It was dark when Rebecca awoke. The only light came from the orange embers of the fire. She stretched her legs and uninjured arm trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the others. Quietly, she pulled her legs out from under the blanket someone had laid over her and stood up intending to look for some water, knowing it had been in some kind of a pouch.
Suddenly, she felt something touch her shoulder. She was starting to scream when a hand was clasped firmly over her mouth and the grip on her shoulder tightened. Rebecca stood there frozen in shock and fear when a voice whispered softly in her ear, "It is Legolas, Lady Rebecca. Forgive me, I did not mean to frighten you. I am going to take my hand away from your mouth now, but you cannot scream. Do you understand?"
Rebecca nodded and Legolas slowly removed his hand. He moved around in front of her, though she barely saw him in the darkness. "Why did you do that?" she whispered, rather harshly in her fear. "Where did you come from anyway? I didn't even hear you. You really scared me."
Legolas put his fingers on her lips to stop the flow of words. "Hush, you will wake the others. Please, forgive me," his voice was apologetic. "I was on watch and saw you get up and came to speak with you. Elves make no noise when they walk. I could not let you scream for it would wake the others and it might attract unwanted...visitors to our camp." Legolas said hesitantly.
"What do you watch for? Aragorn said there were no villages around here... are there dangerous animals?"
"Yes, there are several different types of... dangerous animals. Now, why did you get up?" Legolas asked, clearly changing the subject.
"I woke up and I was thirsty... but I don't know where to get water."
"I will get you some, wait here." He helped her sit back down and moved off. Rebecca heard nothing as he left. Not the sound of his feet touching the ground or the small crunch of twigs. There was absolutely no noise. How is it possible for anyone to move like that... I wonder if it is some kind of magic, she thought, shaking her head. And then he was beside her once again and though she now knew he made no noise, she was still startled and jumped slightly.
"How do you do that? Walk without making noise? Is it magic?" she asked as she took the waterskin from Legolas and took a long drink.
"It is the way of my people and is not magic, though many mortals call it such" he replied quietly. "I also have eyesight and hearing that is superior to Men, but that too is the way I was created and is not magic."
This was said in such a matter of fact tone that Rebecca could tell he was not really bragging, but still she was a little annoyed. "What do you mean by better eyesight and hearing? How far can you see or hear?"
She could hear the amusement in his voice as he replied. "Well, right now, I can see your face quite clearly even in the little glow from the fire and I can tell you are most annoyed with me. Ah, no need to look away! I can see the details on your cloak, 6 fastenings of some kind..."
"Buttons, that have little cross marks on them. Six buttons on the front of your cloak, one on each sleeve. There is a hood with rabbit fur and ties hanging down from in..."
"All right, I get the idea. You can see really well in the dark. I can hardly see my hand in front of my face," Rebecca sighed. "It’s so strange here, elves, hobbits, dwarves. Can hobbits see and hear like you? They have pointed ears."
Legolas laughed softly at that. "No, only the firstborn, the elves, are gifted such. Those that came after, the secondborn, men, dwarves, and hobbits did not receive those gifts from Eru."
Rebecca nodded, knowing he would see her, but this talk of firstborn and gifts and Eru was getting too confusing. I wonder who or what an Eru is, she thought as her mind started to overflow with questions. "Legolas, I don't understand all of this. I'm just too tired..." she yawned and rubbed her eyes, "...right now, but I’d like to hear more sometime. Maybe we could talk in the morning?"
"When we have time, we will talk about all of this, Lady Rebecca. However, it will not be in the morning, as we will leave quite early. You and Thomas have a lot to learn about our history and our ways. I would be honored to teach you, though I am sure that Gandalf, Boromir, or Aragorn would be willing to teach you as well. Now, I think you need to get some rest, it will be a long day for you tomorrow."
"Thanks for the water and talking to me. But please try not to scare me like that again!" Rebecca said.
"Again, I am sorry and I will try not to startle you in the future. Good night, Lady Rebecca." He got up and walked off without a sound.
"Good night, Legolas."
Morning came early as Aragorn and Gandalf were eager to push on to make up for the lost day. Breakfast was cold and hurried, much to the dismay of the hobbits.
