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Recaptured!: 91. Bonding
Beta and additional material – Marigold
Almost as soon as the ceremony was over Pippin went to Faramir's side and took his hand again and looked up questioningly at one of his attendants. The man shook his head despondently and Pippin could see that the Captain's fever was still raging.
"I would be grateful for a conversation with my new knight," Denethor nodded towards Legolas, "if his interpreter would be so kind. Mithrandir you may as well go about your business with the good Master Dwarf."
Gandalf did not take very kindly to be dismissed in such a way. "It is no trouble to wait for Peregrin," he fixed his steely grey glare to match the Steward's, "Gimli and I will return to the walls as soon as your curiosity is sated."
"This is no matter of idle curiosity," Denethor went over to Pippin and laid his hand on the halfling's shoulder making him turn in surprise. "I wish to know the details of my eldest son's death, and this halfling was one of the two that he died saving."
"Peregrin's present means of communication is not particularly coherent." Gandalf also laid his hand on Pippin's other shoulder, drawing the hobbit slightly away from Denethor. It seemed almost to Legolas and Gimli that the two determined men were playing a verbal, and now slightly physical, game of tug-of-war with Pippin.
"Stay if you must," Denethor almost snapped at the wizard. "I merely wish some privacy to grieve my loss with one who witnessed his departure."
"We will return in an hour." Gandalf finally conceded. Denethor dismissed the other people in the chamber and as Gimli, followed by Gandalf started to go, Pippin bowed to Denethor and started to follow the wizard.
"No Pippin," Gandalf nodded his head back to the Steward, indicating that he should stay. Legolas took the hobbit by the hand and led him over to the tall chairs next to Faramir's bier. Denethor was already seated and he indicated that Pippin and Legolas should sit by him. Legolas sat on the chair furthest from the Steward while Pippin had to scramble up on to the chair next to the grim man and perched on the edge with his feet swinging.
"So what can you tell me of my son Boromir's death?" Denethor addressed Legolas but fastened his eyes on Pippin.
"Before I ask Peregrin for his version of events." Legolas began, "I too was at Parth Galen when Boromir fell. We found him in the woods with many arrows in his chest. His horn had been sounded, but by the time we reached him it was cloven in two. Our companion Aragorn, spoke with him ere he died and, I understand, he told him that the two halflings had been stolen away by the Uruk-hai." Legolas paused for a moment watching the Steward with pity as his hands trembled at the account he was delivering. "His fallen foes were almost too numerous to count. Boromir slayed many orcs before he succumbed to his wounds. We paid honour to his memory and his remains, with ceremony and noble words, we committed to the Rauros Falls."
"I thank you for that account, Prince Legolas of Mirkwood." Denethor had been silent for a while, but finally acknowledged Legolas, "and now if you would be so good as to ask Sir Peregrin for his account."
Legolas stood and bent down before Pippin, taking his face in his hands. Although it was not strictly necessary for them to do this any longer, Legolas found the communication flowed better with the physical contact. Also it was more intense when they touched and tended not to bother Merry so much, although he could still listen if he were awake and choose to. Pippin smiled and took the elf's face in his hands in response.
'The Steward needs to know about what happened to Boromir, his son. What can you tell me?'
'frodo not go hide, mer came at i… we go run and run…'
'Running from the Uruk-hai?'
'what i sayed…'
'Why didn't you just hide from them?' Legolas realised that he had never asked Pippin or Merry about their original capture before or about Boromir's death. There had never been a right time somehow.
'mer say we make they go come at we… so not go at frodosam…'
'So you were trying to divert their attention?'
'what i sayed…'
'Wait now and I will repeat that much.'
"Pippin says that he and his kinsman, Meriadoc were running away from the Uruk-hai in order to lead them away from others in the company."
"Why would they do that?" Denethor queried. "Why would they be used as a diversion?"
"It was no one's intention that they should." Legolas did not know if this man knew about the Ring or if he should, but the elf knew better than to give this information to anyone without Mithrandir's approval. "They merely offered themselves as a decoy."
"From the other two halflings?" Denethor obviously knew something of the Quest then.
"That would seem to be the case." Legolas agreed. "Would you like me to ask?"
"No," Denethor already knew the answer from the elf's demeanour. "Ask what happened next."
Legolas turned back to Pippin and they resumed their face touching. 'What happened then Pippin?'
