sorry, Legolas. I’m not trying to be rude. There are no elves where I live.” Thomas tried his best to explain. “I’ve never seen one or even heard of one except in stories.”
“What about hobbits? Have you heard of them?” Pippin asked from across the fire.
Thomas shook his head slowly. The medicine had helped, but his head still hurt from the blow it had taken and his body ached. On top of that, there was a flood of questions that needed to be answered and no one could do that for him. He was overwhelmed with all this information, elves and hobbits, indeed!
Something was very, very wrong here, but he didn’t know what it was except that he was very far from home. He finally answered Pippin. “No,” he said very softly, “I’ve never heard of hobbits before either.” He carefully lay down and rolled over, away from everyone, so that no one could see the tears that suddenly filled his eyes. He didn’t hear them walk away as he fell back to sleep.
The Fellowship moved a few paces away from the fire before sitting and talking quietly about the boy and girl.
“Where are they from, Gandalf?” asked Frodo, “It’s obvious they are not from around here.” He frowned slightly as he looked back at Thomas.
“He sure was scared. The swords and...”
“Never seen or heard of elves or hobbits!” Pippin interrupted Boromir with his usual eagerness.
“Don’t interrupt, Pip. Most Men haven’t heard of hobbits so that’s not unusual. But he didn’t know what a waterskin was either or how to use it, now that is unusual.” Merry paused before going on. “Did you notice, Aragorn, how he looked you over? Took in everything about you? And, Legolas too, for that matter, though that makes more sense when he said he had never seen an elf.”
“Of course I noticed him looking me over,” Aragorn replied with a small smile. “At first I thought it was just because I was someone he did not know and he was in an unfamiliar place. But then I realized he had never seen anyone dressed like me, he took a sharp breath when he laid eyes on my sword. I do have sharp eyes and ears, Master Hobbit!”
Merry gave Aragorn an apologetic grin and a small bow.
“But that still doesn’t answer our question!” growled Gimli. “If they are not from here, then where are they from?”
He, along with everyone else, turned to Gandalf expecting him to have the answer. Gandalf just looked at them impassively and shook his head slightly.
“I wish I could answer that question because I would very much like to know, but I truly have no idea. However, I would venture to say that it is a very long way from here and that Legolas may be closer to the answer than we suspected.” Murmurs of surprise broke out at that statement. “We will have to wait until I can talk to Thomas further and then the girl as well. Aragorn, how does she fare?”
“Her breathing is normal and she does not have a fever. I think it is just a matter of time until she wakes up. I was surprised however, that Thomas did not know her. I would have thought they were traveling together.” Aragorn made his comments as he finished his long delayed breakfast. He then pulled out his pipe and filled it with pipeweed.
“Aragorn! How can you smoke that stuff so early in the morning and right after breakfast?” Legolas growled.
“Helps me think,” Aragorn shot his friend a grin while Legolas returned a scowl before giving him a slight smile. Though he still got up and moved to the other side of the circle away from the smoke.
“That’s what I always say,” said Pippin cheerfully, “a good smoke always helps me to think.”
“Too bad you don’t have anything in your head to think about” Merry said teasingly.
“I do too have things to think about,” Pippin protested. “...things like...”
“Yes?” Merry prompted.
“Go ahead.” Frodo smiled at the look on his young cousin’s face.
“Well, I can’t think of them right now with you looking at me like that, but I really do!” Pippin said hotly.
“I’m sure you do.” Frodo said soothingly, while Merry and Sam just chuckled.
Gimli and Aragorn glanced at each other and had to look away to keep themselves from laughing, while Legolas just smiled softly.
“Now, where were we before we got interrupted with talk of pipe-weed.” Gandalf said with a small glare around the circle before breaking into a small smile. “Oh yes, Thomas and the girl. We know they wear strange clothes, they are not traveling together, they have never seen either elves or hobbits...well, at least he has not. I suppose we cannot presume that it is the same for her, though it does seem likely. Aragorn, could the hit on his head have caused some kind of memory loss?”
“A blow to the head can cause memory loss, but I do not believe that happened in this case. He is too alert and aware of who he is and what should and should not be here.”
“All we can do is wait and ask them questions. We shall have to take them with us. Rivendell is a week behind us and we cannot send them back there and there is nowhere else to leave them,” Gandalf sighed. “No, they shall have to come with us. Let’s take advantage of this day to rest before we move on tomorrow. Legolas can scout the area around here and I think you hobbits should rest as much as possible for our journey ahead is still long and arduous.”
The hobbits quickly settled down on their bedrolls and went back to sleep, Legolas slipped quietly away into the forest and Gimli and Boromir settled down for a quiet discussion about their respective homes. Aragorn went back to check on Thomas and the girl before lying down to try and catch up on the sleep he had missed over the past days. Gandalf sat musing about where these two had come from, why they were there and what they would do with them once they discovered the answers to the first two questions.
To be continued...