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Recaptured!: 90. Honours
"If you just leave him, he'll probably come out eventually." Legolas ventured. The elf was now recovered, much to the amazement of the healers who had been certain he was suffering from the Black Shadow. Legolas however assured them it was just a bump on the head.
"When he gets hungry, that's for certain." Gimli added. "Why do you need him so urgently anyway?"
Gandalf climbed back to his feet, resting his hand on his knee as he pushed himself upright. "I've been trying to catch him for an hour now," the wizard turned to Legolas, "I thought perhaps you might be able to make him come out. He's supposed to be knighted today, by the Lord Denethor and he's scared."
"Oh dear," Legolas laughed. "Our little hero is too frightened to get his honour for bravery."
"I think Master Took would have been only too happy to be the centre of attention before he was deprived of his speech and hearing." Gandalf sighed. "I do understand that it is daunting for him now, but it is important in my dealings with Denethor that he co-operate. I am having enough difficulty in winning the Steward over as it is, a grim change has fallen on his spirit and it is hard to get him to listen to reason at all. I had hoped Pippin might soften his attitude a little, the Lord Steward of Gondor seems to be really taken by the little one."
"I will do what I can to persuade him." Legolas sat down beside the bed and dipped his head down to peer under into the cobwebby depths.
'Now Pippin, stop sulking.'
'Then come out of there.'
'What's the matter? Why are you hiding?'
'gandalf go make i be sir…'
'Well that's not a bad thing. Why don't you want to?'
'not need be spec… make big fusses at i just go do what had to do… can't talk at they… it not know what they go say at i…
'Pippin, you're shy!'
'That's not a bad thing to be.'
'No it's not. Unless you act like a shy child.'
'Then come out from under the bed.'
'Pippin? Pippin? What's wrong?'
'What are you scared of?'
'man go be stew…'
'The Steward? Lord Denethor?'
'what i sayed…'
'Why are you scared of him?'
'not know… he look bad at i… is thing not know what…'
'I'm sure he only means you well.'
'and i not know how go be a knight…'
'Pippin, I promise I will stay beside you all the time and make sure you're all right.'
'tell i what do?'
'Yes I'll tell you what to do.'
'Ha – you go talk like hobbts legolas!'
'I know, it's your bad influence. Now come out.'
'Pippin! You know you mustn't keep having it.'
'need and need and need it now – please ask it i legolas promsis be knight then.'
'All right, we can get some at the Houses of Healing.'
'get some 'fore i go be knight? please!'
'If you come out now.'
Gandalf breathed a sigh of relief as the dusty hobbit crawled out from under the bed. "Pippin look at the state of you. Never mind, he has to go to the main halls as they have an outfit for him there."
"We'll take him." Legolas said, giving Pippin his crutch and helping him on with his coat. The elf did not bother to mention that they would be going via the Houses of Healing or why. Gandalf probably would not understand, but he himself could feel the perian's need and this was not a good time to deal with the problem. Added to which he would have to wean himself off gradually and besides his foot was hurting. "Come on Gimli my friend, we have to get Sir Peregrin Took of Tuckborough attired as one befitting his new rank!"
Merry was a little nervous at the prospect of riding with the Rohirrim into battle, but also very proud. He was also very proud and took seriously his new title of Esquire to the King and questioned Éowyn about what that meant in practical terms.
"You will stand by the King when his footman makes him ready to lead the Rohirrim into battle and keep his arms." She saw Merry's slight frown at the instruction. "Take care of his shield which carries his Coat of Arms and his sword. You should hold either of these things when the King does not. They should never be left upon the ground."
"I understand," Merry knew now what was required, it was still just a little difficult to picture exactly. "Could you show… that is could you direct me, Milady? I am not sure where I should be during the ceremony tonight."
"Why Merry, of course." Éowyn loved the shy, honest dedication of this hobbit and his uncomplaining attitude to his blindness. She led him to the King's armourer, a man named Gwilym, and introduced Merry to him, then left to arrange her own needs for the night and next day.
"Welcome Esquire Meriadoc," Gwilym took his hand and clasped it with both of his. "There is much talk amongst the men of Rohan of your and the Lady Éowyn's heroic exploits. I am honoured to meet you."