Aragorn came to check on Thomas and Rebecca before they moved out. "I need to change your bandages before we leave. It should only take a few minutes. Sit on the rock there," he motioned to Thomas.
Thomas was feeling good this morning, he had some stiffness in his neck and shoulders, but his legs and arms were relatively pain free. His head ached a little, but there was no nausea and he was looking forward to a nice walk.
Aragorn first unwrapped the bandage from his head and checked the two cuts there. He was pleased to see that both seemed to be healing well. He applied more of the salve he had mixed and put on a fresh bandage. "Now, Thomas, off with your shirt and let me check your shoulder."
Thomas was embarrassed to remove his shirt in front of everyone, especially Rebecca, though he didn't show it, keeping a stoic look on his face. He knew he shouldn't feel that way, he was strong and well-built compared to most boys his age, but he couldn't compete with the men around here now. He also had a fairly long scar on the left side of his chest and stomach where he had run into a barbed wire fence and he thought it was ugly. But Rebecca wasn't paying any attention to him as she was talking to Gimli and Boromir.
"All right, Thomas all done now." Aragorn smiled and patted him on the shoulder. "These are healing well and I think in a few days we'll be able to leave off the bandages. Are you in pain?”
"No, my neck is a little stiff, but I'm ready for a good walk." Thomas replied as he put his shirts back on.
Aragorn just smiled faintly, knowing that he had no idea what the day ahead would bring and his idea of a good walk would be different at the end of the day. He swiftly looked him up and down noting that he had on some type of sensible boots, strange blue leggings, two shirts – one white and one a long-sleeved green and black tunic type and then the heavy dark brown cloak. Well, at least he would be warm.
Aragorn turned to Rebecca, "Lady Rebecca, come, it is time to change your bandages." As she walked over Aragorn looked her over noticing that she was dressed much the same as Thomas, though her boots did not seem as sturdy and that worried him. The cloak was a different style, more feminine and a light green color. She wore the same blue leggings and a white shirt of a heavy material. Of course, both of their shirts and cloaks had numerous rips and tears from their injuries, but it could not be helped. He sighed, thinking of the road ahead and hoping they would be able to protect them, but, more importantly, that Thomas and Rebecca would not interfere with their mission.
"I'm ready, Aragorn," Rebecca said softly from right in front of him. She hadn't wanted to disturb him since he seemed to be thinking deeply about something, but she knew how anxious they were to leave.
Aragorn looked down at her and smiled before gesturing to her to sit on the rock that Thomas had vacated. He changed the bandage on her chin and removed her wrist carefully from its sling, "How does this feel?"
"It's fine," She answered shortly as she looked away.
Aragorn carefully took her chin and turned her face back to him. "Lady Rebecca, you need to tell me the truth. If it hurts then I can give you something for the pain. It also speeds the healing process." He paused briefly, "I would also have you tell me the truth in anything that I ask you. I need to be able to trust you just as I want you to trust me." He gave her a searching look for a moment and then let her chin go.
Rebecca nodded and whispered, "I don't want to be a bother, Aragorn. I know you are in a hurry to leave. I'm sorry."
"It is no bother. I would not have you in pain when I could prevent it. Your feet will be in enough pain by the end of this day!" he chuckled lightly.
Rebecca watched Aragorn as he went to make his special tea, again trying to figure him out. Pippin took that moment to come over, a small bounce in his step.
"So, Lady Rebecca, how are you this fine morning?"
"A little sore, to be honest," after her conversation with Aragorn she vowed to be honest with all of them. "Aragorn is making me some of his tea."
Pippin shuddered, “That's horrible, foul-tasting stuff."
"I heard that," Aragorn called over.
"I knew you would, Strider, that why I said it!" Pippin said with a huge grin and laugh.
"Yes, Strider," Merry answered her question as he, Frodo and Sam all strolled over to talk with her while waiting for her tea. "Our Aragorn has many names, he does."
Frodo shot a warning glance at Pippin before answering Rebecca's question. "Aragorn has just lived a long life and in lots of different places and sometimes he's had to go by different names is all."