'we go run stop then. . . uruk come and come more. . . both each ways. . . we not got no way go'
'So you were surrounded?'
'what i sayed. . .'
'What happened next?'
'boromir come at we. . .run and run he through trees. . . go find we. . . he got big sword at he hand. . . he go cut at uruk. . . fight and fight he. . . but he not. . . not he go fight at. . . fight at. . .'
Pippin gulped a little at the memory of brave Boromir, he looked up at Legolas with large tears starting in his eyes, unable to continue for the moment.
'I know it makes you sad, Pippin. Take a moment while I tell the Steward.'
Legolas composed himself as he felt Pippin's remembered grief spilling over into his mind and he brushed at his damp eyes before turning again to Denethor. "Pippin is a little overcome at the moment," he reported. "The memory of Boromir has made him sad."
Denethor looked intently at the little knight and saw that he was weeping now and taking deep breaths, trying to hold his tears back. The stern old warrior felt very moved at this little stranger shedding tears for his lost son. "What further did he say?" he asked Legolas.
"That the Uruk-hai surrounded him and Meriadoc so they had to stop running. Just then Boromir came running through the trees looking for them. His sword was drawn ready and he fought hard – and that's where the little one stopped. I will ask him more in a moment when he um. . . feels better."
Legolas took Pippin's cheeks again and lifted his face up to look into the tear-filled eyes. 'Pippin? You go good now?' The elf made Pippin smile as he slipped into the hobbity vernacular.
'i go good, legolas. . . ' there was a little pause as Pippin drew a deep breath then continued with his story. 'uruk were much and much. . . boromir not could he fight so much. . . not could he fight bow at arrarows lot and lot go in he. . . but still he go fight and fight big brave – big strong'
'So there were too many Uruks for Boromir to fight, especially when they shot him with arrows. But in spite of the arrows, he kept on fighting. He was very brave.'
'what i sayed. . . he look at i, look at mer. . . sad and sad. . . get we both sword try go fight. . . uruk not go fight at we. . . we go cut at they. . . they not go try cut at we
'Then he looked at you and Merry with a sad expression. You both tried to fight the Uruk-hai, but they would not fight back.'
'they just want go pick we up and take we. . . said we go be un-sploilded. . . not know word big in head.'
'what i sayed. . .'
Legolas reported this exchange back to the Lord Denethor and added, "Peregrin was truly attached to Boromir, as was his cousin Meriadoc. He spent much time with them, helping and protecting them, teaching them swordsmanship and how to take care of themselves. As Pippin was describing the events of your son's death, I felt his grief at the loss most keenly."
"I understand and I appreciate your candour, Prince Legolas." Denethor looked at Pippin now and took his cheeks in his large calloused hands in a copy of the way the elf held him. "Would that I could see into your mind also, Ernil i Pheriannath, that I could see the brave departure of my son as you saw him fall in your defence."
Pippin felt very uncomfortable, held in the steely gaze of the forbidding man. He tried to look away but there was something in the depth of those eyes that kept him prisoner. A sudden flash of realisation arced between them. Pippin felt it at the same moment that Denethor did. The great man and lowly hobbit had a common bond, although it was not something the halfling wished to pursue. He struggled a little, but in his mind rather than his body. However, his will was hypnotized, just as it had been before, when last he had felt compelled to look into – that! That thing! The terrifying glass ball that made the Witch-king come for him, where he had been confronted, no not confronted, it was not a match he was ever equal to, where he had been discovered by the Dark Lord. The very thought made Pippin quaver in terror.
The Lord Denethor, after the initial shock of realisation, gradually became aware that this little creature had more depth than he had ever imagined. There was great intrigue woven about his being and yet, yet, he did not seem a part of it. Terrible things had happened to him, but none of it was truly of his making. He was an innocent caught in a storm, so how was it that he had been there, in that place? At first Denethor had imagined it was the loss of Boromir and that he had saved Faramir that drew him to Peregrin, but now he knew otherwise. He had looked into the palantír, he had seen the great eye, but he had been further. This tiny insect, this naïve child had encountered the Dark Lord himself and somehow lived. This was their bond.
Éowyn stood behind Merry and lifted him under the arms just high enough that he could reach the pommel on Windfola's saddle. With that much start he could manage to scramble the rest of the way up onto the horse and sit still while Éowyn pulled herself up behind him. They practised this mounting and dismounting several times as they both wanted to be sure they could manage with just each other's help should they be thrown during the battle. Merry was well aware that he had every possible disadvantage for the forthcoming fight, but he was determined not to be a burden to anyone, least of all Éowyn.