"The Lady Éowyn and Legolas the Prince of Mirkwood were the brave ones." Merry shyly replied. "They came to fetch my cousin Pippin and me from great danger."
Gwilym smiled at the obvious modesty, "I will be proud to show you what you will do in the King's service."
"Thank you Sir," Merry bowed slightly in the man's direction. "You are most kind."
The duties were not too arduous, more of a ceremonial nature, but Merry liked to get things right and practiced placing and holding the arms until his blindness might not have been noticed by an onlooker. He soon knew every curve and angle and fastening of both the sword and shield and where he should stand and how to offer these to the King and when. He also learned how to sling his own buckler to the side when proffering the King his arms.
Gwilym could see for certain now that Merry was falsely modest and was greatly impressed with his determination, quick mind, grace and nimbleness.
Then Gwilym gave Merry a tabard to wear and described to the blind hobbit that it carried the King's emblem and that of Rohan, a white horse on a green base. It was a little big, but not ridiculously so. Gwilym explained that Éomer had worn it when he was young and that he wanted Merry to have it now. He also gave Merry a small sized pair of gauntlets, which he found awkward but Gwilym told him he did not need to wear them all the time, just when handing the King his goblet and showed him how to tuck the unwieldy items into his belt.
"But what is this, Master Merry," Gwilym, feeling for the hobbit's belt, found the elven rope still wound about his middle. "You have a piece of rope for a belt. I think we can find you something better than that."
"Oh no!" Merry clasped his hand to the precious rope. "It is very important that I keep this." Merry was not even sure why he needed the rope now, after all Pippin had lost his in his struggle with the Wraith's beast, but he had a strange feeling that he should keep it with him.
Éowyn eventually came looking for him, so long had he been practising. "Come now Merry," she took the hobbit's shoulder to guide him away. "The King is to dine and wishes you to be at his side tonight. Now that you are his esquire you must be seen to wait on the King, especially at a time such as this."
"Of course, Milady," Merry thanks Gwilym profusely and left with Éowyn.
"Tomorrow we make our ride into the battle, so tonight the King will dine at the head of the Éored," Éowyn explained as they walked. "You must stand by the right-hand side of his chair as he quaffs the battle cup with the men and hold his shield. Gwilym will bring it directly," she added.
"Éowyn?" Merry asked tentatively. "I don't mean to be a burden to you, in the battle that is. I desperately want to go – to serve the King and to help Gondor, but I don't want to endanger you."
"Merry," Éowyn took his hand and turned to face him stooping to his level. "You are not a burden, it will be an honour to have one as brave as you, with such a loyal heart ride with me."
"But I am not such a skilled or competent warrior as you are." Merry admitted honestly, "I do not wield a sword with the same ability."
"Merry it is heartening to hear your confidence in me," Éowyn was touched by his opinion of her, which sometimes her own people seemed to lack. "But sometimes great heart is more important than great skill. I also know that you need to be a part of this as much as I."
"Of course, I do, Milady," Merry answered at once, "I should die of shame to be left behind."
"As would I, but the dangers are many," Éowyn added. "It is very probable that we both shall not return."
"That prospect does not make you turn aside Milady," Merry said quietly. "Nor does it I."
"Well said my comrade," Éowyn's tone lightened and together they made their way to the King's table.
Pippin stood in front of a looking glass and admired his new clothes, then he saw the reflections of Legolas and Gimli standing behind him, smiling broadly at how pleased he seemed with himself. He turned and gave a deep bow and smiled at the solemn bows Gimli and Legolas gave him in return. He was certainly a lot happier now that Legolas was with him again and even happier still that he had his own little supply of poppy tucked inside his new clothing, alongside his bag of mithril coins.
Pippin's small body had been decked out in strange garments, all of black and silver. Over a shirt of rich, black silk he had a small hauberk, its rings forged of steel, yet black as jet and a high-crowned helm with small raven-wings on either side, set with a silver star in the centre of the circlet. Above the mail was a short surcoat of black, but broidered on the breast in silver was a tree - the same token that he had seen on Boromir's gauntlets.