Rebecca had seen the glance that Frodo had given Pippin and wondered what it meant, but figured that maybe it was best not to ask. In her world it was usually only bad people or criminals that changed their names. But she was already beginning to trust Aragorn and knew he was not a bad person, so there was something more about this that they would not or could not tell her. "Hmm, sounds interesting, I'll have to ask him about it sometime if we ever have the time to actually sit down and talk." She smiled at the hobbits.
They were interrupted by Aragorn handing Rebecca the herbal tea, which she quickly downed and the return of Legolas, who had been scouting. Evidently the trail ahead was clear so the Fellowship picked up their packs and headed out. Thomas and Rebecca looked at each other, shrugged and followed along behind the hobbits. Aragorn led the way, followed by Gandalf, Gimli, the hobbits, Thomas and Rebecca, with Boromir and Legolas bringing up the rear. Legolas would sometimes disappear into the woods, as he would move ahead of the group to check the trail or to check on things that only he heard or saw.
Rebecca and Thomas talked quietly as they walked along, the woods were fairly open and they were able to walk alongside each other.
"Where are we going, Thomas? Did anyone tell you?"
"No one told me anything about where we are headed. I guess to some town or something. I didn't think to ask anyone... too many other things on my mind." He gave Rebecca a wan smile.
"I know what you mean. I still don't understand all this and how we got here and all. It's all so confusing and scary."
"It has to be something to do with the bus. Something happened. Do you remember that loud noise?"
Rebecca nodded her head slowly. "Yes... I could see out the window a little too. There was so much snow... There was something on the road in front of us I think."
"I think the driver was yelling and people were screaming..." Thomas's voice dropped off.
"I remember that now..." Rebecca whispered. "I closed my eyes and then I woke up here."
"Yeah, that sounds just about how I remember it too."
"It's funny; I've read books about this kind of thing happening to people. It always sounds like such an adventure and so exciting. They don't tell you how scary and alone you feel. I miss my mom." Tears started rolling down her face, but she ignored them and just kept walking, staring at the path ahead.
Thomas wanted to ask her more about these books she read, wondering if the people got to go home at the end of them. But with her crying he didn't know what to say so just kept walking.
"How are you two doing?" Boromir's voice boomed in their ears, making them both jump.
"I'm doing... all right." Rebecca replied with just a slight sniffle.
"Good, we have a long road ahead of us with not many stops for rest."
"Boromir, where are we going?"
Boromir hesitated. "We are headed to my city, Minas Tirith. It is the largest city in Gondor and it is a beautiful place," he replied with a slight smile and a far-away look in his eyes.
"What's it like there?"
"Well, Lady Rebecca, It shimmers whitely in the sun, standing tall and proud against Mount Mindolluin. There are seven rings that make up the city that start at the valley floor and climb up the mountain until you arrive at the Citadel on the top. The view is breathtaking from there, across the Pelennor, to the River Anduin, Osgiliath..." he paused and frowned at that point.
"You are a poet!" Rebecca exclaimed, staring at him.
Boromir smiled the first genuine smile that either Thomas or Rebecca had seen from him. "No, Lady Rebecca, but I love my city and my people very much and I have been gone a long time and I miss my home."
Rebecca ducked her head. "That I can understand," she said softly.
"Forgive me. I did not mean to bring up such a painful subject for you."
"It’s all right, Boromir. We'll be fine, won't we Thomas?"
"Sure," Thomas replied in a wooden voice glancing off into the forest.
"Well, when we arrive, I will enjoy showing you around my city. I think you will like it there."
"Does everyone live there?" Thomas motioned to the rest of the Fellowship.
"No, no, I am the only one. Though Aragorn might someday I suppose," he mused. "But the hobbits live in the Shire, Legolas in his Kingdom of Mirkwood, Gimli in the Lonely Mountain, and Gandalf and Aragorn have mostly been wanderers."
"Legolas has a kingdom? Is he a king?" Rebecca asked, her voice filled with curiosity.
"No, I am not a king!" Legolas called from behind them.
Thomas and Rebecca turned and stared back at him in disbelief.
"How did you hear us from way back there?" Thomas asked incredulously.