"Take the reins, Merry," Éowyn put the leather thongs into the halfling's small hands. "You do not need to guide Windfola, he knows where to go."
"How does he?" Merry took the reins, holding them tentatively, not too sure what to do.
"If I should fall, he will bear you along with the other steeds as long as you keep contact with the reins so that he knows you are there." Éowyn assured him.
"If you should fall, I would want him to stop." Merry said. "So perhaps I should learn that."
"Very well." Éowyn laughed lightly at Merry's practical approach. "What would you do then?"
"I should wait for you to remount," the hobbit stated as if it were the most obvious thing in Middle-earth.
"Merry, I am continually touched by your faith in me." Éowyn kissed him lightly on the back of his head. "Now drop the reins as if I had just fallen and see if you can find them again." Merry did as instructed and then found where to put his hands to retrieve the reins.
"If you can't catch hold of the reins," Éowyn told him, "just sit up, and sink your weight in the saddle. Rohirrim horses are so well trained, no rein pressure is necessary." They practiced this, moving slowly, trotting and eventually at a gallop, Éowyn sliding off as if she had fallen. By the evening Merry, whether he could catch the reins or not when Éowyn made her fall, was able bring Windfola to a halt on his own.
Once darkness fell completely they made their way to the King's camp and Merry settled down to sleep by Théoden's tent to be ready in the morning. For this was the night before battle and when the sun came he wanted to be ready to perform his duties as Swordthain. Théoden, restless with worry, rose in the night and came to the entrance of his tent. Looking down he saw the halfling curled up on the ground, his sword unbuckled but the hilt held in his hand, sleeping peacefully.
"Would that I could take such rest." The old King smiled at Merry's innocent tranquillity and then thought about all the horrors and deprivation this little creature had suffered. Yet here he lay, the night before battle, faithfully at his King's threshold, with no thought for his own comfort. He stepped back inside the tent and took a blanket from his own bed and, returning, laid it gently over Merry. "Master Holbytla, as you insist to serve me so well, you shall at least be warm."
Aragorn, Heir to the throne of Gondor, looked over the prow of the ship towards his lost Kingdom. Behind his vessel an armada of ships followed, the oars now wielded by free men after Aragorn as Isildur's Heir had released the company of dead, fulfilling their oath at last.
Many captives had been set free and many slaves released who had been folk of Gondor taken in raids and soon also there was a great gathering of men out of Lebennin and the Ethir and Angbor of Lamedon came up with all the horsemen that he could muster. But still Aragorn was driven by fear that time was too short.
"It is forty leagues and two from Pelargir to the landing at the Harlond," He said to Halbarad, "Yet to the Harlond we must come tomorrow or fail utterly."
It seemed to Aragorn, in that moment, that the endeavour would fail, but he could not give up hope. He thought of the halflings and their tenacity, how so much depended upon what all of them did. Each of the Fellowship had been set their separate path and each seemed to have a special purpose to fulfil. "Oft hope is born, when all is forlorn." Aragorn smiled to himself and then to Halbarad. "Forgive me, the hour is late and the mission tense and yet I have hope still for our success."
Even as Aragorn spoke and the hour reached midnight, hope was indeed born anew. Sea-crafty men of the Ethir gazing southward spoke of a change coming with a fresh wind from the sea and before daybreak the masted ships hoisted sail and their speed grew as they raced towards Minas Tirith and the coming dawn.
Gandalf left Gimli upon the City walls. The dwarf was accustomed to giving directions and there seemed to be very little authority or order at the moment in the supervision of the onslaught against the White City. He strode back to Denethor's Chamber with two purposes in mind.
He needed to convince the Steward to either hand over control of the City to him or Prince Imrahil or to take charge himself. At present he was issuing no orders and the men left to guard the city had no direction or strategy. He also felt vaguely uneasy about leaving young Peregrin with the man, although why it should be a problem, especially when Legolas was also there, he was not sure.
Gandalf waited for a few moments outside the chamber and as the hour bell rang he indicated to the servants to let him in. Denethor was standing at the far end, beside Faramir's fever wracked body and he was holding Peregrin's face in his hands, just the way that Legolas did when he was speaking to the hobbit close up. Gandalf found this more than a little strange and as he marched towards the elderly Lord, Denethor looked up from Pippin, letting his hands drop to his sides.