The hobbit custom of shorter length breeches had been adhered to and a small pair had been made for Pippin from the same cloth that the regular sized guards wore. Both Legolas and Gimli could not help noticing how very thin the little hobbit had become, a sober reminder of all that he had endured since the start of the Quest, making this honour all the more deserved.
Legolas offered him the little crutch so that they could be on their way, but Pippin shook his head and managed to limp forward without it. In fact his foot was hurting less, especially since he had taken a fingerful of poppy, and he did not want to enter into the Great Hall in his new finery on a crutch, he would grit his teeth and bear the pain. He took another few steps and saw Legolas wince just a little too, but he also was getting practiced at keeping his pain to himself now and shut his eyes as he marshalled the hurt back.
As they entered the Great Hall, the Lord Denethor and Gandalf were there already. Pippin noticed that the Captain – Faramir, Gandalf had written his name as – also still lay at his father's side, although servants attended the still unconscious form.
There was a rank of uniformed guards on either side of the aisle and as Pippin, his head held high and his heart beating fast, walked towards the wizard and the Steward, flanked a few steps behind by Legolas and Gimli, the men stood to attention as he passed.
Denethor turned to greet the small knight elect with a sad smile. He looked so impossibly young and yet the Steward understood now that he was almost a man grown and was capable of great deeds, as his actions had proved. Nevertheless, it seemed almost an abomination to see this innocent garbed as a warrior, one of his stature and affliction and obviously sweet nature should not have his face turned to war.
Gandalf indicated to Pippin that he should kneel before the Steward and the hobbit, to the wizard's relief, obediently bowed his head and knelt down at Denethor's feet.
As the Lord Denethor began to speak, Legolas repeated his words in Pippin's head, smiling a little as Pippin admitted he felt a little silly at all the fuss and wondering what he'd got himself into.
"Peregrin, son of Paladin of the House of Took from the far land of The Shire. For a deed of great valour, putting your own life at risk to save Captain Faramir, I dub thee Knight at Arms of the City of Minas Tirith and Knight Commander of the Realm of Gondor." Denethor touched the sword to each of Pippin's shoulders and then to his head. "Arise Sir Peregrin and take your arms."
Merry stood anxiously behind the King's chair, holding the ceremonial goblet in one gauntlet covered hand and wearing the King's shield on his other arm. He found it a little daunting at first, but as he managed to locate the amount of people, quite a lot from the sound, and the location of himself in relation to them, he began to feel more comfortable, although still he did not relax, anxious not to make a mistake.
As soon as Théoden took his place a great cheer went up through the pavilion and before addressing the men he whispered to Merry, "You look fine Meriadoc, I will take the cup from you when the time comes, do not worry."
Then he turned to address his men "Riders of Rohan! Army of Théoden! Eorlingas! I salute you! On the morrow we ride to the walls of Minas Tirith, many foes before us and from each side they will try to claim us. This is your hour for valour, your time to make best advantage your skills and horsemanship. No man here will fail to honour his Country or King. Not least because my own Sister-daughter, the Lady Éowyn rides with the King's éored. Let her valour be an inspiration to every man here. Though maiden fair, within this daughter of the House of Eorl beats the heart of a warrior, and so shall the enemy learn to their dismay upon the morrow "
At these words a great cheer arose and cries of "Éowyn! Éowyn!" echoed around the pavilion.
Théoden concluded. "Brave deeds are yours for the taking, Eorlingas and there shall be many songs sung in days to come about the glory we shall earn upon the field of battle. I salute you!"
With that he stepped back and took the goblet from Merry's hand and drank to the health of his men. Then greatly to Merry's embarrassment, he took the hobbit's arm and made him step forward with him. "Not only does a fair maiden ride to Gondor's assistance, but here also my swordthain, a halfling, Esquire Meriadoc, son of Saradoc of the House of Brandybuck of Buckland in The Shire will ride at Éowyn's pillion to the battle. We salute you Meriadoc."
Another cheer arose from the men and Merry suddenly felt more shy and nervous even than he had since Pippin had made him sing a song on his birthday in the Green Dragon.
Éowyn was suddenly by his side as if from nowhere. Merry had wondered where she had gone. "It's all right," she whispered, "you did very well Merry or should I say, Esquire Meriadoc Brandybuck, Swordthain to the King."
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