"Keep walking, keep walking, we need to catch up with the others." Legolas motioned them on as he moved up alongside them. "As I told Lady Rebecca last night elves have superior hearing. Do you believe me now?" He teased gently.
"I believed you before... well, mostly I did. I guess seeing it with my own eyes proves it."
"What other skills do elves have?" Thomas asked, looking at Legolas quickly before turning his eyes back on the trail in front of him.
"Oh, they're too numerous to list." Boromir said dryly. "But superior eyesight, hearing and making no noise when they move top the list."
"Thank you, Boromir, for reducing elvish superiority to three simple things when all know that it encompasses so much more. But, alas we do not have the time now to discuss them." Legolas smiled, though there was a small glint of something in his eye that Thomas could not define and it was quickly gone.
"You are quite welcome." Boromir replied with a short bow and a slight smirk.
Rebecca wanted to get the conversation back on track; this was way too interesting to stop. "So, you are not a king? But Boromir said something about a kingdom."
"No, my father is the king." Legolas replied simply as his eyes continued to scan the woods as he talked.
"That would make you the prince," Rebecca pointed out.
"Yes, it does."
"You'll get to be king someday."
"Probably not," Legolas smiled down at Rebecca's puzzled face.
"Why not?" Thomas asked, as confused as Rebecca. "In our world, the prince always becomes the king when his father dies. Is it different here?"
Legolas looked down at them with a smile, "One thing Lord Boromir forgot to mention," he glanced at Boromir, "was that elves are immortal. We do not die. We can be killed in battle, but we do not die of natural causes. So my father will be king and I will remain a prince."
"I'm getting a headache." Thomas muttered, rubbing his hand across his eyes.
"We can stop! Aragorn can make you something for that," Legolas said quickly.
Thomas smiled faintly at the look on Legolas and Boromir's faces. "I'm fine. I meant a headache in the sense that there is so much to learn here."
Legolas stared at Thomas intently, "There is, Thomas,” he said softly. “You will learn it in time. For now, it is probably best if we save our breath to conserve our energy for walking. Later, I will tell you some secrets about our friend, Lord Boromir."
Ignoring the glare he received from Boromir, Legolas smiled at Rebecca and Thomas as he dropped back to his place at the end of the group of walkers. Boromir, meanwhile, motioned Thomas and Rebecca ahead of him without saying another word and they obediently moved into place in front of him and behind the hobbits.
As he walked along, Thomas barely noticed his surroundings as he pondered all he had seen, heard, and learned since he had arrived. While he would never admit it to anyone, he was scared. Scared of this place and why he was here, of course. But, he also wondered if he was tough enough and strong enough to survive here. These men carried swords and bows and that scared him. That could only mean that things were dangerous. As he thought about these things, he realized that he would just have to be strong and bury the fear that he felt. And the first thing he would need to do was learn how to use some kind of a weapon, and he decided he would ask Aragorn to teach him. With that settled, Thomas looked around, again noticing his surroundings.
Rebecca continued to think about what Legolas had told them about elves being immortal, it was so hard for her to grasp. Wondering how an elf could never die, wondering how old he was. She was turning back to ask him when she saw Boromir's raised eyebrow and slight frown so she turned back around and hurried forward. As the morning wore on, she started to think about why she and Thomas were in Middle-earth, if there was a purpose or just random chance. In all the books Rebecca had read about this kind of time travel or whatever this was, there was always some big goal to be accomplished. Then the 'heroes' got to go home or they fell in love and started a new life and lived happily ever after. She could see Thomas being a hero, because he was strong and looked brave, but she didn’t understand why anyone would bring her here. Rebecca knew she wasn’t some brave heroine type of person. She liked to read and she worked in a coffee shop, not exactly your typical hero type material. Rebecca was so caught up in her thoughts that she stumbled over a tree root.
"Careful, Lady Rebecca." Boromir cautioned as he caught her before she could fall.
"Thank you, Boromir; I guess I wasn't paying attention." Rebecca's checks flushed red with embarrassment.
"You need to keep alert, we do not want you to hurt yourself again."