"The hour is come my Lord Steward," Gandalf glanced briefly at Legolas, waiting for an imperceptible nod to confirm all had gone well. "I would urge you to come forth now and show the defenders of this City your leadership. They flounder with no direction and their need is dire."
"It will not affect the outcome if I order the people or no." Denethor had turned now to Faramir. "My second son lies here on the point of death and I, and the people of Minas Tirith, will shortly follow I have little doubt. What would you have me do Mithrandir? Block this gap here? Position these archers there? Guard this gate and abandon the other? It makes little difference for the outcome, save to keep the people occupied, to let them believe there is hope. You and I know better, we know there is none. You might play the game as well as I, for myself I see little point."
"This is not the time to abandon your people." Gandalf was not certain that the people of Minas Tirith would follow him, a wizard, unquestioningly. "They have great need of you. Why would you give up the fight without any struggle, it goes against nature."
"An animal caught in a trap ceases to struggle if it is wise." Denethor looked at Pippin again. "How will this little one survive such great odds, not by fighting I am sure. He will be still while his fate serves him as well as it might."
"That is not so." Legolas rose to Pippin's defence, he was certain the Steward was losing his mind but he was well aware that Gandalf was still anxious to turn his opinion. "Peregrin fought bravely on many occasions. He saved Captain Faramir's life with his own sword, the deed for which you honoured him. With his kinsman he slew the great Spider of Cirith Ungol and he escaped from the Dark Tower of Barad-dûr!"
"Peace, Legolas." Gandalf held up his hand. He was not certain that all of Pippin's circumstances should be revealed to this ally until they were more certain of his allegiance. He himself had trusted Saruman, to the cost of many. "As Prince Legolas said, Pippin is a valiant fighter as are all the people of this great City, not the least of which is their Lord I am certain. Why would you assume that Peregrin would not fight?"
"I see the truth in him." Denethor said, mysteriously. "He understands what I understand, what none of you seem able to comprehend."
"Which is?" Gandalf persisted.
"There is nothing to be gained from this battle. Go now both of you, leave me to my son, I would spend what time I have left with him."
"At least tell your servants that you relinquish command of the City to me." Gandalf asked. "Sign a proclamation to let it be known that my word is to be obeyed. Or if not me, then to Prince Imrahil."
"Fetch quill and ink to me." Denethor beckoned to an attendant and the man went to a desk within the Chamber and brought the writing equipment. The Steward wrote a statement on the parchment and signed it and then called upon the attendant to witness the words. He wrote:
'I, Denethor, Steward of the High King, do hereby appoint to the position of Commander in Chief of the Army of Minas Tirith, Prince Legolas Greenleaf of the Kingdom of Mirkwood. All subjects loyal to the City of Minas Tirith and the Realm of Gondor will obey his orders in all matters of strategy, defence and attack until such time as his demise or he relinquish said post. Denethor.'
Gandalf read the parchment in disbelief at how obdurate this man could be, or was there another purpose behind this behaviour. No matter, for now it would serve.
"Do you accept this role, Prince Legolas?" Denethor turned to the elf, "You seem to agree with the wizard's strategy so it should please him. You will forgive me Mithrandir," Denethor actually bowed his head slightly, "It would seem an unnatural thing to pass my City into your hands after all these years. This should serve you equally."
"Very well," Legolas agreed. "I accept with reluctance.
Gandalf nodded with relief. He had wondered for a moment if the elf might reject the scheme for its sheer perversity. Legolas was a total stranger in this land and, although of noble birth, was unfamiliar with the ways of the people of Gondor.
"Then you may leave and go about your war." Denethor dismissed them. "I will stay and keep watch over my son, he is all I have left, all that I care about now."
"Come Peregrin," Gandalf took the hobbit's hand as Pippin stood shakily on his damaged foot.
"No Mithrandir." Denethor laid his hand on Pippin's shoulder making him wince slightly at the unexpected touch. "Please leave the little one here with me. He is injured and there is little he can do to help you in the battle."
"We'll take him along all the same." Legolas looked suspiciously at Denethor. "He is a comrade and I would not leave him behind."
"I would prefer if you left him." Denethor stated again. He held up the parchment decreeing Legolas' appointment, making as if to tear it apart. "In fact I insist!"
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