"Yes, sir I will"
Why do I keep doing that? Rebecca scolded herself inwardly. Uncle Peter was always telling me I needed to keep my head out of the clouds and my feet on the ground.
Hours passed and Thomas and Rebecca were starting to really drag. They had never done this kind of walking and their numerous injuries were taking their toll as well.
Rebecca was starting to wonder if they would ever take a break. Her feet were killing her. Thinking that they might not take a break until lunchtime, and scared that they might not even take a break until dinner and knowing she would never make it that long, Rebecca finally decided to ask Boromir. "Ah, Boromir, do we ever take breaks?" Rebecca looked back at him.
Thomas glanced back as well, thinking the same thing, but he would never ask.
"We should be stopping for lunch shortly, Lady Rebecca." Boromir replied, glancing up at the sun.
"All right, I can make it," she said, determined not to slow them down.
It was at least another hour before Aragorn called a stop. Rebecca and Thomas dropped, exhausted to the ground, leaning back against a log. Aragorn looked at them with pity before turning to speak with Gandalf in a low voice. "What do we do? How can we go on with them like that?"
"I know, Aragorn, yet we must keep moving. They will just have to keep up. We wasted a whole day yesterday that we could ill afford." His voice softened at the look in Aragorn's eye. "We will rest an hour before we move on. That will give them time to recover their strength, they are young..."
"And injured and lost... but you are right, Gandalf. We must keep moving." He sighed and ran his fingers through his dark hair, "It just sits ill with me to press on with them in their state."
Aragorn walked over and crouched down next to Thomas and Rebecca. "How are you two holding up?" he asked softly. He took Rebecca's hand and rubbed it gently with sword callused fingers.
Rebecca looked at him, again surprised at his gentle ways. "I'm f... she started to say 'fine' automatically, but remembering their earlier conversation, she stopped herself in time, "tired and my feet and legs hurt," she quickly amended.
"How about your wrist?"
"It's all right... little sore I guess," she added after Aragorn raised his eyebrow in question. He smiled and turned to Thomas.
"And you, Thomas, how are you doing?"
"I'm fine, sir. I'll be ready to go again after I've rested here for a little while."
Aragorn looked him over with experienced eyes. He had spent many years working with young men eager to prove their worth to their Ranger Chieftain and he was not easily fooled.
"Hmm, fine are you. You do not quite look it to me, Thomas." Aragorn put his hand under the young man’s chin and tilted his head looking closely into his eyes. "Have you been dizzy at all while we walked?"
"A little bit, sir." Thomas admitted looking down.
"You know I can help you with that, right?"
"Then you should have told me right away." Aragorn's voice, though it remained quiet, held a hint of steel as he spoke. "Thomas, it does no good to hide your pain from me when you can be helped. If we had to stop again because you were sick, I would be most upset with you if it was something I could have helped you with now and you had not told me because of your pride. There are times when you just have to keep going through your pain and fight on... this is not one of those times. It does not mean that you are not brave, Thomas, if you tell me you are dizzy or in pain. Now, you two rest and eat whatever Sam is passing out while I make you some very tasty tea," he teased as he walked away.
Rebecca watched and listened quietly as Aragorn talked to Thomas. Saw him go from kind to stern and back to teasing all in the space of a few minutes. She was suddenly glad that since she was here in this strange place, that she had someone like him here. He made her feel safe.
Thomas leaned back and closed his eyes thinking about Aragorn's words as he slowly drifted asleep. Sam, handing out bread and more of the dried meat nudged him awake. Looking at the meat and starting to eat it, he absently wondered what kind of animal it came from. He ate quickly and then drank the herbal tea with a grimace that made Aragorn grin.
Time passed much too quickly and they were soon up and moving again. The trail quickly became much more difficult to navigate, as they had to cross several steep hills and the trees grew closer together. They had to push through brush and scramble over fallen logs. Rebecca had the hardest time with her arm in a sling. Several times Boromir actually picked her up and carried her over things. At other times, he or Thomas helped her over or under things blocking the way.
As careful as Rebecca was, she still hit her wrist several times during the afternoon and each time it brought tears to her eyes, and she began chanting to herself, I won't complain, I won't complain, I won't complain. Finally, though, she hit it once too often and she let out a gasp of pain.
"Oh, Aragorn help..." she cried and fell to her knees.
Aragorn stopped and hurried back to see what had happened. The others also gathered around, except for Legolas who stood to the side alert and watching for danger.
"What happened, Lady Rebecca?"
"I hit it again," she held out her wrist, her voice full of pain, "and it hurts."
"I am sorry," Aragorn pulled her gently to her feet. "Let me look at it." He paused and looked at the position of the sun and then over at Thomas, giving him a searching look. "Gandalf, what do you think, should we stop for the night?"
Gandalf nodded, "We may as well. Lady Rebecca's wrist needs tending and it has been a long day for our two young ones." He turned to the others and directed them in the setting up of the camp.
While Aragorn directed Rebecca to a log closer to the camp, Boromir put his arm companionably across Thomas's shoulders, "Come, Thomas, help me gather a bit of wood for the fire."
"Yes, sir." Thomas sighed inwardly, all he wanted to do was go to sleep. But he also wanted to help out and he couldn't let Boromir down. At least this would be easy since there were sticks littering the ground everywhere.
They found the few sticks and logs they needed before joining the group gathering around the small fire. Sam was setting out his cooking utensils while Merry already had a small pot of water over the flames. Pippin and Frodo were getting food from various packs while Gandalf and Gimli had already pulled out their pipes and were contentedly puffing away.
Thomas sat down near the log where Aragorn was looking at Rebecca's wrist and put his head in his hands. Aragorn had removed the tightly wrapped wrist from the sling and was holding it gently with one hand while he gingerly prodded it with his other. Rebecca hissed in pain and Aragorn placed a comforting hand on her knee. "Forgive me, but I need to see if you re-broke it or if the bones slipped out of place when you hit it. But it feels all right. Lady Rebecca, all I can do for this injury is keep it wrapped tightly and give you something for the pain, only time can heal it. If we were at my home, you would not be moving around. But we have no choice, and I am sorry for that."
"Too bad you don't have casts here." Thomas murmured.
Aragorn looked at him, "What is a cast?"
"Oh, it's something doctors use in our world for broken bones. It starts as these wet strips of something..."
"I think it's plaster-of-paris" Rebecca broke in.
"That sounds right. Anyway, they wrap these wet strips in layers around the broken area – lots of layers. Then it dries and it's really hard. So hard you have to cut it off. You still have to be sort of careful, but not like this."
Aragorn narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, wondering if there was anything in Middle-earth he could use like that. "That would be a wonderful thing to have. Unfortunately, we do not have it here. We will have to use this wrap and the sling. How are you doing, Thomas?" Aragorn looked at him closely.
"I'm not dizzy anymore. Just very tired, sore, and hungry." Thomas actually let out a small laugh as he stomach growled just at that time.
Aragorn chuckled as well, "Well, Sam is making supper. You two rest for now and I will make some tea for Lady Rebecca."
Rebecca frowned at the thought of that, but knew it would help. She and Thomas sat there watching and listening to the others talking and moving quietly around the camp, but neither of them joined in as they were both too tired. She realized Legolas was gone again and she wondered where he had disappeared to, though she supposed he was out scouting or guarding the camp.
Aragorn was approaching with her tea, and she scowled slightly. She realized she had to go to the bathroom. It was so hard having these men take her into the woods and wait for her these past couple of days. And they all had, except for Gandalf and the hobbits, taken her at least once. They were always perfect gentlemen and she knew they were concerned about her safety, though keeping her safe from what she didn't know, but still, it was so embarrassing. Thomas had it easy and it made her wish that she were a boy. She sighed. Aragorn handed her the tea.
"Thank you, Aragorn... may I go in the woods and..." she stopped at the frown on his face.
"Lady Rebecca, I thought we had settled this. You cannot go in the woods alone. It is not safe."
"Why isn't it safe? What is out there?" Rebecca asked in frustration.
Those gathered at the fire looked up at her tone and slightly raised voice.
Aragorn hesitated as he crouched down in front of her. He did not want to scare her unnecessarily, but decided it was best she knew the truth so that she did not foolishly wander off on her own. "There are creatures that would try and... kill you." He paused as her eyes widened in shock. "I am not trying to scare you, but you need to know the truth. I do not want to see you hurt." He stopped there deciding that this was not the time to talk about Sauron and the battle against evil.
"Will you teach me to use a sword?" Thomas suddenly asked from where he had been sitting quietly listening.
Aragorn gave him an appraising look. He knew he was strong, he had noticed the well developed muscles while he was tending his wounds. He had also seen the scar on his chest and had wondered if it was some kind of wound from a weapon. Aragorn also thought it would be a good idea to teach him some basic sword skills because of the uncertainty of the path ahead of them. Having two people who could not defend themselves would make an already difficult task almost impossible. He glanced over at Boromir, who nodded. "I think that would be a good idea. Boromir and I will begin teaching you. Have you ever used or held one before?"
"No, we don't use them anymore in my world. I have used a bow and arrow, though it was just for fun."
"That is a start though, Legolas can teach..."
"I'm sorry to interrupt, Aragorn, but I still need to go into the woods," Rebecca looked away, embarrassed.
"Forgive me, Lady Rebecca, I had forgotten." He gave her a slight bow and helped her to her feet before leading her into the woods.
"Come and join us, lad. Supper is almost ready," Gimli called to Thomas.
Thomas slowly climbed to his feet, surprised that he could move after the long day of walking. But he was hungry and whatever Sam was cooking smelled awfully good after the dried meat and bread. He sat down between Pippin and Gimli and yawned tiredly.
"If you fall asleep before supper, may I eat your food?" Pippin asked with an ear-splitting grin.
"Pippin!” Both Frodo and Merry scolded at the same time, while Gandalf and Gimli just chuckled.
"Thomas, you will soon learn that hobbits, especially our good Pippin here, want to eat all the time," Gandalf explained. "If they are not eating, then they are talking about food, planning their next meal and so forth."
"Now, Mr. Gandalf, sir that is not entirely true," Merry protested. “We don't only talk about food. We also love to talk about pipeweed and ale!" Everyone chuckled again.
"I beg your pardon, Master Merry, for of course you are correct,” the wizard said with a slight nod.
Aragorn and Rebecca soon rejoined the others around the fire and they ate a simple meal and talked quietly. Thomas and Rebecca were soon nodding off due to sheer exhaustion and because they did not understand most of the discussion. As the sun set, Aragorn sent Rebecca, Thomas and the hobbits to bed, which they did without protest.
As soon as they were all asleep, Aragorn asked the others the question on his mind. "How much do we tell them? Even if we do not tell them of the Ring, do we tell them of Sauron? The road ahead is dangerous and I do not know what is best to do here. They will be drawn into battles with us, I can feel it. Do they not have a right to know?” Boromir, Gandalf, Gimli, and Legolas did not answer immediately, nor did he expect them to. It was something that required some time and thought.
Boromir spoke up first, "I think we should tell them. If it were me, I would want to know all of the dangers that I faced."
“I agree," said Legolas. "There is also something about them that seems almost older than their true ages. I know not what it is, but I think they will be able to handle this better than we think. I think not knowing would be harder, for they will suspect something. Like the way Lady Rebecca is frustrated when we take her into the woods, but will not tell her why or what could be there to hurt her.”
Gimli nodded, “Aye, lad that makes sense, even if it is coming from an elf,” he smirked.
Legolas just glared at him and looked at Gandalf. They all waited for him to speak, knowing he would ultimately make the final decision.
“I think you are all correct,” the wizard said slowly. “They need to be told, even of the Ring, I think.” The others exchanged shocked glances. “I know, I know. But they are here for some purpose, even if we do not yet know what it is. It may be that one of them will be able to protect Frodo in some way that we cannot. I do not have all the answers, but the Valar have sent them for some reason. In any case, I think we need to tell them. I agree with Legolas, there is something that seems older about them. As if they have seen much in their young lives. I will talk to them as we walk along tomorrow.”
The others nodded, relieved. It would make things much easier if Thomas and Rebecca knew of their journey and destination so that they could be prepared for the dangers ahead. That decided, they settled down for the night.
After breakfast and a change in bandages for both Thomas and Rebecca they started off again. Legolas had tried to work with Thomas on his archery skills, but his shoulder wound hindered him too much.
Rebecca and Thomas, while still extremely tired, felt refreshed after a good nights sleep and talked quietly as they walked along.
"So, when's your birthday, Rebecca?"
"June 29, 1937. Yours?"
"That's close to mine, though a year later. June 21, 1936."
"Do you have a big family or... would you rather not talk about it?" She thought she saw a flicker of something cross his face as she asked, but she couldn't be sure or tell what it meant.
"Nah, I don't mind," he shrugged. "I live with my mom and my younger brother... my dad died in the war. In '45 in Germany." He spoke without looking at her and his voice was tired and sad.
Rebecca laid her hand on his arm. "I'm sorry. I understand, though. My father died in '44." She looked away lost in thought for a minute and then shook herself and returned to the conversation. "My mom and I moved in with her brother and his wife and their 6 kids. So mom could work. It’s so noisy there," she said with a small frown.
"I'll bet." Thomas gave her a slight grin and a sideways glance before looking ahead again. "I quit school a few years ago and got a job on a horse ranch near Lakeside so we wouldn't lose the house. Mom couldn't make enough money after the war..."
"Times have been tough. I got an after school job last year to help out too. I'll graduate next year and then I can work full time." She sighed, not telling him of her dreams of going to college and becoming a writer. Maybe someday it would happen. "But, looking on the bright side, I get to wear one of those wonderfully colorful pink Riverton Coffeeshop uniforms!" She laughed out loud, causing all of the hobbits to turn and look back, smiling at her. Thomas chuckled, "Yeah, those are..."
"Thomas, Lady Rebecca, would you please join me?" Gandalf suddenly called from the front of the line. Rebecca and Thomas exchanged worried glances, each wondering if they had done something wrong. They quickened their pace and passed the hobbits, coming alongside Gandalf.
"Now, young ones, I have a long story to tell you about our journey and other events that are going on in Middle-earth. We discussed this last night and felt that you needed to know as much as possible."
Thomas and Rebecca looked at each other, pleased that they would finally have some answers to their questions.
So, for the next couple of hours as they walked along, Gandalf explained some of the history of Middle-earth, the story of the rings of power, about Sauron and about the quest that they had been thrust into. They also learned about orcs, wolves, wargs, and other evil creatures that patrolled the wilds and kept them alert for danger at all times. Thomas and Rebecca glanced at each other many times during the telling, shaking their heads in disbelief at each new revelation of evil.
Thomas listened quietly as Gandalf talked, but Rebecca interrupted several times with questions. It reminded them way too much of the recent war in their own world and it was scary to think that now they were right in the midst of one.
For Thomas, it made him even more determined to learn some kind of skill with weapons so that he would not be unprepared. He needed to be able to protect himself, Rebecca and others. After hearing the story of the Ring and looking at Frodo and the hobbits, he wanted to help them in any way he could. For some reason they reminded him of his little brother. He couldn’t believe that these little hobbits could be expected to fight these monsters that Gandalf was describing.
It affected Rebecca in a different way than Thomas. It made her mad. She hated bullies of any sort and was tired of madmen bent on taking over the world – any world. She was too young to help in the one in her world, but she sure wanted to help in this one, even though right now she didn't have a clue how she would do that.
Gandalf continued with his story, "Now, what I do not know is why you were sent here by the Valar..."
"The Valar?" Thomas asked.
"The Valar oversee all that happens on Middle-earth for Eru."
"Must be like their God," Rebecca said. Thomas nodded.
"Yes, well, the Valar must have had a reason for bringing you here even if I do not yet know what that is. I am sure it will be revealed in time. Now, do you have any questions?"
Thomas and Rebecca both shook their heads. There was way too much to think about right now. Questions would come later.
"Good. If you have questions later, speak to Aragorn or myself," he nodded, clearly dismissing them.
They slowed down and fell in line again behind the hobbits, neither of them noticing the friendly smiles the hobbits gave them so lost were they in their own thoughts.